W3R® Heritage Tour in Delaware 

Latest changes: 2013-06-05: fix history link / 2016-08-06: revise auto route Part 4 /

On This Page: Brief History | Auto Tour | Bicycle Tours | Walking Tours
Other Delaware Pages: Pearls -- Related RW sites | Lodging
Interpretive Signs | Activities | Full History

Historical Overview 

Throughout the war Delaware was a critical overland link in the transport of troops and materials between the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River so as to avoid exposure to the British warships patrolling the Atlantic coastal waters.

Delaware was the first state which the officers and troops entered knowing that the British navy had been prevented from rescuing Corwallis from Yorktown, so that victory was almost certain. The British were cut off from supplies and re-inforcements, unlikely to be relieved by a rescue force, and outnumbered by over four to one.

Imagine yourself as a farmer in Claymont, Delaware, in September, 1781, as columns of French troops marched down Philadelphia Pike while hundreds of Continental Army troops rowed barges with the U.S. artillery down the Delaware River. Two thousand French troops set up tents where the Adams Mart shopping center now stands in Wilmington. There were twice as many troops as townspeople. Farmers from as far as fifty miles away drove wagons full of supplies to Wilmington to supply food for the troops and feed for the horses and oxen. The French paid in silver for their purchases. Imagine home much money these farmers made selling their produce.

  • On Sept 2 and 6, 1781, the U.S. Continental artillery and some troops arrived at Christiana, Delaware, in row-galleys that were transported by large wheeled carts to Elkton MD for use in transporting the artillery and troops to Yorktown.

  • On Sept 4 Canby Park near Newport DE was used as a campsite by half of the U.S. Continentals

  • On Sept 6 the area near the Adams Square market in Wilmington DE was used as a campsite by and Gen. Rochambeau and the first half of the French Expeditionary Force (FEF).

  • On Sept 7 Canby Park near Newport DE was used as a campsite by the hussars of Lauzun's Legion.

  • On Sept 8 the second half of the FEF camped in the flood plain just south of Newport.

  • Delaware is the only state in which all the allied troops went down a single path, Old Baltimore Pike -- the road from Christiana DE to Elkton MD.

  • While camped along this road the U.S. Continental regiments waited for a month's salary before proceeding. They had demanded this while passing through Philadelphia, and it was supplied in part from silver which the Continental Congress borrowed from Rochambeau's treasury wagons.
For more details see allied march through DE in 1781, and French return through DE in 1782.
After the victory at Yorktown the Continental forces returned north immediately. The French came north nine months later (in 1782), following the same path they took south.
  • On 1782 Aug 29 and 30 the two divisions of the FEF on the way north camped in the flood plain just south of Newport.

  • In December of 1782 Lauzun's Legion returned to Wilmington and stayed until May 1783 to help guard the approaches to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
See the Lauzun's Legion Garrisons Wilmington several special stories on Hussar Training, The Brazen Robbery, Going Home, and the Fate of Lauzun.

A Note about "Official" W3R Routes
NPS Historic Map for PA-DE-MD [TIFF file]
NPS draft tour maps for all states

Auto Tour of W3R in Delaware 

Note: The base maps below are from Street Atlas USA™
and are copyright © 2005 DeLorme www.delorme.com

Start at the Robinson House (described below) at 1 Naamans Road in Claymont.
Follow Philadelphia Pike (Rt 13). After 1.5 miles Rt 13 splits off to the left. Stay on Philadelphia Pike and after 5.4 miles (and a name change to Market St.) Concord Ave. enters from the right at the (stone) Cathedral Church of St. John. On the street to your left here is Brandywine Village -- several restored Federal-era homes.

Continue on Market St. for three blocks and cross the bridge over the Brandywine River. Stop at the middle of the bridge and look upstream. The Wilmington Presbyterian Church on the left side of the river was once located in central Wilmington. In September and October 1777 it served as a hospital for British soldiers after the Battle of the Brandywine.

At the end of the bridge take the street that goes straight ahead (King Street) . for six blocks, then look to the right to see a statue of Caesar Rodney. In response to an urgent request to interrupt business in order to cast his vote for independence he travelled from Dover to Philadelphia through a torrential rainstorm without stopping. He arrived on July 2, 1776, just in time to cast the vote that indicated that Delaware favored the Lee motion to declare independence. This made the vote (counted by state) unanimous, which was required for its passage. Rodney was the president (the position is now called governor) of Delaware in 1778-81.

