From Our MagazinesAmerica's Civil War American History Armchair General Aviation History British Heritage Civil War Times MHQ Military History Vietnam Wild West World War II
More On The WebsiteClassifieds Partner Links Civil War Sesquicentennial
Our History MagazinesOrder America's Civil War Order American History Order Aviation History Order British Heritage Order Civil War Times Order Military History Order MHQ Order Vietnam Order Wild West Order World War II Order Armchair General
Subscriber ServicesOrder a Subscription Give a Gift Renew Get Subscription Help
HistoryNetShop.comStore Home Books Book Series 2012 Calendars DVDs PC Wargames Action Figures Audio Collections Videos Gift Ideas Magazine Subscriptions Magazine Back Issues Magazine Special Issues Magazine Slip Cases
Sunrise was masked by thick fog that hung shroudlike over the city of Philadelphia on September 11, 1777. Shortly before 8 o'clock that morning, the people who had gathered in tight knots in the streets, squares and around public buildings heard distant thunder. It lasted until nearly noon, then ceased. What had happened? Had this been the battle they had expected to be fought between General George Washington's Continental Army and the British, who were marching on their city? A dispatch rider, his mount lathered, galloped through the thronged streets bearing one of the twice-daily dispatches Congress had instructed Washington to send. But no word filtered along the streets and alleys of the city. Later that afternoon, the thunder began again and lasted until after sunset. Still there was no news until almost midnight–and for Philadelphians who had joined the war for American independence, the report was not good.
The battle that was fought on that warm, foggy September day along Brandywine Creek southwest of Philadelphia had seemed inevitable. Washington and his British opponent, General Sir William Howe, had spent the spring ducking and dodging each other. Then Howe had loaded his regiments on a fleet of warships and transports and sailed from New York Harbor, clearing the sandbar off Sandy Hook on July 23. Sighted only briefly off the mouth of the Delaware Bay, the ships of the Royal Navy finally reappeared in the Chesapeake Bay. On August 25, Howe's army began to disembark at the head of the bay, and on August 28 it started a slow, cautious march toward the rebel capital, Philadelphia.
The British reached the little Pennsylvania crossroads settlement of Kennett Square on September 10. As British, Hessian and Loyalist troops unhitched tired teams from the supply wagons loaded with rum, flour and salted meat and pitched camp, Howe learned that Washington had deployed his Continentals and Pennsylvania militia along the Brandywine, blocking the road to Philadelphia. The king's commander in chief kept his staff up late that night, preparing for battle.
Howe's plan was simple, elegant and risky–he would divide his army in half. One wing, under the Hessian Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen, would advance directly from Kennett Square to the main crossing of the Brandywine, Chadd's Ford. His task was to engage the enemy as closely as possible, but only as a diversion. Meanwhile, the rest of the British army, with Howe and the talented Lord Charles Cornwallis in command, would march upstream, cross the Brandywine and sweep down the rebels' right flank. The danger, of course, was that Washington might concentrate against each wing in turn and defeat, or at least cripple, the king's army. But that was less risky than a frontal assault.
While the king's men sat down to their rum and salt pork that evening, the Continentals camped along the Brandywine had the consolation of a sermon preached by the Reverend Joab Trout. 'The doom of the British is near! intoned the minister to all who would listen. Most of the Continentals, though, were more interested in sleep. They had marched all morning and then spent the afternoon being jockeyed about as the generals deployed the army for the battle that all knew was coming.
Washington had posted his army at the last possible defensive position between the British and Philadelphia. Major General John Armstrong and the Pennsylvania militia held the left flank, covering a ford known as Pyle's Ford (or Gibson's, or any of a half dozen other names). On the heights overlooking the main crossing, Chadd's Ford, stood the Continental divisions of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne. A battery of Colonel Thomas Proctor's Pennsylvania State Regiment of Artillery (which later became the 4th Continental Artillery) was entrenched on a hill covering Chadd's Ford. In reserve were Maj. Gen. Adam Stephen's division, the division commanded by Maj. Gen. William Alexander (who was known to friends and foes as Lord Stirling), and the North Carolina Line under Brig. Gen. Francis Nash. Holding the right flank, and ordered to defend a series of upstream fords, was a division of Continentals led by Maj. Gen. John Sullivan. Under the smiles of Providence, Washington wrote to Israel Putnam, we shall give them a repulse.
