September, 1777: Battle of Brandywine Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Hoping to stop the British advance from Elkton, Maryland, to Philadelphia, General George Washington established a strong defensive position on high ground just east of the Brandywine River (September 9, 1777). He failed to gain adequate knowledge of the surrounding terrain and mistakenly believed he had guarded all nearby fords. By preventing British crossings at Wistar’s, Jones’s, Brinton’s, Chad’s, Lower, Gibson’s, Pyle’s, or Corner Fords, he expected to force Sir William Howe to attack frontally from the west bank.

Hoping to stop the British advance from Elkton, Maryland, to Philadelphia, General George Washington established a strong defensive position on high ground just east of the Brandywine River (September 9, 1777). He failed to gain adequate knowledge of the surrounding terrain and mistakenly believed he had guarded all nearby fords. By preventing British crossings at Wistar’s, Jones’s, Brinton’s, Chad’s, Lower, Gibson’s, Pyle’s, or Corner Fords, he expected to force Sir William Howe to attack frontally from the west bank.

The British marched northeast up the Baltimore Pike (later U.S. Route 1) and headquartered at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Howe’s reconnaissance was superior to that of Washington. He divided his army, attacked frontally with the smaller part under Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen, and sent the larger part under Lord Charles Cornwallis to another ford north of Wistar’s. Fog favored the British. When the sky cleared, Washington realized he had been outflanked on his right. He held ground as long as he could but finally had to retreat.

Casualty estimates range between 600 and 1,900 for the British and between 700 and 1,300 for the Americans. Washington also lost ten cannons and a howitzer.

Howe entered Philadelphia unopposed (September 26). Through casualties and desertions, only 6,000 men remained with Washington after the Philadelphia campaign to winter at Valley Forge.

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