Barren Hill - Part 2


Ridge Road Looking South

    This is the view looking south down Ridge Road.  Clinton and Howe were advancing from Philadelphia from this direction while Grant had circled around behind and was coming down this road from the other direction, blocking the road to Matson's Ford.  Clinton's advance was detected when Allen McLane's advanced force of around 45 Oneida and 50 of Daniel Morgan's riflemen under Cpt. Parr captured two British grenadiers who revealed the plan.  McLane went to Lafayette with the information while his men delayed Clinton.  At one point, the Oneida repulsed the British dragoons, frightening them with their war whoops.  Lafayette also received a report about Grant in his rear, so he sent some of his troops north to keep him occupied.

    But delaying the British wouldn't be enough to save the American force.  Whether Lafayette knew about it beforehand, or whether he was told about it at the time, another road unknown to the British ran west down a hollow to the Schuylkill River and the crossing at Matson's Ford.  In the hollow, the American force couldn't be seen, and because of the training of "Baron von" Steuben at Valley Forge, they were able to move much faster in columns instead of in single file.

    In the next three pictures you can see what the modern version of Barren Hill Road looks like, the route of the American retreat.  You can clearly see that the road follows the hollow downhill to the river.



Barren Hill Road


Schuylkill River

    Looking east, this is the area where the Schuylkill River turns from eastward flowing to southeastwardly flowing on the outskirts of modern Conshohocken.  You can see the distant heights on the left which rise above the river.  Lafayette's men marched down Barren Hill Road in the hollow visible to the right of these heights.  They then continued along the riverbank on the left of the picture.  A mile or so further, near the center of the modern town, Lafayette crossed the river to safety at Matson's Ford.  There, he was protected from any British pursuit by heights similar to those on the right of the picture.  

    The forces of Clinton and Grant met up at Barren Hill, making it clear that "the boy" had escaped.  The British returned to Philadelphia, with Clinton and Grey getting back by 2 PM, but Grant's men arriving only in the evening after marching a total of forty miles that day.

    Twenty two hundred men was a substantial portion of Washington's army at that time, anywhere from one-fifth to one-third depending on the estimates.  Washington could consider himself lucky that they weren't on their way to prison hulks.


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