The Battle of Brandywine


Fought on September 11, 1777, the Battle of Brandywine was a crucial win for the British in the Revolutionary War. The British victory left Philadelphia exposed and led to the capture of the city two weeks later. The Battle of Brandywine took place Southwest of Philadelphia in the city of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

General George Washington had positioned approximately 10,600 troops near Chadds Ford, overlooking the Brandywine River. As the 260 ships carrying 16,000 British troops arrived nearby at the northern part of Chesapeake Bay, Washington's troops were ready. General William Howe's troops faced the additional logistical challenge of unloading the ships as the shallow waters proved to be quite muddy.

Rather than set up camp and find themselves even more boxed in, the British went on the offensive. General Howe sent 5,000 of his troops under the command of Wilhelm von Knyphausen directly at the Americans. He sent the remaining 11,000 troops, under the command of Lord Charles Cornwallis, north to Jefferis' Ford to flank the Americans from the north. The maneuver worked very well as Washington's army was quickly overwhelmed by the unexpected size of the British forces. The Americans attempted to defend against the northern flank but with little success. They were forced to retreat to Chester, leaving most of their cannons behind.

The British victory was a crucial one for General Howe's men. British accounts of the battle estimated 93 casualties on the British side. Estimated American losses range from 300 to 1300 killed. While the loss at Brandywine was a difficult strategic loss, it was not nearly as catastrophic as it could have been. Historians speculate today that if General Howe had been more aggressive with his troops, the Continental Army would not have been able to retreat so easily and the win could have been much more crushing. As it was, the American morale remained high after the Battle of Brandywine.

Battle of Brandywine map