Daughters of the American Revolution unveil dedication at Paoli Battlefield

MALVERN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "As you look at this beautiful piece of land, it's easy to just think of it as a Parks and Rec Center," said Elizabeth Watkins. "But actually, 200 years ago, there was a battle being fought here and men died here."

Watkins was among the Daughters of the American Revolution who gathered today to recognize the grounds where the Battle of Paoli took place. The group is bound by their dedication to preservation, education, and patriotism. Each member can trace back their genealogy to a Patriot from the Revolutionary War era.

Watkins' Patriot ancestor is John Blackwell, a private in the U.S. military.

"I have great pride in the sacrifices that the Patriots made," she said. "I love the fact that I can honor their memory by being a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution."

Today, the group led a ceremony to dedicate an America 250 Patriot Marker at the Paoli Battlefield.

"These markers are intended to call to people's attention the cause for freedom that our patriotic ancestors fought," said Watkins, who acts as the State Regent for the Pennsylvania State Society DAR. "We're being encouraged to place at least one marker in every state across the United States."

Their mission is part of a years-long effort to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the United States of America. Though the big birthday will take place in the year 2026, the DAR is celebrating a wide period of time ranging from the Boston Massacre in 1770 to the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

"Whether you can find a Patriot in your lineage or not, it's very important to learn about where you come from because, you know, it's your story," said Taryn Kennedy, the Southeastern District Director for the Pennsylvania DAR.

Kennedy can connect her family tree to Dr. Thomas Stewart, a free African-American from Virginia who supported the Revolution by donating food and supplies to troops.

"We owe a large debt to them for our sense of freedom that we all benefit from today," she said, "And this is certainly something that we should be proud of."

DAR members like Kennedy hope the installation of their marker will help raise awareness of the price those Patriots paid.

"People just walk right by the monuments... don't know anything about this," said Jim Christ, the President of the Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund. "If they would just look up at the panels, read what happened here, they'd understand what a sacred and hollow ground this is."

The Battle of Paoli, which took place in September 1777, is considered the ninth bloodiest battle of the Revolution. The British victory that took place on its grounds is infamously known as "The Paoli Massacre" and sparked the "Remember Paoli" battle cry, which inspired many similar iterations in the future.

To learn more about Paoli Battlefield Historic Park, visit their website.

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