Shortly before 6 o'clock on the morning of September 11, Knyphausen's column filed off toward Chadd's Ford. During the next hour and a half the British advance guard was ambushed three times. When at last the king's men neared a tangle of wooded hills, small streams and crisscrossing farm lanes adjoining the Brandywine, the Hessian general had had enough. He formed his brigades into line of battle, brought up his heavy 12-pounder guns and, at 8 a.m., launched a set-piece assault. It took more than two hours to push the rebels back to the far side of the Brandywine. Once the rebels were safely beyond Chadd's Ford, Knyphausen ordered his men to ground their arms, sited his heavy guns and opened a barrage. The rebels returned the fire. The cannonade, which lasted until noon, was the morning thunder heard in Philadelphia.
The formation that delayed Knyphausen was the rebel army's light corps commanded by Brig. Gen. William Maxwell, a hard-drinking (and often drunk) veteran of the French and Indian War. The corps, less than 800 strong, had been assembled only three weeks before, made up of detachments from each of the Continental brigades under Washington's direct command and reinforced by a local militia regiment.
Howe's column left Kennett Square between 4 and 5 a.m. Marching quickly, in spite of the 80 wagons (for the expected wounded) lumbering along behind them, the sweating British and Hessian troops made good time. Riding next to Cornwallis and Howe was a Pennsylvania Loyalist, Joseph Galloway, who knew the area intimately while another local Tory, Lewis Curtis, guided the advanced guard.
Only one small rebel patrol–with fewer than 100 men–was encountered. By 2 p.m., the British column had wheeled to the right, crossed both upper branches of the Brandywine and was closing in on the rebel flank. At 2:30 p.m. Howe called a halt to let the men eat their ration of salt pork and biscuits. It had been a most remarkable march for the British army–17 miles on a fog-shrouded, sweltering, blister-raising trek in nine hours.
While the troops rested, one of the advanced patrols of the Feldjägerkorps reported. To see for themselves what the Hessian riflemen had discovered, Howe and Cornwallis, mounted on fresh horses, rode forward to the crest of Osborne's Hill. On the far side of the valley, deployed in ordered line of battle along the crest of a hill that had been plowed in preparation for planting winter wheat, 3,500 Continentals waited. Sir William had not anticipated such resistance at that point, but 8,000 men were in the woods behind him to deal with it.
Whatever their faults–and they had many–Howe and Cornwallis were superb tacticians. Instantly, orders were issued to form the battle line: the Brigade of Guards, two battalions, on the right; in the center, the British Grenadiers and light infantry and the Hessian Jägers; on the left, the 4th Brigade of the British Line; the Hessian Grenadier Brigade to support the Guards; the 3rd Brigade to the reserve.
Lieutenant Colonel William Meadows addressed his 1st Grenadiers: Grenadiers, for damned fighting and drinking I'll match you against the world, he bellowed. His band struck up the British Grenadiers, then the drums tapped out the cadence, and the British battle line, bayonets gleaming, advanced–right into a Pennsylvania farmer's split-rail fence. The battle line paused, some regiments climbing the fence, others pulling sections down. The 4th Brigade fell behind, and the Jägers cut in front of the Redcoats. A gap opened between the Guards and the 1st Light Infantry, which the observant Howe sent the Hessian Grenadiers forward to fill. Then the British broke free of the tangle of wood lots and farm fields covering Osborne's Hill. It was almost 4 p.m.
Washington had been summoned from his headquarters by an alarm gun fired at 7 a.m. Surrounded by a flock of aides and generals, he listened to the fog-muffled sounds of gunfire from Proctor's Battery overlooking Chadd's Ford. One question preyed on his mind: Was Knyphausen's advance a feint, or was it the main British thrust? Howe had a penchant for flank attacks. Would he make one this day? To guard his flanks, Washington had deployed almost all of his available cavalry under Colonel Theodorick Bland, with orders to keep the commander in chief informed of British moves. Patrols of Continentals guided by officers from the local militia regiment, the 8th Chester County and a detachment of 75 men from the Pennsylvania Line under Captain William Simpson had been sent out.
Upstream from the Continental Army's main battle position, General Sullivan had posted one of his best units, the Delaware Regiment, to guard Brinton's Ford. Still farther up the Brandywine, Sullivan had sent Colonel Moses Hazen's regiment to watch two other fords. Officially Congress' Own 2nd Canadian Regiment but better known as the Infernals, Hazen's formation was made up of Canadians who had thrown in their lot with the rebels in 1775 and were now in exile along with a sprinkling of recruits from New York and Pennsylvania. Most of the officers and men were foreign born; many spoke no English.
