Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolutionary War

The Philadelphia Campaign: 1777

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

On the March to Brandywine: — Part 2 of 10

Scavenging and Ransacking

While at Elkton, scavenging parties went in search of provisions. Although the punishment in the British army for theft of property was hanging or whipping, this didn't seem to deter this untoward behavior.

A Mystery
On Saturday, August 30, Captain Montresor who was with the advance group at Iron Works penned a provocative entry in his journal: "The Jagers who are forward fired two cannon shot at some officers with their escort, reconnoitering." Two mysteries endure from the journal entry. The first mystery is why were the Jagers firing at officers since the British considered shooting at officers a breach of war etiquette? The second unanswered question is, could the Jagers have been firing on Washington himself? While it's not likely that Washington would have ventured as far south as the area near Iron Works, the American commander was recorded to be out reconnoitering that Saturday.

Lodging and Dislodging

British and Hessian officers were quartered in town, while soldiers built a camp northeast of town, dislodging the overmatched Delaware militia. Small boats carrying camping equipment, baggage, and food were sent up the Little Elk Creek. Some exchanges with the militia were recorded, but overall the British were uninterrupted in their camp-raising and provision-stealing.

Divide and Forage

By Saturday, August 29, Howe came to the decision to temporarily divide his command into two divisions in order to facilitate foraging. There was now very little food remaining in the ships' stores. Of particular concern was a lack of fodder for the horses who had already suffered greatly during the journey.

With Howe at Elkton was General Cornwallis. Still at the landing site was General Knyphausen with the 3rd British Brigade and the dragoons under the command of Major General Grey. Instead of bringing them up to Elkton, he ordered them to go east


Cornwallis Takes Iron Works

Meanwhile back at Elkton, Cornwallis responded to a skirmish with the Delaware militia. He ordered an advance corps of 400 infantrymen to secure a position on Iron Hill, thus keeping the ever-pestering militia at a safe distance from his main division.

Shortly after that skirmish, Cornwallis himself led a raid which captured Iron Works, a village located four miles north of Iron Hill. A British soldier noted that the militia impressively defended with "smart fire." Upon hearing the American shooting, "the whole (British) party marched immediately towards it, but the rebels kept firing and retreated, and at last dispersed in the woods." Casualties on both sides were light.

Back at Head of Elk
General Howe arranged with his brother, Admiral Howe, to start preparations for removing the fleet from the Chesapeake Bay. It was decided that the admiral would sail down the Chesapeake and then sail north toward the Delaware River. The army would carry all their own supplies.

General Grant remained stationed at Head of Elk with the fleet to unload the remaining supplies and to preserve communicaton until the ships departed.

Howe Moves Things Along

Back at the Elkton, Howe suffered from not knowing the area's topography. His maps gave him "very inaccurate accounts" and his spies "very little intelligence." Yet Howe knew he would have to make tracks during the hot days of September to make up for lost time. He ordered Knyphausen to get going and rendezvous with Cornwallis at Aikin's Tavern.

Soon after the orders were given, it started to rain again. Despite the swampy roads, Knyphausen's division advanced north from their previous night at Carson's Tavern and attached itself to the rear of Cornwallis's division at Aikin's Tavern on the morning of September 3rd. Meanwhile Grey's column moved ahead to Lum's Pond.

On the morning of September 3, the British troops set out toward Cooch's Bridge. A surprise awaited them there.