U.S. Military History
The Battle of Brandywine
In the first year of the American Revolution, the defense of Philadelphia, the capital, became the focus of British attacks. As they progressed to their goal, the British and American forces met in many battles that hardly slowed the British advancement. One battle stood in the way of their goal-the Battle of Brandywine. This battle possessed the opportunity to defend Philadelphia and stopping the British advancement at least for a short time. The American loss at Brandywine was due to the British executing a number of the essential premises of war better than the American troops. In the Battle of Brandywine, the British used the element of surprise and outmaneuvered George Washington’s plan and was the reason why Philadelphia was overrun by the British.
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In the meantime, the rest of the army marched to a ford that was not being protected and flanked Washington’s men to the south.
On September 11, 1777, the battle occurred. Between the fog and reports from reconnaissance teams that varied greatly, Washington was confused as to the location and size of the enemy troops. He sincerely believed that all of Howe’s troops would attack from Chadds Creek. The British’s main element seized the high ground and attacked from the north with their main force. Finally realizing he had been outwitted, Washington ordered his men retreat to Chester while Howe’s men remained on the battlefield to rest. A captain by the name of John Andre wrote, “Night and the fatigue the soldiers had undergone prevented any pursuit.” The Americans had been defeated, yet they exhausted the British to the point where they could not physically attack a disoriented American Army.
The end result of this battle was the British continuing on to Philadelphia mostly uncontested. Congress left Philadelphia soon after the battle, realizing that the city was already lost prior to the British’s arrival. The loss of the capital greatly affected the American cause. Numbers dropped severely as Washington began preparations for winter.
If the American troops had been successful at Brandywine, the defense of Philadelphia would have had a different outcome. Washington was clearly outmaneuvered by Howe. By using reconnaissance teams and map analysis, Howe was able to find a hole in the American defense and outflank an entire army.
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Muenchhausen, Friedrich von. At General Howe's Side 1776-1778. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Monmouth Beach, N.J.: Philip Freneau Press, 1974.
Smith, Samuel S. The Battle of Brandywine. Monmouth Beach, N.J.: Philip Freneau Press, 1976.