Delaware Backstory:
Study shows Cooch‘s Bridge fight was more than minor skirmish

By robin brown, The News Journal

Pop quiz: Where was the Baffle of Cooch’s Bridge?

If you said “at Cooch’s Bridge,” you’re partially right.

Delaware’s lone Revolutionary War battle was more sprawling - and worse - than once thought, says Wade P. Catts, an archaeologist who has researched the conflict extensively.

People think the Sept. 3, 1777, baffle was a minor fight at the bridge and a field by the Cooch house, but it was more serious and covered miles, he says.

“Recent scholarship regarding the battle suggests that it was more than a mere skirmish, that it was considered by participants to have been a sharp but hard-fought and bloody engagement, and that it was fought over a much larger geographic area, ranging from today’s Glasgow to Iron Hill and the Cooch’s Bridge area,” he recently wrote to the Historic Review Board of New Castle County.

His comments followed a study the board recommended in 2008 of the possibility of battle artifacts remaining on three parcels off Del. 896 and Old Cooch’s Bridge Road. W. L. Gore & Associates, which submitted a development plan for the site, agreed to a metal-detector study of the 148 acres.

Results “clearly indicate that physical evidence of the battle and associated encampments is present on all three parcels of the area proposed for development,” Catts said. “The recovery of dropped and impacted (i.e., fired) lead balls - including both musket and rifle balls - is empirical evidence of an engagement that occurred over 225 years ago.”

Recovery of “other metal items likely associated with military activities from the three parcels supports the conclusion that these parcels are within the limits of the Cooch’s Bridge battlefield” he wrote.

Catts, who praised Gore’s earlier plan change to preserve a prehistoric American Indian site found on the land, urged more research and possible preservation. “We only get one shot at saving a site like this,” he said.

Its potential history was considered, Department of Land Use Mark Veasey said, but County Council recently approved Gore’s plan for Glasgow Commons, 1.6 million square feet of office, warehouse and manufacturing space.

Now any baffle-related study or preservation is up to Gore. “I don’t know that we’ve thought that far ahead,” said spokesman Michael Ratchford. “We don’t have any immediate plans for development.”

But he believes Gore “would be amenable” to the next step the study report suggests. “We’ll really take a look at the existing artifacts and determine what significance they may have.”

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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