No one thought it necessary to post troops any farther upstream. There were few crossing places, certainly none within striking distance of a slow-marching British army.
During the morning hours a steady stream of conflicting intelligence flowed in. A light cavalry major reported no enemy forces to the right. Hazen said the enemy was marching to outflank the army. Major Joseph Spear of the Chester County militia saw no sign of the enemy. From Lt. Col. James Ross of the Pennsylvania Line came a report that 6,000 British under Howe, with Joseph Galloway acting as a guide, were striking up the creek. Captain Simpson sent word via Colonel Ross that he had skirmished with the advance guard of a powerful British column. Sullivan's aide, Major John Skye Eustace, swore during the court of inquiry held after the battle that Washington and the highly vaunted Brig. Gen. Henry Knox had laughed at him when he warned of British forces approaching their right flank.
By 11:15 Washington, at his wit's end, ordered Bland to send a cavalry patrol under an intelligent, sensible officer to find out what, if anything, was happening on the right. He followed that with orders to Sullivan, Lord Stirling and Maxwell to make ready to cross the Brandywine and attack Knyphausen's column. If Howe had indeed divided his army, perhaps it could be destroyed in detail. If not, perhaps some prodding could bring on a British attack.
Shortly before 2 p.m., a panting light dragoon delivered a dispatch from Sullivan. Washington read, Colo. Bland has this moment sent me word, that the Enemy are in the Rear of my Right, about two miles, [and] coming down. He also says he saw Dust Rise back in the country for about an hour. Bland included an estimate of the enemy strength–two brigades of light troops. Washington may also have received word of Howe's march from a local squire, Thomas Cheyney. In any event, that authentic intelligence galvanized the commander in chief into action.
At about 2 p.m., Knyphausen's staff noticed a curious movement on the hills beyond Chadd's Ford–soldiers marching to the rebel right. They were the regiments of Stirling's and Stephen's divisions on their way to head off the flanking column. By 3 o'clock, they were deployed in an ordered line of battle on a hill near the Birmingham Meeting House, the field guns had been unlimbered and loaded, and skirmishers and light dragoons were probing for the enemy. Meanwhile, Washington had once more become indecisive. Would two divisions, perhaps 3,500 men, be enough to stop the British? Could he trust Stirling, a make-believe earl, and Stephen, a lying braggart, both of whom were known to be fond of the bottle? At 2:15, Washington sent an order to Sullivan, which was received at 2:30, to wheel his division about, link up with Stirling and Stephen, and assume overall command of the right wing.
The Maryland regiments of Sullivan's division swung about, struck out upstream along the Brandywine and then cut sharply to the right, following a twisting, narrow farm lane. The leading regiment bumped into Hazen's men hurrying to join the column, and the division lurched to a halt. Word was passed along the column to Sullivan: The British not only had flanked the rebel army, they were at hand. Orders ran back down the column: March on at the quick step, with Hazen in the lead. When the head of the column broke free of the trees and crested a low rise, Sullivan was at last able to see Stirling's and Stephen's troops on the plowed hill. To his chagrin, Sullivan found his division was a half mile to the left and in front of the other rebel formations. Sullivan spurred his horse and cantered off to confer with Stirling and Stephen and to order them to shift their men to the right to make room for his division on the hill. In command he left the 60-year-old Frenchman Brig. Gen. Phillipe Hubert de Prudhomme de Borre. It was 4 p.m.
Colonel Hazen, ignoring Sullivan's and de Borre's orders, swerved from the line of march. The other brigades followed a sunken lane toward the plowed hill. They were still a quarter of a mile in front of the nearest rebel troops–the New Jersey regiments of Stirling's division under Colonel Elias Dayton–when they were suddenly attacked by the Brigade of Guards and the Hessian Grenadiers. In a matter of moments the 1st Maryland Brigade broke. Unable to deploy in the narrow confines of the sunken lane, the 2nd Maryland Brigade, from the colonels to the drummer boys, turned on their heels and ran. At the first glimpse of the bayonets of the Brigade of Guards, de Borre disappeared.
With fugitives swirling around them, Hazen's 2nd Canadians continued their march toward the plowed hill until the Hessian Grenadiers struck their flank. Hazen's regiment numbered between 350 and 400 officers and men, while there were three battalions of Hessians, each battalion roughly 430 strong. Nevertheless, Hazen's troops formed into line of battle and met the enemy with steady volleys. When the New Jersey regiments opened fire, the Hessians fell back, allowing Hazen to link up with the left flank of Stirling's division.
