Editor: Michael Spilling and Consultant Editor: Chris McNab
American Battles and Campaigns – The Battle of Brandywine Creek, September 11 1777
With the help of the newly arrived Marquis de Lafayette, Washington and the Continental Army ventured open battle to prevent Gen William Howe’s thrust up from the Chesapeake to seize the American capital of Philadelphia at the Battle of Brandywine Creek. British forces numbered 13,000 men against Washington’s 15,000, making this action the largest battle on the North American continent before the American Civil War. American light infantry shadowed the British Army’s approach to Washington’s line across Chad’s Ford through the namesake creek.
Finding the Americans prepared to receive him, Howe dispatched light units and received intelligence from the local loyalists about the American positions. Howe decided upon a holding attack, with 5000 men under Gen Wilhelm von Knyphausen attacking at Chad’s Ford, while Gen Charles Cornwallis took 8000 troops around Washington’s right flank. The British forced the crossing, while Washington received a growing trickle of reports
about a second British force to the north.
Washington sent troops to reinforce his right and ordered a defensive line prepared on Birmingham Meeting House, a half-mile to his rear. With both American flanks slowly yielding to his attacks, Howe launched a bayonet charge into the American center that collapsed Washington’s line as other British units attacked frontally. Isolated American units slowed the British as the day drew on, while Gen Nathaniel Greene’s command’s determined resistance retreating from Birmingham Meeting House to Battle Hill frustrated British attempts to turn the defeat into a rout. Howe had cleared the way to Philadelphia, but his primary objective of Washington’s army survived with 300 killed, 600 wounded and 400 captured against the British losses of 100 dead and some 400 wounded. More troops fought at Brandywine Creek than any other battle of the American Revolution. The grimness of American resistance signaled a fundamental shift in the war.
Dr. Chris McNab is the editor of AMERICAN BATTLES & CAMPAIGNS: A Chronicle, from 1622-Present and is an experienced specialist in wilderness and urban survival techniques. He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere — an encyclopedia of military and civilian survival techniques for all environments — Special Forces Endurance Techniques, First Aid Survival Manual, and The Handbook of Urban Survival. In his home country of Wales, UK, Chris provides instruction on wilderness hunting techniques and he is also an experienced martial arts instructor.