Backstory extras:
Monument honors unknown dead at Battle of Cooch's Bridge

By robin brown, The News Journal
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Delaware's unknown soldiers will be honored Friday, 231 years after dying for liberty and independence.

The Pencader Heritage Area Association is hosting a 6 p.m. ceremony to dedicate a monument honoring those killed Sept. 3, 1777, in the Battle of Cooch's Bridge, the lone Revolutionary War battle fought on Delaware soil. "We don't know where they decided to bury the American dead, but they're somewhere on the battlefield," project leader Bill Conley said, "and they've never been remembered by a plaque."

Until now. The Field of Valor monument will honor farmers and townsfolk from this and nearby states who fought Europe's best-equipped army with little more than their own deer-hunting rifles and determination.

Names are not listed, Conley said, because "most of the soldiers are known but to God."

Even their number is lost. Historic papers give 24 and 40 as the count, he said. A few officers have been identified, but "there was no mechanism to preserve the names of who those kids were," and a fire just after the war burned all records kept by their commanding general.

The heritage group, led by Glenn Pusey, created the monument with no budget. Stone blocks used in the 1700s as ship ballast were donated by history buffs Bill Brierley, former Newark police chief, and Guardian Construction President Joe Cunane.

Group volunteer Jim Lee recruited his grandson, Chris Kanich, a masonry student at Hodgson Vocational Technical High School in Glasgow. Vice Principal Chuck Haney helped qualify the monument building as a senior service project. Raynor Johnson, a group founder who ran Dayett Mills, designed the monument, topped by a stone found in the field. The state archives contributed markers and archaeologist Wade P. Catts crafted their inscription.

The monument is at the heritage display at Old Baltimore Pike and Dayett Mills Road. At the dedication, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 474 in Newark, which donated flagpoles for the site, will provide an honor guard with Korean War veteran George R. Taylor of Newark to play taps. The guard will fire memorial volleys with members of the 6th Maryland Volunteers. The event -- with speakers, Delaware National Guard, 1st Delaware Regiment, Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution -- is to debut "The Battle of Cooch's Bridge," music composed by Glasgow High band instructor Mike Rogalski and performed by the band.

Guests may bring old flags to be retired later by Boy Scout Troop 1777, numbered for the battle year and based at the heritage group museum. Opened last fall in a barn on the Cooch-Dayett Mills complex -- preserved in a 2003 state deal with the Cooch family -- the free museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Saturdays each month.

The memorial dedication marks the group's second annual battlefield memorial tribute to veterans.

Honoring the young men lost at Cooch's Bridge is "overdue," Conley said. "We feel honored to honor them."

The text of the monument to be unveiled Sept. 5 at the Cooch's Bridge Battlefield interpretive area -- off Old Baltimore Pike at Dayett Mills Road -- was crafted by archaeologist Wade P. Catts, a specialist in Delaware history.

Pencader Heritage Area Association President Glenn Pusey and monument project chairman Bill Conley brainstormed on what to call the area where the only Revolutionary War was fought on Delaware soil.

The skirmish won by the British is called the Battle of Cooch's Bridge, but Conley credits Pusey with coming up with the phrase, "Delaware's Field of Valor."

That heading tops a bronze plaque contributed to the project by the Delaware Public Archives.

The plaque is to be unveiled and read as part of Friday's 6 p.m. ceremony, to include speeches, music and a Veterans of Foreign War Newark Post honor guard and memorial volley, simultaneous with volleys of muskets fired by historic re-enactors from Maryland.

The plaque's text:
DELAWARE'S FIELD OF VALOR On 3 September 1777 an American light infantry corps under the command of Brigadier General William Maxwell engaged British and Hessian forces here in the Battle of Cooch's Bridge. Maxwell's Corps was composed of soldiers from New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and militia from Delaware and Pennsylvania. This plaque is dedicated to those soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their country and whose remains rest beneath this field of battle. Their names and numbers are unknwon. We will always honor their valor and courage.

Write to robin brown at The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850; fax 324-5509; call 324-2856; or e-mail

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