The Battle of Paoli was fought on September 20, 1777. It is also known as the “Paoli Massacre,” due to the intense and bloody fight that resulted in the loss of fifty-three soldiers. After Colonial forces attempted to cut off enemy supply lines, British forces counter-attacked during a rainstorm during the middle of the night, setting fire to buildings and fighting with bayonets. Today, the site of this battle is preserved at the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.
Today, the battlefield is located within the Borough of Malvern, but the event is named “The Battle of Paoli because it took place near the Paoli Tavern, which was a well-known landmark during the Revolutionary era. There is a storied past behind the efforts to preserve this historical site that date back as far as 1817. During the year of the battle’s 40th anniversary, a monument was built on site along with a protective stone wall around it. This monument is one of the oldest Revolutionary War battle monuments and is only preceded by the Lexington Monument that was erected in 1799. Efforts to preserve the memory and significance of this battlefield continued during the 1800’s, as surrounding land amounting to twenty-two acres was acquired and served as a parade ground and drill field for the militia.
In 1877 the monument was replaced with a new granite obelisk, and the stone wall was removed and an iron fence was put in its place. In 1897, the parade space was taken in by the Paoli Memorial Association who have since maintained the area as a park open to the public. As time went on, the Borough of Malvern expanded up around the area, covering much of the original battlefield area.
During the twentieth century, additional changes were made that shaped the historical park into what it is today. In 1996, the Preparatory School of Malvern owned most of the remaining land that encompassed the battlefield. This consisted of 44 acres of wooded area and corn fields. When the school decided they were willing to sell this land, it opened the opportunity to create a complete area that could serve to commemorate the historic battle. The Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund purchased the property and started the process of opening it to the public. In 1999, the area was ready to begin receiving visitors and included new maps, informative plaques, and a well-preserved area to allow guests to experience the site of the historic battle. On September 21, 2002, the 225th anniversary of the battle, the battlefield was officially dedicated. Through a cooperative effort from the local community, state, and national officials, the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park can now be visited year round and is still preserved as the same woods and farmland as the day of the battle in 1777.