America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Battle of the Clouds, Pennsylvania

The chronology of battles that made up the Philadelphia Campaign of the American Revolution is often limited, in discussion, to three or four events; the Battle of Brandywine, the Paoli Massacre, the Battle of Germantown, and Washington marching his troops into Valley Forge for the winter. But while that may be the highlights, it does little to explain the movements and decisions General George had to make. Many of them were questionable, yet in the end, effective, though much of that may have had luck on his side. For now, let's focus on how we got to the Battle of the Clouds. Washington's troops had escaped capture, but took the loss at Brandywine the week before, but while he marched his troops back toward Philadelphia to protect the capital, the British waited at Brandywine while their supplies were brought forward from their ships at Turkey Point on the Chesapeake Bay. However, the British eventually began to move north, and Washington decided that he should meet them for a general engagement outside the city and away from his supply of munitions west. Let's start there. Photo and video above: Sole sign on the grounds of Immaculata College about the battle, followed by a MINUTE WALK IN HISTORY along the the area where Washington was lining his troops for the battle ahead. Two skirmishes occurred on both ends of the line, but a tropical storm hit, causing Washington to retreat.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Battle of the Clouds

Battle of the Clouds, Pennsylvania

Washington's troops had been camped the night before in the valley below the hills where today's Immaculata University and Villa Maria Academy now stands. Washington himself had stayed the night of September 15 at Malin Hall, the home of Randall Malin. The next morning, the Continental Army climbed that hill toward the precipice, past that lone sign at Immaculata, and toward the road between the two academic institutions, West King Road. The British, under Lt. General Sir William Howe were coming up two roads from the Brandywine area, approaching the road that today separates the college and academy. Lt. General Charles Earl Cornwallis was at Seven Stars Tavern.

The ground along the roadbed was relatively flat, and Washington began to array his troops in a battle line as General Howe, moved toward what he thought was Washington's position, White Horse Tavern up Chester Road, Route 352, with Cornwallis following. General Wilhelm von Knyphausen's column was heading north from Brandywine, ... both toward the area of Boot Tavern.

In mid-morning, the first shots were fired on Knyphausen's troops at Turk's Head Tavern (in today's West Chester) by a Continental scouting party. One British soldier was killed and two wounded. Brigadier General Edward Mathew, British, followed the scouting party up Route 100, Pottstown Pike.

Washington began to command his troops at about the same time, sending Maxwell's Light Infantry Corp and Potter's Pennsylvania Militia, about fifteen hundred men, to harden the western approach to White Horse Tavern. Wayne's two brigades, along with an inexperienced Pennsylvania Militia Brigade, about another fifteen hundred men, were ordered to cover the eastern flank along Chester Road.

Suddenly, on the eastern flank, a skirmish battle occurred, even before the Continental Army could get into full position along West King Road. Cornwallis had moved first up Chester Road and encountered the inexperienced Pennsylvania Militia sent out in a skirmish line near Greenhill Road. They fled at first fire, fourteen killed. No British casualties. Wayne's regular troops went unengaged.

It was two to three p.m. before the first action on the western flank occurred; Maxwell in position at Pottstown Pike, Potter behind Boot Tavern. British Colonel Carl von Donop, with the Jaegers, moved forward too quickly and got engaged without support around Boot Tavern with Potter's men. Donop escaped, breaking through with the horsemen to reunite with Knyphausen while fighting Potter's men as they went. Rain began to fall. Weapons began to misfire. The Jaegers drew their swords and Potter's men left the field. Eight to eleven Continental forces were killed in this action versus five for the British.

As each minute passed, the waves of a tropical rainstorm worsened, pelting both sides. Meanwhile, Washington's main forces between Maxwell and Wayne were not yet filled in and he had already lost the two skirmish fights on his flanks. Washington made a quick decision to retreat toward the valley and White Horse Tavern, determining that he could not win this fight in the middle of a northeaster. At 5:00 p.m., the British also called off the attack.

Image above: Long ascent climb up this hill toward the grounds of Immaculata College from his camp below, 2019. Courtesy America's Best History. Below: Map of the American Revolution in Chester County, including the Battle of the Clouds area, Chester County Planning Commission, Historic Preservation.

Battle of the Clouds Map

Where Is It

The location of the Battle of the Clouds is on the campuses of Immaculata University (1145 West King Road, Malvern, PA 19345) and Villa Maria Academy, plus the skirmish areas near Boot Tavern and on Chester Road. It is not a historic site, although with permission, you may be able to walk the grounds and sight the sign to the battle. In the valley, there is a Battle of the Clouds Park located at 133 Phoenixville Pike, Malvern, PA 19355, near White Horse Tavern, below which the sign of the encampment and battle sits along the Chester County Trail. Search for the academic institutions to get your bearings as well as the park, which is devoted to recreation, not the battle.

What is There Now

Battle of the Clouds

Not much and it takes your imagination to witness it. If you wanted to hide history, they do an unintentionally good job. The sign to the battle at Immaculata College is in the rear of the main buildings. With permission, walk from the main parking lot, then take a left. The sign on the Chester County Trail is right of the parking lot at the Battle of the Clouds Park. All along the road between the two schools is where the line for Washington's troops extended, although they went unused. You can walk along the road to get a sense of where that is. Yes, there should be more interpretive signs, which is the intention.

When Open and How Much

The grounds are open by permission, with the exception of the Battle of the Clouds Park, which is more a recreation park namesaked to the battle than about it. There is no charge, no visitor center, very little interpretation.

Fees subject to change.

Battle of the Clouds, Chester Country Planning Commission, Historic Preservation

History Nearby

There's history all over the place just west of Philadelphia. If you're interested in following the Philadelphia Campaign, there's the initial skirmish at Cooches Bridge, the Battle of Brandywine, and more that occurred after Brandywine and before the encampment at Valley Forge.

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