Delaware Backstory:
Cooch's Bridge event honors bond with long-ago adversaries

By robin brown, The News Journal - August 17, 2010

In Delaware's only Revolutionary War battle, Hessian troops fought Americans from farms and towns, but an upcoming event at the Cooch's Bridge Battlefield will honor the unknown Germans whose lives were lost there, in a celebration of the countries' friendship that has grown over generations.

About 20 Hessians -- German soldiers hired by and fighting with the British -- are believed to have been killed in the battle on Sept. 3, 1777, and buried in unmarked graves, said Bill Conley, president of the Pencader Heritage Area Association.

The first-time friendship celebration grew from the volunteer heritage group's desire to honor those soldiers, after erecting a memorial in 2008 to honor the unknown Colonial troops lost in the battle, also buried in unmarked graves, Conley said.

The group and Delaware Saengerbund, a German-American club in Ogletown, will co-host the event, free and open to the public at noon, Sept. 11, outside Pencader Museum, 2029 Sunset Lake Road, in the Cooch-Dayett Mills Complex off Del. 72 south of Old Baltimore Pike.

Speakers include archaeologist Wade Catts, who researched historic records, reports and letters to collect what has been called the most detailed documentation of those in the battle. The fight was larger and more fierce than widely thought, Catts says, and while the battle has a small bridge's name, artifacts prove the fight sprawled over miles.

The event honoring friendship since then will feature Hessian Revolutionary War re-enactors of the Philadelphia-based Infanterie Regiment von Donop.

Also participating are the Delaware Branch of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, Cooch's Bridge Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Veterans of Foreign Wars O'Daniel Post 475, Delaware Military Heritage Foundation, Civil Air Patrol and color guards of Christiana and William Penn high schools, and Delaware Military Academy Junior ROTC. Glasgow High's Marching Band will perform Germany's anthem.

Elmar Kohlhofer, representing Germany's American Embassy, will plant a friendship tree on the battlefield. Selected with help of Diane Crom, horticultural superintendent in the state Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Conley said, the Overcup Oak will grow to 50 or more feet, in a living tribute for generations to come.

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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