When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
September 11, 1777 Battle of Brandywine
The eleventh of September was greeted with a heavy fog. Washington received reports of different contents about the movements of the British troops. But he expected and continued to believe that Howe’s main force was going to seize the Chadds Ford. Early in the morning, Howe’s troops began marching along the Great Road from Kennet Square as they advanced on the opposing troops in Brandywine Creek.
Scouts were sent by General Maxwell to gather intelligence, but they ended up in the bar, bellied up in Welch’s Tavern. Headed straight for the tavern, the British and the Americans took their first shot. The British where repulsed and they called for reinforcements as they ran to take cover in Old Kennet Meetinghouse grounds. The initial fires started in mid-morning, marking the start of the Battle Of Brandywine.
The battle grew and expanded as far as three miles away from the initial confrontation and eventually the British was able to push the lines. At 2 p.m., Howe’s decisive plan bears fruits as the British appeared on the right flank of the Americans, outflanking their brigades. The Americans never saw this strategy coming; hence they were caught in Howe’s trap.
The Americans tried to remedy the problem by repositioning their troops in order to clash with the unexpected British forces on their right flank. Sullivan, Stephen, Stirling and Hazen were the ones who reorganized their brigades for the counterattack. Howe, however, was not able to take advantage of this surprise because of his slow attack. Due to this the Americans were able to position themselves on high grounds at Birmingham Meetinghouse. However, the British forces were still strong enough to make the American division lose their ground by 4 p.m.
By 4 p.m., the fate of the battle was apparent. The Americans had to retreat and whatever reinforcements came could only delay the pursuing British forces at best. Sullivan attacked the troops that outflanked Stirling’s men. This delayed the pressing British attack, buying some time for Stirling’s men to retreat. But this heroic act only forced Sullivan to retreat because the British forces backfired and focused on his forces instead. Washington and Greene arrived and combined with other remaining troops of Sullivan, Stirling and Stephen, they tried to fight the losing battle but were only able to stop the pursuing British army for nearly an hour. They had to retreat, leaving behind many cannons since a lot of their horses that carried the artillery were killed.
To add injury to the already losing battle that the Americans fought, their weakened center was further attacked by Knyphausen across Chadds Ford. Commanders Wayne and Maxwell were forced to retreat also. When evening came, the pursuit of the British army was halted because of the darkness, giving more time for the American army to retreat. The defeated Americans retreated to Chester between midnight and morning.
British official reports indicate that there were a total of 587 casualties, where 93 where killed, and 488 were wounded. Of these 587 casualties, only 40 were Hessians. Also, of the 93 killed, eight were officers, seven of them were sergeants and 78 belonging to rank and files. Of the 488 wounded, 49 were officers, 40 were sergeants, and 395 were rank and file.
Howe was victorious in this battle but his lack of speed and cavalry prevented the total annihilation of the American forces. Due to poor scouting also and a poor decisions, Washington erred in leaving his right flank open. Had it been not for Sullivan and the others, their forces would have been totally wiped out.
British and Patriot forces would continue to encounter each other for the next several days, albeit these skirmishes were of lower scale. The Americans would eventually give up Philadelphia, allowing an easy capture for the British forces on September 26, 1777.