Sullivan was with Stephen and Stirling when his division fell apart. All he could do was direct Stirling to open fire with his artillery to cover the retreat while he and four aides rode off to try to rally the fugitives.
The rebels on the plowed hill caught sight of Sullivan's division marching–so they hoped–to reinforce them at the same time the British appeared from the light woods covering Osborne's Hill. In awed silence, the Continentals watched British guns unlimber and commence a covering barrage over the heads of the Redcoats starting up the hill. Then, when the British line drew closer, the Continentals received the order they had been waiting for: Fire!
There was a most infernal fire of cannon and musquetry, said one of the king's officers, The balls plowing up the ground. The trees cracking over one's head. The branches riven by the artillery. The leaves falling as in autumn by the grapeshot. Above the deafening roar of cannon and musket fire came incessant shouting: Incline to the right! Incline to the left! Halt! Charge! As the British closed with the Continental battle line, the rebel fire swelled to an ear-shattering crescendo and the British Grenadiers and light infantry were forced to go to ground in front of Lord Stirling's division.
The initial British advance against Stephen's division on the rebel right was also less than successful. Brigadier General William Woodford had posted one of his regiments, the 3rd Virginia under Colonel Thomas Marshall, in a wood on the right to cover his fieldpieces and flank. When Sullivan ordered the shift to the right to make room for his division on the plowed hill, Marshall's 170 officers and men found themselves masking the advancing British from the fire of Woodford's and Brig. Gen. Charles Scott's brigades. Before Marshall could redeploy his men, the 3rd Virginia was attacked by the British 1st Light Infantry and forced to fall back to the Birmingham Meeting House, where they took positions behind a sturdy stone wall. Once Marshall and his little force were out of the way, the British moved on rapidly, only to be met by a withering blast of buckshot from Stephen's division and enfilading fire from the 3rd Virginia.
A half-hour after it began, Howe's flank attack ground to a halt. Sullivan's division had been routed, but the rebels were clinging tenaciously to their hill, and it would soon be too dark to fight. Something had to be done–and quickly.
During the initial assault on the plowed hill, a Jäger patrol had circled the rebel right. When it was discovered that the enemy line did not extend beyond the Birmingham Meeting House, the whole Feldjägerkorps and the 2nd British Light Infantry began a flanking move. Howe noticed the movement of the Jägers and light infantry and brought up the 4th British Brigade. Three companies of the 2nd Light Infantry charged the 3rd Virginia and, after a brief but violent clash of bayonets against musket butts, drove them back. The Jägers on the rebel flank also fired on the retreating Virginians with their rifles and several fieldpieces.
Outflanked and with four fresh British regiments–the 33rd Foot, 37th Foot, 46th Foot and 64th Foot, totaling almost 1,400 men–pressing forward against it, Stephen's division began to waver. Woodford's brigade still stood, even though its commander was wounded and had to be carried from the field, until Marshall's regiment made good its escape. Woodford's troops then began to retreat, joined by Scott's brigade. The rebels came off the hill in fair order, although without their guns (the horses had been early casualties), until the Jägers and the 2nd Light Infantry hit them sharply on the flank. Then the retreat became panic-stricken flight.
Cornwallis rode forward and joined the two battalions of British Grenadiers, who rose to their feet and charged with fixed bayonets. They got to within 40 paces of the Continental line before Stirling's men opened fire. Again, the Grenadiers halted and dropped to the ground. The 1st British Light Infantry and the three battalions of Hessian Grenadiers, with the British Guards in support–their movement masked by the smoke billowing across the battlefield–worked around the rebels' left flank and pressed in against Hazen's Canadians and the New Jersey Brigade. The British Grenadiers again clambered to their feet and drove forward, angling slightly to their left and engaging Brig. Gen. Thomas Conway's brigade.
Earlier in the day, while the British were forming for their attack on the plowed hill, Lord Stirling had been joined by a young volunteer from Chavaeniac, in the French province of Auvergne, Maj. Gen. Marie Joseph Paul Ives Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. As the British Grenadiers closed in on Conway's men, Lafayette and some of his friends dismounted and joined the Continental battle line. Grabbing muskets from the men's hands, they showed the rebels how to fix bayonets. In the smoky confusion, a British Grenadier's musket ball struck Lafayette in the leg. An aide helped the Continental Army's youngest general back onto his horse and guided him off the plowed hill.
