On the March to Brandywine: — Part 8 of 9
On the night of the 8th, Howe sent a Hessians brigade toward the Americans in hopes of deceiving Washington that an full-scale invasion was underway. Scouts and spies amplified this thought by informing Washington that "the enemy's whole force advance on the road towards Christiana." He ordered the Hessians to get as near as they enemy as possible, while remaining safe from attack.
At 3 a.m. on the 8th a general alarm was sounded in the American camp, and "all tents struck." The troops remained on alert for the next six hours. General Weedon's brigade was detached to the front to meet the attack. Weedon marched to McKenna's meeting house and stationed his troops on a rise to watch the enemy, by now but a half-mile away encamped at Milltown.
An aurora borealis danced through the morning sky on the 8th. Befitting such a dazzling celestial phenomenon, Howe would once again had thrown stardust in Washington eyes. The British general had started a flanking maneuver with the main body of his army that took his troops east around Iron Hill and then on the road to Newport. By 7:15 a.m. the vanguard had arrived in Newport. The British army covered the roads leading out of town.
George Washington would soon recognize, the Hessians had been sent to "amuse" the Americans. Washington had been blinded by Howe.
Howe could hear sporadic fire in the distance. His Hessians had indeed drawn Washington's attention. Soon after, Washington's officers on patrol reported the true whereabouts of the main British army. Howe had stolen a march from him and now the British controlled Newport.
Had Howe pressed his advantage and attacked Washington, he had a good chance of fully flanking Washington's army and leaving the Americans in a vulnerable and possibly untenable position at Red Creek. They would have ultimately been trapped between the Scylla that was the British army and the Charybdis that was the British navy which was en route.
Instead Howe stopped.
His morning advance of 10 miles was deemed good enough.
Washington had to get a move on. He followed the British lead and ridded the army everything they could "possibly dispence with." His General Orders also command "All Baggage which can be spared" was to be "immediately pack'd up and sent off."
On the morning of September 9th, the Americans decamped at 2 a.m. They moved form Brindley Road from Marshalltown to the Crooked Billet on Kennett Road ultimately twisting and turning its way up to the road leading to Chadd's Ford. The American's had abandoned Delaware and now moved back into Pennsylvania. Washington who had dug in at three times had been given the slip three times.
The American troops forded the Brandywine at Pyle's Ford, then proceeded east until arrive in at Chadd's Ford. Now the army was stationed on a very defensible line between Howe and Philadelphia.
Washington seeming to bolster his troop strength in any way possible asked General Smallwood to bring in the Maryland militia in "all the force you can get."
His general orders read for the day read:
Head Quarters, Birmingham, September 9, 1777
Intelligence having been received, that the enemy, instead of advancing towards Newport, are turned another course, and appeared to have a design of marching northward — this rendered it expedient for the army to quit Newport and march northward also; which occasioned its sudden movement this morning.
Such of the troops as have not been serve with Rum to day, are a soon as possible to be served with a gill a man....