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The Cliveden Reenactment of the Battle of Germantown

By Eric Niderost

There’s a special poignancy in viewing a recreation of the fighting at Cliveden and the Battle of Germantown where it actually took place. The battle is staged by Revolutionary War reenactors–people dedicated to bringing the past to life. Every detail on each uniform and piece of equipment is authentic and painstakingly researched. 

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From Germantown Avenue to Cliveden Mansion

The siege of Cliveden was staged at noon and 3 pm The event began with a grand review of both British and American Continental forces. There were too many to list them all, but the British 23rd Regiment of Foot were impressive in their red coats and grenadier bearskin caps. The 11th Pennsylvania made a grand show, as did the green-coated 4th Continental Light Dragoons. The battle started down Germantown Avenue, then moved on to the Cliveden grounds. The fighting was very fluid—as it was during the actual battle—and was also chillingly realistic. The British eventually retreated into Cliveden itself, and started firing at the Americans from the shuttered windows upstairs. Long skeins of Continentals advanced at the run, pausing now and then to fire an ear-splitting volley. Two or three times Continental soldiers rushed the doors, only to fall back with heavy casualties.

Grounds Littered With “Dead” Soldiers

When the battle was over and the Americans forced to retreat, the grounds were littered with “dead” soldiers. It was not just entertainment, but a superb recreation of history. Historian Thomas McGuire was on hand giving a commentary that put everything into perspective. Cliveden still bears marks from the battle. In one of the ground floor rooms there’s a large bullet hole, and the stones around the entrance door still display scars. Perhaps the most controversial is a faint spray of red spots that is found on one of the second floor walls. It may well be blood, as tradition insists; Cliveden’s Ann Roller said that it was tested, and found to be protein. The venerable old mansion, formally styled “Cliveden of the National Trust,” is located at 6401 Germantown Avenue. Rich in period furniture, splendid architecture, and strong historical associations, Cliveden is a site not to be missed. For further information, visit the Web site: http://www.cliveden.org.

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