Following the September, 1777 battle of Brandywine, wounded soldiers were dispersed across southeastern Pennsylvania for treatment, and some ended up at a hospital in the small Moravian town of Lititz, near Lancaster. The Moravians had many settlements in this part of the state. The Moravians, like the Quakers, were pacifists, and also assisted in humanitarian efforts like treating the wounded.
General Washington sent army surgeon Dr. Samuel Kennedy here to establish the facility. The army took over the Brother’s House, home to the community’s single men, who were forced to find shelter elsewhere. Moravians lived and worked in separate groups: single women, single men, married women, married, men, etc. Wounded from Brandywine arrived, and more arrived following the November battle of Germantown.
By mid-December, wagons had brought about 80 wounded here, with more arriving over the next few days. Typhus broke out due to unsanitary conditions. Estimates range from 500-1000 wounded passing through the hospital in Lititz, which closed in August, 1778. A total of 110 died of their wounds and were buried in Lititz. Ten Moravian civilians who were exposed to typhus also died during the hospital’s operation.
Bethlehem, founded by Moravians on Christmas Eve, 1741, was also impacted by the conflict. Bethlehem was well known for its industry and productivity. In April, 1777, John Adams visited the town and wrote to his wife Abigail, “They have carried the Mechanical Arts to greater Perfection here than in any Place which I have seen.”
During the battle of Brandywine, 20-year old General Lafayette was wounded in the leg, and recuperated here in Bethlehem. Later that summer the Liberty Bell also passed through. Cast in England in 1751, it arrived in Philadelphia the next year. Officially known as the Pennsylvania State House Bell, it was installed in the cupola above that building, where the Continental Congress would meet starting in 1775. The bell was likely not rung on July 4, 1776, but possibly on the 8th, when the Declaration of Independence was announced publicly and the city’s church bells were rung in celebration.
In 1778 the single sisters created a red silk banner for General Casimir Pulaski’s Legion. The Polish officer received it at their house, and the flag was carried through many battles until his death at Savannah a year later. Today the flag is in the Maryland Historical Museum in Baltimore.
After the battle of Brandywine, with the British about to occupy Philadelphia, the city’s church bells were removed to save them from being melted down. There was no evidence that the British intended to so, but the fear motivated this action.
Among the bells removed for safekeeping was the State House Bell. It was brought through Bethlehem on September 23, and arrived in nearby Allentown the next day, where it was hidden with ten other bells beneath the floorboards of Zion Reformed Church. After the British evacuated Philadelphia the following year, the bell was returned to the city.
In July, 1782, George Washington visited Bethlehem to thank the community for their support. Communities like Bethlehem and Lititz, the residents along the Brandywine River, and other settlements in the path of the armies felt the impact of war in numerous ways.