Collecting Delaware Books

The Battle of Cooch's Bridge

The Battle of Cooch's Bridge by Edward W. Cooch, once Delaware's Lieutenant-Governor, was privately printed in 1940. Cooch starts with the premise that the details of this Revolutionary War engagement have been overshadowed and obscured by the claim that this was the first time the flag known as the stars and stripes appeared in battle.

Cooch's Bridge is on Old Baltimore Pike just west of Delaware 72 near Newark. A small battle was fought there September 3, 1777. A Stanley Arthurs painting, used as a frontispiece to the book, shows Washington and Lafayette on Iron Hill viewing the enemy who had landed near Elkton.

After seven chapters describing the battle, Cooch turns to the flag story. Other claimants for the honor of flying the Betsy Ross flag in battle are Fort Stanwix (now Fort Schulyer), New York Bennington, Vermont and the Battle of the Brandywine in Pennsylvania.

Cooch discusses the available evidence, mostly circumstantial. He insists the Fort Stanwix flag was not the stars and stripes and dismisses the Bennington claim for lack of evidence. His claim for Cooch's Bridge rests on two facts: Washington's army paraded in Philadelphia with the stars and stripes for the first time a few months earlier, and this was the first military engagement after that parade. Brandywine proponents say Cooch's Bridge was only a skirmish preceding the Battle of the Brandywine.

The Cooch book goes on with individual accounts of the battle, including stories by his ancestors, whose home was occupied by British officers afterward. A striking John Moll foldout drawing 7 by 19 inches shows the Cooch house, mill, and bridge as they might have looked during the Revolution.

There is one marvelous story about a British scout who dressed as a mounted ghost and wore body armor to protect himself. Every night, he would test the American lines to gather intelligence. The "white sentinel" or "phantom dragoon" died when one cool corporal put a musket ball through his head instead of firing blindly in the direction of the specter.

This is a delightful little book and pure Delawareana. Copies are not easy to come by but show up now and then. With a dust jacket and in fine condition they fetch up to $100.

Back to Articles List

Back to home page

Contact John P. Reid