White Horse Tavern, Pennsylvania

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White Horse Tavern, Pennsylvania

WHITE HORSE TAVERN, PENNSYLVANIA. 21 September 1777. John Kerlin's White Horse Tavern was located about eight miles east of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, in what is now East Whitehead Township. During the Philadelphia Campaign it served as an important landmark because it lay at the junction of six important roads. During the night of 20-21 September, Brigadier General William Smallwood led 2,100 Maryland militia down the road from Downingtown, trying to get past the British in the dark and link up with Brigadier General Anthony Wayne's Pennsylvania Continentals in nearby Paoli. Shortly after midnight, as they were moving east along what is now King Road, a patrol from Major John Maitland's Second Battalion of Light Infantry opened fire. This was a violation of Major General Charles Grey's direct orders to Maitland to have his men move with unloaded muskets. An American fell, and the bulk of the militia stampeded to the rear. Very soon after, Major Caleb North arrived from Wayne with orders telling Smallwood to fall back to White Horse. Smallwood, North, and Colonel Mordecai Gist had a narrow escape in the dark during the retreat when a group of militia mistook them for British cavalry and opened fire, killing a private from the First Continental Light Dragoons. American losses were three killed and three wounded; no British were hurt.

SEE ALSO Philadelphia Campaign.


McGuire, Thomas J. The Battle of Paoli. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2000.

                        revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.