The 33rd Foot, the right-hand regiment of the 4th Brigade, pivoted and opened an enfilading fire on Stirling's division, forcing them to abandon the plowed hill. The retreat was covered by the New Jersey Line and Hazen's Canadians. The last post taken by the Jerseymen was in a wood just north of present-day Dilworth. The Grenadiers, by then virtually out of ammunition, attacked with bayonets and drove off the rebels.
As the Continentals began to fall back, the three battalions of Hessian grenadiers and the Brigade of Guards became entangled in thick woods. Their role in the battle was over.
Soon after 4:30, Washington received word of the disaster that had befallen Sullivan's division and issued new orders. Armstrong and his militia were to remain in place. Wayne, with his own division and Maxwell's light corps, would defend Chadd's Ford. Greene's division and Nash's North Carolina Line were to march toward the sound of the guns. Then the commander in chief mounted his horse and galloped toward his army's right flank, trailed by a troop of dragoons and a dozen aides, including another foreign volunteer, Polish Count Kasimierz Pulaski.
Shortly before 5 p.m., Greene's and Nash's men were on the road, trotting toward the plowed hill, having covered nearly four miles in less than 45 minutes. As he neared the village of Dilworth, Greene met Washington, Sullivan and Lafayette. Without hesitation, Greene deployed his forces–Nash to the left, Brig. Gen. Peter Muhlenburg's brigade to the center, and a brigade of Virginians and Pennsylvanians under Brig. Gen. George Weedon to the right. Meanwhile, Pulaski led the 30 dragoons who had ridden along with Washington in a mad charge against the Hessian Jägers he saw edging toward the right of Greene's battle line. Nothing more was heard from the Feldjägerkorps that day.
The British Grenadiers, unaware that Greene's division was forming up directly in their path, drove toward Dilworth. By mistake, the 1st Battalion inclined to the right. The 2nd Battalion pushed on until it was struck by heavy fire from the front and left flank. Not for the first time that day, the Grenadiers were thrown back in disorder. The battalion commander, Colonel Meadows, asked Hessian Jäger Captain Johann Ewald to ride back and get help. Ewald found Brig. Gen. James Agnew of the 4th Brigade, explained the Grenadiers' predicament and pointed out a low rise from which the Redcoats could effectively engage the rebels. Agnew detached his two left-flank regiments, the 64th and 46th Foot, and Ewald led them toward the rise.
We had no sooner reached the hill, Ewald recorded in his diary, than we ran into several American regiments, which were just about to take the grenadiers in the flank and rear. The rebels were Weedon's brigade, sent by Greene to attack the Grenadiers, and their first volley dropped 47 officers and men of the 64th Foot. The stunned British jerked to a halt as the rebels repeatedly fired at a range of 50 yards. Nearly half the men and most of the officers of both British regiments went down, but neither regiment broke. The slaughter of the two king's regiments was finally halted at 6:30 p.m., when a British artillery officer brought up a pair of light 6-pounders and opened fire on Weedon's Continentals.
Recoiling from the British artillery, Weedon's men encountered Colonel Marshall's 3rd Virginia, making its way toward the Chester Road. In the gathering darkness, Virginians fired on Virginians. The other units of Sullivan's, Stirling's and Stephen's divisions were luckier, drifting safely through Greene's line. Some Continentals, like John Hawkins, the regimental sergeant major of Hazen's Canadians, were ready to make yet another stand. But most joined the growing throng trudging along the Chester Road to safety.
The British, exhausted and out of ammunition, made one more brief effort before halting and then dropping back out of range of rebel artillery and muskets at 6:45. The battle on the right was over.
The barrage marking the British advance from Osborne's Hill had alerted Knyphausen that the flanking column was in position and that it was time for an attack across Chadd's Ford. Before the Hessian threw his regiments against the rebels posted on the heights on the far side of the Brandywine, he ordered his artillery to open fire. The rebel guns answered, and for an hour and a quarter an artillery duel went on, filling the valley with smoke.
At 5:15, the leading unit of the British assault column, the 4th Foot, advanced and plunged into the waist-deep creek. The Redcoats' crossing was slowed by felled trees the rebels had anchored in the flow, and as they neared the far shore, the British were swept by grapeshot. A sergeant of the 4th recalled that creek was much stained with blood. But the 4th pushed on up the slopes, followed by the other regiments of Knyphausen's column.
