Battle of Paoli
Painted by Xavier della Gatta, 1782
Richard Mansergh St. George remembered Paoli as a “nocturnal bloody scene” and helped create the detailed painting of the battle reproduced here. The painting merges different moments from the battle into one action-packed view. It provides a rare, eyewitness glimpse into the violence of the Revolutionary War.
Museum of the American Revolution
These four British soldiers on horseback are members of the 16th Light Dragoons. They used their long steel sabers to devastating effect at Paoli. The dragoon on the right is raising his saber to cut down a Pennsylvania soldier.
Martin Hunter, St. George’s friend, is wrapping his wounded hand with a bandage. In his memoir, Hunter recalled the close combat at Paoli: “I received a shot in my right hand soon after we entered the camp. I saw the fellow present at me, and was running up to him when he fired. He was immediately put to death.”
Wearing green coats and carrying their breechloading rifles with 25-inch long bayonets, a group of Captain Patrick Ferguson’s riflemen helped to lead the attack at Paoli.
Captain William Wolfe, the Irish commander of the 40th Regiment’s light company, died leading his troops at Paoli. He was remembered as “a most brave and attentive officer.”
Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s troops scrambled to defend their camp at Paoli. The Pennsylvanians fired their muskets, which made it easier for the British to find and attack them in the dark. Wayne withdrew his troops in a fighting retreat to save them from total defeat. The Battle of Paoli became known as the “Paoli Massacre” or “Wayne’s Affair.”
Instead of tents, Wayne’s troops constructed brush huts, also called “wigwams” or “booths,“ in their camp along a woodline (which still exists today, right). These huts provided some protection from the wind and rain. Both Washington’s and Howe’s armies built temporary brush hut camps during the Philadelphia Campaign when baggage wagons carrying tents were not close by.
Italian artist Xavier della Gatta signed and dated his painting in the bottom right corner: “Xav d Gatta 1782.” Richard Mansergh St. George traveled to Italy after his wartime service and provided Xavier della Gatta with the eyewitness testimony needed to create this painting. Della Gatta also painted the Battle of Germantown.