On September 3, 1777 over 800 Americans forming the Light Infantry Corps of Brigadier General William Maxwell engaged about 2,000 British Light Infantry and Hessian and Anspach "J?gers" (light infantry) in a series of skirmishes ending at Cooch's Bridge.
Maxwell's newly-formed corps was composed of Continentals from New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as militia from New Castle and Chester counties. For one week Maxwell's Corps had harassed and scouted the British Army under General Sir William Howe after its landing at the Head of Elk (Elkton) in late August, following orders from General George Washington to "provide every possible annoyance". Maxwell's Corps was covering the crucial main road to Philadelphia (today's Old Cooch's Bridge Road).
On the morning of September 3, the advanced guard of the British Army marched north along Old Cooch's Bridge Road into a well-prepared ambush. Elements of Maxwell's Corps opened fire on the Jägers from concealed positions along the road. The American Light Infantry was to engage the enemy and delay their advance.
After the initial surprise, the Jagers overran the first American position in hand-to-hand fighting, and the battle continued for about a half mile along the road. Howe reinforced the Jagers with two British Light Infantry battalions and ordered these troops to outflank the American position. The advance to the right led to an area locally termed Purgatory Swamp, effectively removing one battalion from the action. The drive to the left was more successful in outflanking the Americans. Eventually the Continentals held a position at Cooch's Bridge but were forced to cross the Christina Creek. After fighting a series of small delaying actions and potentially facing the balance of the British Army, the Americans withdrew to the east, ending the battle.
Casualties on both sides ranged from 30 to 40 dead and wounded. British pioneers buried at least 24 Americans on the field in unmarked graves. American officers engaged in the battle included John Marshall (future United States Chief Justice). Thomas Duff of Newport, Delaware, Alexander Martin (later Governor of North Carolina), and Francis Gurney (future Pennsylvania Senator and Dickinson College Trustee).
Following the battle the British Army occupied the area from Iron Hill to Aiken's Tavern (Glasgow) with General Cornwallis' headquarters located at the Cooch House. The British encamped in the area until September 8, 1777, when they marched north through Newark. On September 11 the two armies met again at the Battle of Brandywine.
Known as the Battle of Cooch's Bridge by American participants, the skirmish was the opening engagement of the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777, and is the only Revolutionary War battle fought on what became First State soil.
Tradition and considerable circumstantial evidence support the claim that the Stars and Stripes was first carried in the Battle of Cooch' Bridge.