Straight-Ahead Driving Tour of the Brandywine Battlefield Region
Washington expected a direct assault across Chadds Ford, and to encourage that belief General Knyphausen was creating as much noise and smoke as possible along the Great Road (today's Route 1).
Today, you'll enjoy a wonderful mix of history, art, antiques, good food, and world-class gardens. Our focus is the history, but be sure to allow extra time if you plan on visiting the museums, gardens, and other attractions. Click here to be directed to links to more information about local shopping, restaurants, accommodations, and attractions.
September 11, 1777, at 4 a.m., Cornwallis and Howe, along with 12,000 British and Hessian troops set out on a 17-mile march. Later that morning, General Knyphausen and about 4,000 men marched east along the Great Road to confront American General Maxwell, who for hours crossed west and east across the Brandywine. Washington was confident that his troops were repelling the British attack, unaware that the real battle awaited later that day on the eastern side of the Brandywine.
The number in the left column is the mileage.
Turn right out of the Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site. You are now traveling west on Route 1.
|0.7||You'll come to a light at Route 100, and on your right you will pass the Chadds Ford Inn and the Brandywine River Hotel, plus an antiques store and a cigar store.|
|0.9||You'll pass Hank's Place, a restaurant, on your right, and you'll see the Brandywine River Museum on your left. Immediately you'll cross over a modern bridge which stands where historic Chadds Ford was. It was here that Maxwell darted back and forth across the river.|
|1.0||At the traffic light, do a U-turn.|
Pull into the Brandywine River Museum and park. Start by walking over to the river. It was along these banks that artillery duels ranged throughout the morning and early afternoon. The British artillery was across the banks, and the Colonial artillery was positioned on the hillsides behind you. George Washington had scouted the known fords north and south of here, and had left them guarded, but chose to defend this position most strongly. Route 1 today was then called the Great Highway and made for easy troop movement across the Brandywine. Because of this Washington felt the British would look to break his lines here. Among the officers serving here were General Henry Knox and General Nathanael Greene. The British were led by Hessian General Knyphausen.
Now, let's turn to art (turn 180°!) The River Museum is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of works by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, three generations of artists who embody the family's distinctive family legacy. American illustration has deep roots in the Brandywine Valley, where Howard Pyle worked and taught such artists as N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. These and other important illustrators, including Charles Dana Gibson, Rockwell Kent, and Rose O'Neill, are represented here.
Leave the Museum parking lot carefully turning left onto Route 1.
|1.3||On your right is the Chadds Ford Elementary School on a crest. If you wished to stop, you would have a sense of the terrain across the river, the heights and valleys that determined the positions the day of the battle.|
At traffic light, turn left onto Ponds Edge Drive (Pennsbury Way Road is on the right). Immediately turn right to the road immediately behind the stores (Lakeview Drive) and continue to the end. Ahead of you is the historic Barns-Brinton House, built c. 1714. From 1722 until his death in 1731, Barns operated a tavern here for "ye accommodation of Man and Horse."
Let's face the road and try to relive the day of the battle a little. You are now right about at the halfway point between where the two sides started. General Maxwell's light infantry was sent out early in the morning from east of the Brandywine to scout the British army, which had camped at Kennett Square.
Most of Maxwell's troops formed a thin line stretched out on either side of the road in front of you. A small detachment kept watch closer to the British toward Kennett at a local tavern, not still standing. While refreshing themselves there, they were almost captured by the advance guard of Knyphausen's column.
At about 9 o'clock, one of the scouts saw a vision which might have been chalked up to excessive drinking. Headed straight for the tavern, and less than 100 yards away, were Ferguson's Riflemen and Queen's Rangers — the vanguard of Knyphausen's Division. The Americans fired off a round of shots from the bar and bolted out the back door leaving their horses behind. These were the first shots of the battle.
Bar inside the Barns-Brinton House
|4.0||Go back to the main road the way you came and turn left at the light onto Route 1. You'll pass the American Christmas Museum on your left, and Pennsbury Inn on your right.|
At the next light, turn right into the Old Kennett Meeting House and park behind the building.
Old Kennett Meeting House
Immediately after the first shots of the battle, the Continentals sent back for reinforcements and scurried back down the road to take cover behind the stone wall here. In 1777 the road passed on both sides of here, so that the wall you see was facing the oncoming British. Concentrated fire from behind this barrier forced the English into a line of battle. Fighting raged here around 10 a.m. while the Quakers held midweek Meeting. A worshiping Quaker recorded the following: "While there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within."
Look down the road to your left, towards the Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site. The three miles between here and there saw a running battle of ambush and flank movements. Local men familiar with the terrain were with the British troops, so that they were able to dislodge the Americans from every stronghold. Although the 800 Americans under Maxwell had to retreat, they inflicted heavy losses on Knyphausen's Hessians. A Virginia captain and future Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Marshall, was wounded near here.
Established in 1710, Old Kennett Meeting is still active. Note the mounting block for riders and carriage passengers and low gravestones, in keeping with the Quaker principle of simplicity.
|4.3||Turn right at the light onto Route 1. You will be crossing Route 52. If you were to take a left here, you'd reach the Delaware Museums and Gardens: the Hagley Museum and Library; Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; the Delaware Art Museum; Delaware History Museum; Rockwood Museum; and the Delaware Museum of Natural History.|
Proceed on Route 1. Take right toward entrance to Longwood Gardens, the world's premiere horticultural display on 1,050 acres offering 40 indoor-outdoor gardens, a breathtaking conservatory, spectacular fountains, festivals, and holiday displays. Open all year.
If you follow the exit for Longwood, but stay on the road, you'll come to the Brandywine Valley Tourist Center, with help finding everything you can wish for in the area. After visiting the tourist center, turn right onto Route 1, continuing toward Kennett Square.
You are in the heart of the "Mushroom Capital of America"! Stop off here to pick up some of the tastiest fungi you'll ever eat!
|6.5||Follow signs for Kennett Square. You'll bear right onto Millers Hill Road (a continuation of State Street) and follow this one-way street into town. Terrific restaurants, antiques stores, two bookstores, gracious accommodations, and old-fashioned charm await you here.|
|7.8||Intersection with Route 82. Here you begin your "Cornwallis's Marching Tour".|