The Morning of the Battle

Flanking strategy at Brandywine
Independence Hall Association

After allowing the rest of the column to catch up with them, the British vanguard led by the Queen's Rangers advanced toward the creek.

They had made it about a half a mile before they were attacked by a company of Maxwell's infantry under the command of Captain Charles Porterfield.

The Americans had set a trap, forming a defensive line behind the stone wall of the Kennett Meeting House and in the woods surrounding the church. While the Quakers inside were holding a worship meeting, the skirmishers outside pressed their ambush at a ferocious clip. British casualties were heavy.

Porterfields's orders were to harass the enemy, fall back, and harass again. After the first ambuscade, his men retreated half a mile to a stone house to fire and fall back.

The Queen's Rangers closed in for the kill. As they were preparing to fire on the Rebels, they were hit by a blast of "close and destructive fire" unleashed by a concealed American infantry company. They retreated, leaving behind 30 British casualties.

As the British regrouped, the Americans fell back once more, this time to a pre-assigned position near Chadd's Ford. The British followed. According to an anonymous British-soldier's diary entry dated September 11, 1777, the British suffered greatly along the way.

Maxwell's men fell back again toward a ridge. As the Queen's Rangers moved closer they were met with a blast of fire, and suffered several casualties.

Now the British approached warily — afraid of being ambushed yet again. The American light infantry, sensing they couldn't surprise the British anew, fell back once more, this time joining the rest of Maxwell's men who were ensconced behind a breastwork about 200 yards west of the ford.

The British vanguard could not take on Maxwell's men alone, so they waited for the rest of their column. Knyphausen arrived and took charge. He broke his column into a line in order to appear more formidable; he sent scouts in search of further American ambuscades; he brought up four pieces of artillery and two regiments which he positioned on a hill opposite of Maxwell's center. Since the terrain did not permit a frontal attack, he ordered his dragoons to execute a flanking maneuver around the American left.

Knyphausen was worried that his own left might be exposed to a flanking maneuver so he sent a regiment toward Brinton's Ford as a preventive measure. They lined up along Starved Gut Road. This regiment was spotted by General Sullivan's troops across the creek who brought a cannon down to the ford and bombarded the British. Both sides then let loose with a "pretty hot fire of musketry" for about 15 minutes. The British then brought two cannon into play and the Americans retreated back up the bank "to their former ground."

Meanwhile, Knyphausen's troops who had formed opposite Maxwell's in front of Chadd's Ford began to attack. Maxwell's plucky platoon who "had been shouting "Hurrah!" and firing briskly" were now besieged. Two cannon were being fired at them and a British regiment was seizing the high ground to their left. They retreated toward the ford pursued by two other British regiments. Maxwell gamely tried to reform his men into lines, only to find a fresh Hessian regiment charging his right. In danger of being surrounded, Maxwell ordered his men to retreat back to the east side of the creek.

Proctor's artillery, which was located on a hill on the east side of the creek, began firing on Knyphausen's charging regiments. A Hessian officer noted that "the balls and grapeshot were well aimed and fell right among us...but the cannonade had but little effect partly because their battery was placed too low." Knyphausen countered Proctor's artillery with his own. He then stretched a mile-long line of troops along the creek from Brinton's Ford down to Chadd's Ford.


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Philadelphia Campaign 1777