Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolutionary War

The Philadelphia Campaign: 1777

American colonies represented as pieces of a snake with the caption "join or die"

The Battle of Brandywine: — Part 2 of 10

The Morning of the Battle

Flanking strategy at Brandywine

At 4 A.M. on the morning of September 11, 1777, a long line of redcoats quietly flowed out from Kennett Square. They were led by General Howe who personally took command of Cornwallis's column. At the van of the column were "pioneers," soldiers employed to clear the road of any obstructions the Americans might have thrown in their way.

If all went well, in six miles they would reach their destination, Jeffries' Ford, without being detected by American scouts. Once across this deep ford located on a branch of the Brandywine Creek, Howe and his troops would have a good chance of flanking and trapping General Washington's army.

At 5:45 A.M., after Howe's division had cleared out, General Knyphausen's division began moving along the Great Nottingham Road directly toward Chadd's Ford seven miles away — exactly where Washington expected the entire British Army to attack. The first to leave was a 496-member vanguard which consisted of Queen's Rangers, Ferguson's riflemen, and a squad from the 16th Light Dragoons. Behind them were the 1st and 2nd British Brigades, followed by the artillery, supply wagons, and a herd of rustled livestock. Serving as the rear guard were the 71st regiment. It was a formidable force.

A Round of Shots ... A Round of Shots ... and the Battle Begins

American General Maxwell, too, had been up early on the foggy morning of the 11th. Maxwell had been ordered to scout the vicinity in the area of Kennett Square. At Kennett Meeting, a Quaker house of worship located about a mile east of Kennett Square, Maxwell sent out a mounted scouting party. After heading up the road about a half a mile, the scouts paused to refresh themselves at Welch's Tavern. The group tethered their horses out front and bellied up to the bar.

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.

Thus began the Battle of Brandywine.