Two blocks later (just after 834 King St) on the right is (the back side of) the Grand Opera House. During the Revolution the Wilmington Academy stood here. From 1782 Dec to 1783 May it housed some 550 soldiers from Lauzun's Legion. Half were hussars (light cavalry). The stables were downhill behind it and to your left as you face the Opera House. In the alley on the right as you face the Opera House is a W3R sign about the stay of Lauzun's Legion here in 1781-2. The park here commemorates founding here of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Continue down King and at 4th St. turn right and go six blocks to Washington St. There look to the right to see the Wilmington Friends (Quaker) Meeting House cemetery, where John Dickinson -- Governor of Delaware in 1781-2 and Governor of Pennsylvania in 1782-5 -- is buried.
Continue on 4th Street two more blocks to pass the area where the First French Brigade camped on the night of September 6, 1781.

NOTE: The dotted line shows the route taken by Rochambeau's troops.
The auto route follows a different route to pass by historic sites
from the French garrison of the town in 1782-83.

Continue on 4th Street, and -- just after passing under I-95 -- turn left on Jackson Street. When it ends, turn diagonally right onto Maryland Ave. (Rt 4). After 1.1 miles you pass Canby Park on the right. Richardson's Mill was located on Little Mill Creek here (note the millstone and commemorative plaque). The miller's home is private property. The main Continental army unit and the hussars of Lauzun's Legion camped here in 1781 Sept.
Continue 2.1 miles to pass under Rt 141. After 1.5 miles more you cross over the Red Clay Creek. After 1.6 miles more as you pass over the White Clay Creek on a new bridge there is a small road to the left. This goes down to the old Christiana-Stanton Road (see the old bridge to your left), and you should turn right for 0.1 mile and stop at the Hale-Byrnes House (described below)

Continue on the old Christiana-Stanton Road and return to (turn left onto) Rt 4. Here the recommended auto and bike/hike routes diverge. The next mile of the original W3R route is now covered by several major highway interchanges. These are unsafe for bike/hike travel, so bicyclists and hikers should take a detour to get to the town of Christiana.

AUTO ROUTE: Continue on Route 4 and just after the Christiana Mall take the exit to Route 7 south. This loops around to a traffic light where you go left and then left again at the tee. See graphic below.

BIKE./HIKE DETOUR The next mile of the original W3R route has been broken up by a major highway interchange, and we must make a detour to get to the next stage of the original route. So we turn left onto Route 4, then take the next right, continuing to follow Route 4 for 1.8 miles past the Christiana hospital complex, turning left onto Harmony Road. Follow that 0.7 miles and take a left onto Route 273 (Christiana Road). Pass over I-95 and after the interchange ramps take the second left (0.9 miles) onto Browns Lane and almost immediately a right onto West Main Street to drive 0.4 miles to the center of old Christiana (a stop light with a fire house on the far right corner).

The town of Christiana has several buildings dating to the Revolution, but no museum or interpretive signs. The Christina River bridge is 0.1 mile east on Main St. [The river's name has one less "a" than the town's name.] During the Revolutionary War tons of goods were unloaded off boats in Christiana and shipped overland to Elkton MD. Half of the U.S. Continentals and all the U.S. artillery disembarked at Christiana in September 1781.

Continue south through the stoplight on Old Baltimore Pike. After 3.9 miles you might take a side-trip left for 0.2 miles on Sunset Lake Road to visit the Pencader Area Heritage Museum. This is open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. See the Pearls page for Delaware
After 0.4 miles more on Old Baltimore Pike you will pass over Cooch's Bridge and pass the monument (description below) to the battle that took place here in 1777.
Continue 3.0 miles further you cross into Maryland, where the road is known as Red Hill Road. [There used to be iron mines on Iron Hill, and some iron ore is red.]
Continue 3.5 miles to the center of Elkton MD.

Walking Tours of the W3R in Delaware 

The W3R-DE is developing W3R-themed walking guides for:
  • the march along the river toward Wilmington DE (stop at the _________ which has a good view of the Delaware River)

  • a tour of several W3R sites in the city of Wilmington DE (stop at the Delaware Historical Society)

  • a walk along the original path through the floodplain near the Hale-Byrnes House (stop at the Hale Byrnes House)

  • a walk from the port of Christiana to Cooch's Bridge (stop at Pencader Museum)

Bicycle Tours of the W3R in Delaware 

The W3R-DE is developing W3R-themed bicycle cue-sheets for:
  • a one-way cycle from the Wilmington train station to the Newark train station (stops at the Delaware Historical Society, the Hale Byrnes House, and the Pencader Museum)

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