September 11, 1777: Battle of Brandywine

“He [Colonel Alexander Spotswood] commanded the second [Virginia] regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.”

- Francis Brooke

The Battle of the Brandywine, was fought on September 11, 1777, in the area surrounding Chadds Ford, PA. The battle, which was a decisivevictory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on September 26, beginning an occupation that would last until June, 1778.

Edward G. Lengel explains the positioning of the Continental Army in his article, The Battle of Brandywine: “Washington concentrated the American defenses at Chad’s Ford, but also prepared to prevent possible British flanking movements to the south or north. Pyle’s Ford, an easily defensible crossing and the only practicable one south of Chad’s Ford, was covered by two brigades of Pennsylvania militia under Brigadier General John Armstrong. Nathaniel Greene’s 1st Division, composed of the 1st and 2d Virginia Brigades under Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg and George Weedon, was entrusted with the primary defense of Chad’s Ford. Greene’s troops straddled the Nottingham road leading east from the Brandywine. To Greene’s right was Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s 4th division containing two brigades of Pennsylvania Continentals. Colonel Thomas Procter’s Continental Artillery Regiment was placed on some heights commanding Chad’s Ford to Wayne’s right.” The 2d Virginia Regiment was assigned to Weedon’s Brigade of Greene’s Division.

Lengel further writes that “What remained of the three divisions fled a mile further east to Dilworthtown, just north of which place Greene’s division was forming up. Washington had dispatched Greene to this place after learning of the fall of Birmingham Hill, and he now arrived to supervise the positioning of Greene’s troops. By this time the 1st division was the last fresh American division on the field. Knyphausen had assaulted Wayne’s and Maxwell’s positions around Chad’s Ford at five o’clock, rapidly driving them back and capturing all of Procter’s guns. The position at Dilworthtown was therefore critical if the rest of the army (including Armstrong’s militia, which had not been engaged but was busy retreating eastward) was to be preserved.

"Weedon's Run" by Pamela Patrick White & Bryant White, http://www.whitehistoricart.com

That this position held until sundown was partly because of Washington’s careful positioning, at Sullivan’s suggestion, of Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg’s and George Weedon’s brigades respectively on the front and flank of the British advance. As the Hessian grenadiers marched on Dilworthtown, Captain Johann Ewald [of the Hesse-Cassell Jaegers] wrote, they “received intense grapeshot and musketry fire which threw [the Germans] into disorder, but they recovered themselves quickly, deployed, and attacked the village.’

[General James] Agnew’s 4th Brigade…occupying at Ewald’s suggestion a hill on the flank, ‘ran into several American regiments’ of Weedon’s brigade [2d and 10th Virginia Regiments], preparing to fall upon the German’s flank. ‘At this point,’ Ewald wrote, ‘there was terrible firing, and half of the Englishmen and nearly all of the officers of these two regiments (they were the 46th and 64th Regiments of Foot) were slain.’ Fortunately for the British, an English artillery officer arrived opportunely with two six-pounders on Weedon’s flank, breaking up their attack. By this time it was growing dark and Greene’s men could follow their compatriots to Chester while the British remained in Dilworthtown, tending the wounded of both sides.”

Francis Brooke (who served as a lieutenant in the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment) recalls the service of his father-in-law Colonel Alexander Spotswood and the 2d Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine in his memoirs: “He commanded the second regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.” This is corroborated by Captain John Peebles of the 42nd Regiment of Foot‘s grenadier company writes in his diary that the men of Weedon’s Brigade were “…the Enemy’s best troops…”

Video from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos on Flickr

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