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 1 of 10

The British...

Washington and Lafayette at the Battle of Brandywine
John Vanderlyn (1775-1852)

Many of the 15,000 British troops spent the night in Kennett Square — population 2,000 — unwinding and carousing, while a battle loomed.

General Howe's flanking strategy was devised two days earlier: While General Knyphausen attacked at Chadd's Ford, as Washington expected, Cornwallis would stealthily move north, cross the Brandywine, and flank Washington's right. [Map and a fuller explanation]

The Americans...

Battle of Brandywine Map

Independence Hall Association

By the night of September 10th, the American troops were extended along a six-mile line covering the east side of the Brandywine Creek. Washington knew that the British army would have to ford the Brandywine if they were to get to their target — Philadelphia.

He discounted the possibility of being flanked, assuming that Howe would rely upon his his greater troop strength and superior artillery to press a direct attack.

Washington believed that the British would have to ford the Brandywine at one of eight fords. Washington chose Chadd's Ford as his defensive stronghold, as this was along the road where the British were camped.

Washington positioned his troops along the creek. Congress even sent four deputies to inspect and they approved of where Washington had placed his men and urged a staunch defense. They knew that if the Americans failed here, it was likely Philadelphia would fall.

Washington felt a battle of major consequence was coming. A newspaper of the day quoted the general as saying:

Should they push their designs against Philadelphia, on this route, there all is at stake. They will put the contest on the event of a single battle. If they are overthrown they are utterly undone. The war is at an end. Now, then, is the time for our most strenuous endeavors. One bold stroke will free the land.

Washington's army seemed well-positioned and well-prepared to meet the British thrust.