Cooch’s Bridge is a historic district located at Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware, and is the site of the 1777 Battle of Cooch’s Bridge. While there are several modern bridges near the site of the battle, the original bridge was in poor shape in 1777, and did not survive the American Revolution. Fought on September 3, 1777, the Battle of Cooch's Bridge has two principal distinctions. It was the only battle of the American Revolutionary War fought on Delaware soil, and marked the first time that the Stars and Stripes was flown in battle.
Battle of Cooch's Bridge was the first battle in the Philadelphia campaign. On
July 23, 1777, British Gen. Howe left New York City with an armada of 265 ships
carrying 18,000 troops. From the shore Continental Army scouts followed the
progress of the British fleet, and Commander-in-Chief George Washington led
most of the Continental Army south from New York to oppose the British wherever
they might land.
It is important to note that the Delaware Regiment was not
at the Battle of Cooch's Bridge as they were stationed elsewhere in the summer
of 1777. The Delaware Militia did see action at Cooch's Bridge. A militia is
composed of non-conscripted soldiers who, when called upon, can fire a gun and
take part in a battle. Members of the Cecil Militia from Cecil County, Maryland
also saw action at Cooch's Bridge.
The Philadelphia Campaign was a plan conceived by Lord
Cornwallis to capture the city of Philadelphia, the colonial capital of the new
United States. Cornwallis believed that by capturing the capital city the war
would end. Following the battle at Cooch's Bridge and then at Brandywine,
Cornwallis did occupy Philadelphia. However the Continental Congress escaped to
Lancaster and then York, Pennsylvania.
The Battle of Cooch's Bridge was a success in that it did
draw the British into a fight and did provide Gen. Washington with the delay he
needed to fortify his positions for the upcoming Battle of Brandywine. The
Americans were learning to use their knowledge of the terrain and setting to their
advantage. They were also gaining proficiency at camouflaging themselves in the
surroundings of a battleground.
Christopher Ward, the author of The Delaware Continentals
summed up the battle this way: “this affair was a brisk engagement,
in which there were substantial losses on both sides.” Traditional
and persuasive evidence suggests that the 13-star “Betsy Ross Flag” was
first flown at the Battle of Cooch's Bridge.