August 27-Sept. 3

Play a Tune

HomepageSite MapOn the March to Brandywine: — Part 2 of 10On the March to Brandywine: — Part 4 of 9
Return to homepage for the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777

On the March to Brandywine: — Part 3 of 10

Washington Heads to White Clay Creek

Congress requested the Executive Council of Pennsylvania to raise 5,000 men and arm them. The state, always loath to make military expenditures, did not acquiesce in any such quantity.

In Wilmington, Washington, now reunited with his generals, called in as much militia support as he could find to help bolster his army.

Washington expected Howe to march directly toward Philadelphia. He sent the Delaware Militia to Christiana Bridge to scout, perhaps to encourage a British advance in that direction, and, if Howe were to move his troops elsewhere, at least this would prevent the locals from supplying the enemy.

At 4 a.m., he ordered a march "which proceeded thro Wilmington, Newport and Rising Sun" and encamped in White Clay Creek, about ten miles north of Elkton.

Why do we assemble in arm? Was it not to protect the property of our countrymen? And shall we to our eternal reproach be the first to pillage and destroy it? Will no motives of humanity, of real interest and of honor restrain the violence of the soldiers? How many noble designs have miscarried, how many victories have been lost, how many armies have been ruined by an indulgence of soldiers in plundering?
-George Washington, who was fully aware of the deleterious effect Continental plundering would have on those neutral and those of wavering support to the patriot's cause.

To the put-upon civilian population, both armies must have seemed like little more than a plague of locusts.

Organizing and Annoying

On Saturday, the 29th, Washington recognized the need for a new group of sharpshooters to replace Morgan's Riflemen, who were fighting in New York with Gates. He sought 700 recruits: 100 from each of seven brigades — the finest marksmen — to form a new corps of light infantrymen under the command of New Jersey General William Maxwell.

Meanwhile, Washington sent out the militia to scout and annoy the British positions farther south.

White Clay to Red Clay

Not confident in the defensibility of his current position, Washington ordered his army to fall back toward Red Clay Creek during the wee hours of the morning of the 30th. Here, Washington arranged his troops for battle.

Later that morning, Washington, Nathanael Greene, and General Weedon went out reconnoitering and Greene found what he believed was a superior spot, but Washington disagreed.

Now, Washington turned his attention to the forts defending the Delaware River. Washington issued directives to drive off all cattle and horses and leave the country as barren as possible.

If there should be any mills in the neighborhood of the enemy, and which might be liable to fall into their hands, the runners [millstones] should be removed and secured ... Grain, too, should be carried out of way, as far as circumstances will admit.
-George Washington (8/31/77)

Washington also considered the possibility of having to retreat and what options he would have. So he posted two batallions of Pennsylvania Militia along fords on the east side of the Brandywine Creek and directed them to "fix upon the best ground for defending those passes." He did this to protect the rear.

On September 1, Washington published good news from Oriskany for all to read: The British and their Indian allies were repulsed from their eastern push into Saratoga, in New York. (This would contribute to the American victory there on October 7.)
Buy money, old maps, Liberty Bell, Constitution, Declaration, more