Battle of Brandywine: Wikis


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Battle of Brandywine
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Hessian map of the Philadelphia campaign,
Date September 11, 1777
Location Near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
39°52′19″N 75°35′24″W / 39.872°N 75.59006°W / 39.872; -75.59006 (Battlefield Park)Coordinates: 39°52′19″N 75°35′24″W / 39.872°N 75.59006°W / 39.872; -75.59006 (Battlefield Park)
Result Decisive British victory
 United States United Kingdom Great Britain
Hesse Hesse-Kassel
George Washington William Howe
14,600 [1] 15,500 [1]
Casualties and losses
300 killed
600 wounded
400 captured
89 Killed
488 wounded
6 missing [1]

The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was a battle of the Philadelphia Campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought on September 11, 1777, in the area surrounding Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and the Brandywine River. The battle, which was a decisive victory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on September 26, beginning an occupation that would last until June 1778.



In late July 1777, after a distressing 34-day journey from Sandy Hook on the coast of New Jersey, an armada of more than 260 ships carrying some 17,000 British troops under the command of the British General Sir William Howe landed at the head of Maryland's Elk River, on the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay near present-day Elkton, approximately 40–50 miles (60–80 km) southwest of Philadelphia. Unloading the ships proved to be a logistical problem because the narrow river neck was shallow and muddy.

General George Washington had situated the American forces, about 20,600 strong, between Head of Elk and Philadelphia. His forces were able to reconnoiter the British landing from Iron Hill, about nine miles (14 km) to the northeast. Because of the delay disembarking from the ships, Howe did not set up a typical camp but quickly moved forward with the troops. As a result, Washington was not able to accurately gauge the strength of the opposing forces.

After a skirmish at Cooch's Bridge and a hastily-abandoned defensive encampment along the Red Clay Creek near Newport, Washington finally chose the high ground near Chadds Ford to defend against the British, since Chadds Ford allowed a safe passage across the Brandywine River on the road from Baltimore to Philadelphia. Accordingly, on September 9, Washington positioned detachments to guard other fords above and below Chadds Ford, hoping to force the battle there. Washington employed General John Armstrong commanding about 1,000 Pennsylvania militia to cover Pyle's Ford, a few hundred yards south of Chadds Ford, which was covered by Major Generals Anthony Wayne's and Nathanael Greene's divisions. Major General John Sullivan's division extended northward along the Brandywine's east banks, covering the high ground north of Chadds Ford along with Major General Adam Stephen's division and Major General Lord Stirling's divisions. Further upstream was a brigade under Colonel Moses Hazen covering Buffington's Ford and Wistar's Ford. Washington was confident that the area was secure.

The British grouped forces at nearby Kennett Square.[3] Howe had no intention of mounting a full scale attack against the prepared American defenses. He instead employed a flanking maneuver similar to those used in the Battle of Long Island. About 5,000 men under the command of Wilhelm von Knyphausen, advanced to meet Washington's troops at Chadds Ford. The remainder, under the command of Charles, Lord Cornwallis, marched north to Trimble's Ford across the West Branch of the Brandywine, and then east to Jefferis Ford across the East Branch, and then marched south to flank the American forces.[4]


Birmingham Meetinghouse in 1974

September 11 began with a heavy fog, which provided cover for the British troops. Washington received contradictory reports about the British troop movements and continued to believe that the main force was moving to attack at Chadds Ford. The British appeared on the Americans' right flank at around 2 p.m. With Hazen's brigades outflanked, Sullivan, Stephen, and Stirling tried to reposition their troops to meet the unexpected British threat to their right flank. Howe was slow to attack, which bought time for the Americans to position some of their men on high ground at Birmingham Meeting House, about a mile (1.6 km) north of Chadds Ford.[5] By 4 p.m., the British attacked, with Stephen's and Stirling's divisions receiving the brunt of the assault: both lost ground fast. Sullivan attacked a group of Hessian troops trying to outflank Stirling's men near Meeting House Hill and bought some time for most of Stirling's men to withdraw, but returned British fire forced Sullivan's men to retreat.

At this point, Washington and Greene arrived with reinforcements to try to hold off the British, who now occupied Meeting House Hill. The remnants of Sullivan's, Stephen's, and Stirling's divisions stopped the pursuing British for nearly an hour but were eventually forced to retreat. The Americans were also forced to leave behind many of their cannon on Meeting House Hill because almost all of the artillery horses were killed.

The battlefield today, south of Meeting House Hill

Knyphausen, on the east bank of the Brandywine, launched an attack against the weakened American center across Chadds Ford, breaking through the divisions commanded by Wayne and William Maxwell and forcing them to retreat and leave behind most of their cannon. Armstrong's militia, never engaged in the fighting, also decided to retreat from their positions. Further north, Greene sent Brigadier General George Weedon's troops to cover the road just outside the town of Dilworth to hold off the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army to retreat. Darkness brought the British pursuit to a standstill, which then left Weedon's force to retreat. The defeated Americans were forced to retreat to Chester where most of them arrived at midnight, with stragglers arriving until morning.


