Chapter VII

The Revolutionary Struggle to the Battle of Brandywine

 

on the east side of Red Clay Creek, and all the troops in Wilmington were ordered to march to Newport, excepting Gen. Irwin's brigade, which was to remain in Wilmington, at work on the intrenchments at that place. "The enemy," writes Gen. Armstrong, "as far as we yet learn, appear to spread over some considerable apace of Country, but in a detached way from Couches Mills to some part of Nottingham."1 The same day the Navy Board recommended to Council that as there were reasons to believe that some vessels of the English fleet would attempt to approach the city, a certain number of persons should be assigned to flood Hog Island, and that ninety or one hundred men should garrison the fort at Darby Creek. Council requested the Navy Board to see to the flooding of the Island, and ordered a company of artillery and a company of "Musqueters," under the command of Col. Jehu Eyre, to the works at Darby Creek.

1 Penna. Archives, 1st series, vol. v. p. 587.

Congress having recommended, on September 5th, a call for five thousand militia of Pennsylvania, the following day Council directed the several lieutenants of the counties to order the militia to immediately march to Darby, where they were "to rendezvous on the heights," and to "appear with what arms they have, or can procure, and otherwise equipped in the best manner they may be able." These equipments, including blankets, Council assured the troops, would be paid for by the State in the event of their being "taken by the enemy or otherwise unavoidably lost."2 This call for militia only included those of the counties of Philadelphia, Chester, York, Cumberland, and Northumberland.3 Why Lancaster was omitted does not appear on the records of the Executive Council.

2 Ib., p. 592.

3 Colonial Records, vol. xi. p. 293.

We also learn from the journal of Capt. Montressor, chief engineer of the British army, that three fugitives came into Howe's camp on the 5th of September and reported that Gens. Mifflin and Cadwallader were, "with what militia they have and can collect, at Chester, with an intention to harass our rear."4

4 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. v. p. 414.

Deputy Quartermaster-General Mifflin, on September 7th, wrote to Council from Newport, stating that the English army had disencumbered itself of all heavy baggage, and was then in light marching order. Washington, thereupon, had directed all baggage, excepting blankets and "a few small clothes," to be sent away from the army, and for that purpose Quartermaster Mifflin desired a hundred wagons be at once ordered to headquarters. These teams were "to be placed in the rear of the divisions, and immediately on an alarm the tents and small packs left with the men were to be sent over Brandywine." The following day Council directed one hundred wagons from Berks, and a like number from Lancaster County, to report to Mifflin.

Gen. Armstrong, on the 8th, stated that the night previous he had told Washington that in his opinion Howe's intention was to re-embark on the Delaware, cross to the New Jersey side, march up to the "Shevar de frize," clear the way for the fleet, and then bombard Philadelphia. He, therefore, was urgent for an attack on Howe in his camp.5 The commander-in-chief, however, had strengthened his position, intending to offer battle on Red Clay Creek, but on the very day on which Gen. Armstrong wrote to Council, Howe advanced in two columns, one as if threatening an immediate attack, while the other, extending its left, halted at Milltown. At once Washington detected the intention of the British general, which was to march by his right, throw his army suddenly across the Brandywine, occupy the heights on the north of that creek, and thus cut the Continental arms absolutely off from communication with Philadelphia. Had Howe succeeded in that movement it is not probable that anything other than the total surrender of the American forces could have followed its consummation. That evening Washington held a council of war, at which it was decided at once to change position. At two o'clock in the morning the army was on the march, and had already crossed the Brandywine. On Tuesday afternoon, September 9th, in pursuance of the enemy's plan, Lieut.-Gen. Knyphausen, with the Third Division and two British brigades, marched for Kennett Square via New Garden. That afternoon, at half-past five o'clock, Gen. Howe ascertained that Washington had "evacuated Newport and Wilmington, and had taken post at Chad's Ford on the Brandywine Creek."6 Washington having moved almost due north from Newport on the afternoon of the 9th, was intrenched on the high ground immediately north of the present Chad's Ford Hotel. During the night of the 10th, Maxwell's Light Infantry, which had the advanced posts, dug intrenchments on the west side, covering the approaches to the ford, and at this point Washington decided to deliver battle in defense of Philadelphia.

5 Penna. Archives, 1st series, vol. v. p. 598.

6 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. v. p. 415.

 

Chapter VIII

The Battle of Brandywine

 

"The Brandywine Creek, as it is called, commences with two branches called the East and West branches, which unite in one stream, flowing from West to East about twenty-two miles, and emptying itself into the Delaware about twenty-five miles below Philadelphia."7 The union of these branches takes place over four miles above where the stream crosses the circular boundary-line dividing Delaware County

7 Irving's "Life of Washington," vol. iii. p. 213.

 

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