Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 30
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: January 1992 Volume 30 Number 1, Pages 11–14
Our First Road Map?
One of the earliest road maps of this area was drawn by an unidentified British engineer/cartographer for the use of General Sir Henry Clinton during the Revolutionary War.
It is a large manuscript pen-and-ink map of eastern Pennsylvania between the valleys of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. Drawn to a scale of about one inch to approximately two miles, the map measures 52-1/2 by 37-1/2 inches in size, with about 600 towns and settlements, together with the roads between them and other landmarks, shown.
The original copy of the map is now preserved in the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It is No. 250 in "the British Headquarters Papers", or Clinton Papers, acquired by Mr. Clements from the descendants of Sir Henry Clinton in 1926 for the University.
Shortly after its acquisition, in a monograph about the collection published in 1928, Raymond G. Adams pointed out, "It is truly remarkable that such a body of information about the American Revolution as is contained in the Clinton Papers should have remained untouched and neglected by historians until exactly a century and a half after the independence of America." He also added, "The maps came to the library in about the condition in which they were left by Sir Henry Clinton. Many of them were in small fragments, which had to be reassembled and mounted with extreme care."
On the next page is reproduced the portion of this Revolutionary War map that shows the area south of the Schuylkill River between Gordon's ford, the present-day Phoenixville, on the west and Matson's ford, the present-day Conshocken, on the east. It includes all of Tredyffrin and Easttown townships, and also all or parts of several other townships in the area.
At the top of the section reproduced is the Schuylkill River, with the French Creek, Pickering Creek, Valley Creek, and Gulph Creek, from west to east, running into it from the west or the south. Also shown are the various fords across the river, so important from a military standpoint for the movement of troops, supplies, and materiel: Gordon's ford, Richards' ford, Pawling's ford, Fatland ford (shown on the map but not indentified by name), and, to the east, Swedes ford, Grove's Mill ford, and Matson's ford.
From the Swedes ford, running in a southwesternly direction, is shown the Swedes ford road, passing by the King of Prussia Inn and Howell's Tavern, now Howellville, before it connects with the Lancaster Road just to the west of the Warren Tavern.
The Lancaster Road runs in a north-northwest direction, across the lower middle of the map, past the Buck Tavern in Haverford, the Spread Eagle, the Paoli, and the Warren. It is also shown as going through Cuckolds Town, an old name for the present-day Berwyn. (The late Franklin Burns, writing in the Quarterly some fifty years ago [January 1938 : Volume I, Number 2] suggested that the name "was erroneous in form and implication" and that 'cuckold' was "an ancient corruption of the Celtic 'cockle'", with the name thus more properly Cockle Town and "derived from the corn-flower, an imported European weed closely related to the ragged robin, which flourished and became very troublesome in the wheat fields".)
Also shown, in the lower left hand corner of the map, is a road running in a northwest and southeast direction, past the home of General Wayne, the Paoli, and St. Peter's Church. (The section between the Paoli and St. Peter's Church is no longer in existence today.) This was the road referred to by Joshua Evans in his petition in 1769 for a license "to keep a public house of entertainment", later known as the Paoli, on the road between Yellow Springs and Darby "leading through a large body of the upper part of the county by the Valley Church [St. Peter's] to Chester, Darby, &c." through Newtown Square.
Another road, shown near the center of the map, is the Baptist Road or Welsh Line Road, later also known as Valley Forge Road. It is shown running between St. David's and the Baptist Meeting House [the Baptist Church of the Great Valley] and then on to the north, crossing the Schuylkill River at Fatland ford. (The lower part of this road is also no longer in existence.)
Crossing the Swedes ford road at the King of Prussia Inn is shown a road that runs to the northwest to the northern part of the county; it is now State Route 23, and is sometimes also known as the Ridge Road. It crosses Valley Creek just north of the forge that was Valley Forge, and goes to the northwest past the Bull Tavern and Starr Tavern; in the other direction from King of Prussia it goes by the Bird-in-Hand Inn and Gulph Mills to the Lancaster Road just to the east of the Buck. The forge at Valley Forge, incidentally, is shown on the east side of Valley Creek rather than on the west bank. The road was laid out primarily to bring iron down from the furnaces in northern Chester County and Berks County.
Other landmarks shown on the map include several Quaker meeting houses: the Quaker Meeting [Valley Meeting] on Swedes Ford Road, the Radnor Meeting on the Conestoga/Lancaster road, and Goshen Meeting. The Valley Meeting, incidentally, is shown on the south rather than the north side of Swedes Ford Road, probably another map maker's error.
General Sir Henry Clinton was the commander-in-chief of all the British forces in America for the last three and a half years of the war. He was named to the position on February 4, 1778, during the British occupation of Philadelphia, replacing General Sir William Howe.
Virtually his entire career was spent in the military. The only son of Admiral George Clinton, he was born in Newfoundland in 1738 while his father was the colonial governor there; Admiral Clinton later was the colonial governor of New York. Henry Clinton served in the New York militia, and at the age of 19 returned to England to join the famed Cold-stream Guards. In the following year he became a lieutenant-colonel in the Grenadier Guards. During the Seven Years War he was an aide-de-camp to Prince Charles of Brunswick, and served with distinction.
In 1772 he was promoted to be a major general. He also had a seat in the Parliament from 1772 to 1784, though for much of this period he was in America with the army.
Prior to his appointment as commander-in-chief, Clinton took a leading part in the battles of Bunker Hill and Long Island. For his role in the latter campaign, which led to the capture and occupation of New York City by the British, he was promoted to lieutenant general and knighted. In 1776 he also headed an unsuccessful attack on Charleston, S. C.
Appraising Clinton's performance as the commander-in-chief, William B. Willcox, in George Washington's Opponents, observed, "Little can be said against him as a military thinker, for here he was at his best; his ideas were not brilliant, but they were eminently sound. He understood the relationship of geography and sea power to all land operations, and he had a realistic view of the loyalists and how they could and could not be utilized." As a planner "he was superior" to either Sir William Howe or "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne, Willcox noted, but he "did not have their natural gift for command and was never, as they were, popular with the army". His years as commander-in-chief, in fact, were marked by constant friction and an inability to cooperate with his colleagues (and particularly with Lord Cornwallis, his second-in-command) and by a lack of any real support from any of the political leaders back in England. John W. Fortescue, in his History of the British Army, further noted that he was "made the scapegoat for every misfortune that occured during his period of command".
After the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Clinton was succeeded as commander-in-chief by Sir Guy Carleton. He returned to England, where he wrote a controversial Narrative erf the Campaign of 1781 in America. In 1790 he was again elected to Parliament. Four years later he was named governor of Gibralter, where he died the following year.
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