The left of the British line ran into Maxwell's light corps and pushed it back. Knyphausen then fed additional regiments across the ford, and Maxwell's troops retreated.
The 4th Foot, with the 5th Foot in close support, went straight against Proctor's battery, clearly intending to storm it at bayonet point. The battery had been evacuated and the gunners ordered to deploy several hundred yards to the rear to cover Wayne's troops as they re-formed to meet the British thrust. The two king's regiments swept over the earthworks and bore down on the artillerymen, bayonets leveled. The gunners fled, led by their commander, Captain Hercules Courteney, who would later be court-martialed.
As he watched the British coming steadily forward and the men of the Pennsylvania State Regiment of Artillery scampering to the rear, Wayne ordered the 1st Pennsylvania under Colonel James Chambers to get the guns underway. Pennsylvanians and British met, and amid a raging firefight at 30 yards, the Continentals dragged off a howitzer and two field guns. The two remaining guns had to be left to the British.
The duel for the guns bought Wayne just enough time to form his division in a strong position behind a stone wall covering the road to Chester. The British advanced rapidly against the Pennsylvanians and were met with volley fire and grapeshot. More and more British troops crossed the ford and joined the battle line, until even the fiery Wayne had no choice but retreat. The Pennsylvania Line began a slow, orderly withdrawal, halting at every stone wall and fence line to loose off a volley or two at the king's men.
Out of the growing darkness stumbled Armstrong's retreating division of Pennsylvania militia. A soldier of the 3rd Philadelphia Associators remembered: Our way was over the dead and dying, and I saw many bodies crushed to pieces beneath the wagons, and we were bespattered with blood. As we marched directly under the English cannon, which kept up a continual fire, the destruction of our men was very great.
Once the militia were shepherded safely along the road to Chester, Wayne and Knyphausen, as if by mutual consent, broke off the action. It was 7 p.m. The Battle of the Brandywine was over.
Through the night Washington's army staggered and stumbled along the road to Chester. Estimated casualties on both sides were almost equally high–about 900 British and 850 to 1,000 Continentals–but according to the 18th century's rules of warfare, the British, who had held the field, were the victors. As Major Joseph Bloomfield of the New Jersey Line wrote in his diary, it certainly had been an unfortunate day for our army. Greene, however, was sure that Mr. Howe will find another Victory purchased at the price of so much blood must ruin him, and Weedon, whose brigade had fought so well, earnestly wished them the field again tomorrow on the same terms. The Continental Army had lost a battle, but it was not beaten.
Early the next morning, a detachment from Knyphausen's column marched toward Chester but failed to contact the retreating rebel army. It would not be until September 15 that Howe could resume his drive on Philadelphia. On September 26, Cornwallis led the British and Hessian Grenadiers into the rebel capital.
The Battle of Brandywine displayed Washington's generalship at its worst and at its best. The rebel commander in chief grossly underestimated the marching ability of the British and his opponent's daring. Washington had no idea that the Brandywine could be crossed where Howe's column forded the creek, an oversight that one of his officers, the thoroughly competent Colonel Elias Dayton, found truly astonishing. Washington had, however, scattered patrols in a wide arc, covering flanks and front, and his scouts did not fail him. Later, Washington blamed the defeat, in part, on the contrariety of intelligence he had received, and he tucked the fault firmly into the stirrups of his cavalry commander, Colonel Bland. When faced with conflicting reports, Washington had dithered. But once it became clear what was happening–too late to prevent a defeat but just barely in time to stave off disaster–Washington was able to save his army to fight again another day.
As for Sir William Howe, who has been excoriated for more than two centuries for his battlefield performances, he fought a battle of which anyone could be proud. When one reviews the entire attack on the enemy, wrote the Hessian Johann Ewald, who would go on to become one of the foremost military theorists of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, one will perceive that General Howe is not a middling man but indeed a good general. The Jäger captain added, It is really regrettable that the result of the battle fell short of the excellent and carefully prepared plan. But when does a battle ever go according to plan?
In spite of his tactical success, however, Howe had, in one very important sense, failed. The Continental Army was still in existence; the rebellion still lived. Bloodied though they were at the Brandywine, Washington's men would be back, again and again.
This article was written by Allen G. Eastby and originally published in the October 1998 issue of Military History magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!
2 Responses to “Battle of Brandywine”
Leave a Reply
What is HistoryNet?
The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by the Weider History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.
If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.
From Our Magazines
Weider History Group