brandywine
Home The Battle Driving Tours Washington's HQ Gilpin House History Articles Kid's Corner Links Guestbook

The Battle: Driving Tour of the Brandywine Battlefield

This tour details the actual battle sequence.

The number in the left column is the mileage.

BACKGROUND
While Knyphausen was creating noise and smoke along the Great Road, Cornwallis and Howe had marched north and were now positioned to attack Washington's troops unexpectedly from the north, on the east side of the Brandywine.

0.0
car08
Start at the intersection of Country Club Road and Birmingham Road, at the crest of Osborne Hill. If you were to take a right onto Country Club you would shortly be where Sullivan and his men had overreached their desired position and fell back into line, just prior to the first engagement, at about 3:30pm. In 1777, Howe was positioned about 1/4 mile north of here, in what is today the Radley Run Estates.

car09
He was able to look across the rolling landscape to the farthest ridge where the American line was forming. And the main British column fell into ranks immediately in front of him. The British and Hessian troops camped here for an hour drinking tea and regaining their energy for the hours of battle that lay ahead.
0.3
car10
As you drive along Birmingham Road, you are now moving as the advancing British line did. The deep folds of land, with the small streams and woods made it difficult for either side to see very far. Skirmishers clashed in the broad fields of the 1740 Daniel Davis Farm, which today is Fair Meadow Farm, on your left.
1.0Pause on the gravel shoulder just before the Route 926, Street Road intersection. On your right, Sullivan's men re-formed even as they were being attacked. Look beyond the modern houses to a thin line of trees. There, soldiers from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland watched the Redcoats come at them. This was the elite of the British Army in America: the Guard's Brigade, the Grenadiers, the 17th, 44th, and 64th of foot advancing to attack. If you were to turn left and drive briefly you will find a historic marker.
1.2On your left, you can discern a cupola, which was added to the Samuel Jones Farm in the 19th Century. Now known as Linden Farm, the main building was a rallying point for the American skirmishers as they were slowly driven back from the road and orchard. Imagine the Redcoat Regulars with Hessians and dragoons sweeping down from Osborne's Hill. In 1777, the path was lined with rail fences.
1.3
car12
Turn left into the stone-walled entrance of the Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery and park. The three massive monuments commemorate Lafayette, Pulaski, and a pair of locally prominent men, Colonels Isaac Taylor and Joseph McClellan, both of Wayne's Brigade. It is important to remember that both Lafayette and Pulaski had their first American battle experiences right here.

car13
Across the low stone wall you see the Birmingham Friends' Meeting House. This wall protected a small number of Stirling's troops, who held off the enemy while the main American line formed on the ridge just south of where you stand. The Birmingham Meeting House is to this day an active Quaker Meeting and visitors are welcome. The structure dates from 1763 and was a hospital for American sick before the battle and later for wounded of both sides. In the cemetery there is a mounting block where the Americans held off the British, against heavy odds.

car11
To your right is a low granite block marking the resting place of dead from both sides, buried in one common grave. Across the street you'll see a farmhouse, part of which was standing at the time of the battle. Take a moment to continue looking across the street and down the ridge on your right. The ridge, known as Skirmish Hill, or the Plowed Field, is where the main American line formed, and Sullivan's men (remember them!) rejoined their compatriots. American brigades under DeBorre, Stirling, and Steven fought back and forth five times across these rolling fields in hand-to-hand combat with the British until the Americans retreated and formed a second line at Wylie Road (see next). So, back into the car and continue down Birmingham Road.
1.7There is a Civil War cannon on the far right corner of Wylie Road (see previous entry) which approximates the stand taken by the remnants of Sullivan's and Conway's brigades. The intensity of the fighting in this area is shown by the casulties suffered by the Redcoat 64th Foot: they lost all of their officers and 2/3 of their men either wounded or killed. It was in this area that the American cannon fire was so heavy that the description given on the front page of this website was written.

At this point in the battle, Washington realized that the enemy at Chadds Ford was a secondary force and that the main battle was being fought here, three miles from his headquarters. He, therefore, led reinforcements from Greene's two brigades and had them march north to here. The soldiers covered the rough terrain, making the march in an impressive 45 minutes.

Near here are what remains of Wistar's Woods. In 1777 they were so thick that when the British Grenadiers and Guards attacked through this area they were lost in the woods for over two hours and emerged in another part of the field altogether.
1.9On your left is a slender granite column in front of a frame house. This memorial was erected in 1895 by local schoolchildren in honor of Lafayette, who helped to form the third American line near here. By late afternoon, Greene's two brigades formed in the cornfield you see when you turn left and continue along the road.
2.1At the edge of the field you will see a cannon's muzzle pointing to the center of the field, where the road used to run. Lafayette was wounded in the left thigh as he rallied the troops here.
2.3Constant use has worn the farm lane down until a miniature pass was formed. Known as Sandy Hollow, this gap was fiercely defended at bayonet-point by Weedon's and Muhlenberg's Virginia brigades. Heavy casualties were suffered by both sides. When the Americans learned that their left wing had withdrawn from Chadds Ford down the Chester Road (today's U.S. Route 1) and was safe, these brigades retreated in the twilight. Just ahead, on the right, is the Bennett Farm, which became a dressing station for those wounded at Sandy Hollow. This is where Lafayette was tended to.
2.6Follow the road as it curves left.
3.0
car14
Dilworth Crossroads, where the last action of the battle was fought at nightfall. Cross the street and park at the Dilworthtown Country Store. You'll see this marker as you face the road.

car15
Enter the Country Store, built in 1758, as store and saddlery. It is one of the oldest general stores in continuous operation in America. Its old counter, shown here, was reputedly an operating table after the battle.

Across the street is the Arden Forge, an 18th Century blacksmith shop. Here they made arms for both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

driving tour
Across the road to the right is Worth Antiques, worth a visit. To the side of the Country Store is the Dilworthtown Inn, where you can enjoy a gracious meal. Built in 1758, the Inn has long been a popular stop on the old Wilmington Pike. Local patriots were temporarily imprisioned in the inn's cellar by the British to prevent Washington from learning that the Redcoats had ceased pursuit.

Return to your car and continue downhill (to your left, going south) on Oakland Road (Old Wilmington Pike).
3.5You have just passed the area where the British slept for the night and stacked captured arms. Here you find the Brinton 1704 House. This architectural gem is open to the public.
3.6Stop sign at Webb Road.
3.9Stop sign at Harvey Road.
4.3Take a right on Route 202.
4.7Right onto Route 1. At the mall at this intersection, you can stop for a bite to eat.
6.4Take a right turn back to the Brandywine Battlefield State Park.
ushistory.org home