Nation Makers depicts a scene from the battle, by Howard Pyle, a summer resident of Chadds Ford. The painting is displayed in the Brandywine River Museum

The official British casualty list detailed 587 casualties: 93 killed (8 officers, 7 sergeants and 78 rank and file); 488 wounded (49 officers, 40 sergeants, 4 drummers and 395 rank and file); and 6 rank and file missing unaccounted for.[2] Only 40 of the British Army’s casualties were Hessians.[6] Historian Thomas J. McGuire writes that, “American estimates of British losses run as high as 2,000, based on distant observation and sketchy, unreliable reports”.[2]

No casualty return for the American army at Brandywine survives and no figures, official or otherwise, were ever released. Most accounts of the American loss were from the British side. One initial report by a British officer recorded American casualties at over 200 killed, around 750 wounded, and 400 prisoners taken, many of them wounded. A member of General Howe’s staff claimed that 400 rebels were buried on the field by the victors.[7] Another British officer wrote that, “The Enemy had 502 dead in the field”.[2] General Howe’s report to the British Secretary of War, Lord Germain, said that the Americans, “had about 300 men killed, 600 wounded, and near 400 made prisoners”.[2]

The nearest thing to a hard figure from the Patriot side was by Major-General Nathanael Greene, who estimated that Washington’s army had lost between 1,200 and 1,300 men.[8] 350 wounded Americans were taken on September 14 from the British camp at Dilworth to a newly-established hospital at Wilmington.[9] This would suggest that of the “near 400” prisoners reported by Howe, only about 40 had surrendered unwounded. If General Greene’s estimate of the total American loss was accurate, then they had between 1,160 and 1,260 killed, wounded or deserted during the battle. The British also captured 11 out of 14 of the American artillery guns.

In addition to losses in battle, 315 men were posted as deserters from Washington's camp during this stage of the Philadelphia Campaign.[10]


The 7th Pennsylvania Regiment flag has come to be known as the Brandywine Flag

Although Howe had defeated the American army, the lack of cavalry prevented total destruction of the Rebel American Army. Washington had committed a serious error in leaving his right flank wide open and nearly brought on destruction if it had not been for Sullivan, Stirling, and Stephen's divisions that fought for time. Howe had effectivlely run out of time, despite Cornwallis starting his flank march early in the day, and thus most of the American army was able to escape.

British and Patriot forces maneuvered around each other for the next several days with only comparatively minor encounters such as the Battle of Paoli on the night of September 20–21.

The Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia, first to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for one day and then to York, Pennsylvania. Military supplies were moved out of the city to Reading, Pennsylvania. On September 26, 1777, British forces marched into Philadelphia unopposed.


  1. ^ a b c Philadelphia 1777: Taking the Capital, Clement pg. 23
  2. ^ a b c d e McGuire, Thomas J.; The Philadelphia Campaign: Volume 1: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia; Stackpole Books; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; 2006; ISBN 978-0-8117-0178-5; ISBN 0-8117-0178-6, page 269
  3. ^ 39°50′39″N 75°42′38″W / 39.84417°N 75.71056°W / 39.84417; -75.71056 (Kennett Square)
  4. ^ "Cornwallis's March: Driving Tour of the Brandywine Battlefield Region". Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site. Retrieved September 4, 2009.  Trimble's Ford is located at 39°55′23″N 75°41′13″W / 39.923°N 75.687°W / 39.923; -75.687 (Trimble's Ford). Jefferis Ford is located at 39°56′20″N 75°38′10″W / 39.939°N 75.636°W / 39.939; -75.636 (Jefferis Ford)
  5. ^ Birmingham Meetinghouse is located at 39°54′20″N 75°35′42″W / 39.90556°N 75.595°W / 39.90556; -75.595 (Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse and School)
  6. ^ Martin, David G.; The Philadelphia Campaign June 1777–July 1778; Combined Books; Conshohocken, Pennsylvania; 1993; ISBN 0-938289-19-5, page 76
  7. ^ Martin, page 76
  8. ^ Boatner, Mark Mayo, Cassell’s Biographical Dictionary of the American War of Independence 1763–1783, Cassell, London, 1966, ISBN 0 304 29296 6, page 109
  9. ^ McGuire, page 278
  10. ^ Martin, p.76. Edgar, Philadelphia Campaign, p. 39, incorrectly states that these 315 men deserted during the battle of September 11

Further reading

  • Edgar, Gregory T. (1966). The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books. ISBN 0-7884-0921-2. 
  • Fortescue, John. History of the British Army.
  • McGuire, Thomas J. Brandywine Battlefield Park: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001.
  • McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign, Vol. I: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.
  • Martin, David G., The Philadelphia Campaign: June 1777–July 1778. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Combined Books, 1993. ISBN 0-938289-19-5. 2003 Da Capo reprint, ISBN 0-306-81258-4.
  • Bruce Mowday. September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia. White Mane Publishers.
  • Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution.

External links


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