The Battle of Brandywine
ward to the high ground on the west of the creek, and, after a bitter contest, to the ford itself. Some troops being sent over to his assistance, he renewed the struggle, even regaining the heights. Capt. Porterfield and Waggoner, with their commands, crossed the ford, moved to the left of Maxwell, where they began a vigorous attack on Ferguson's Corps of Royal Riflemen, who at the time, together with a portion of the Twenty-eighth British Regiment, were engaged in throwing up light works, to put two guns in position on their right, to respond to Proctor's artillery, which had opened fire from the opposite bank. The troops under Porterfield and Waggoner fought their way up a narrow, thickly-wooded valley, and forced a company of the enemy, supported by a hundred men from Gen. Stern's Hessian brigade, to seek protection back of the stone house of William Harvey, the elder, who lived on the west side of the creek, until additional troops had hastened to their assistance. Proctor, from the other side of the stream observing this, trained his guns on the advancing Britons, and the house came directly in the line of his fire. William Harvey, then in his sixtieth year, had sent his family away from the dwelling, but, being a man of great personal courage, determined to remain to protect his property as far as he could from plunderers. When the American guns opened, Harvey sat on his front perch, when a neighbor, Jacob Way, seeing him there, called out, "Come away; thee is in danger here! Thee will surely be killed!" The old gentleman merely shook his head, while his friend urged him in vain. As they exchanged words a twelve-pound cannonball from Proctor's battery passed through both walls of the kitchen, and plunged along the piazza floor, tearing up the boards and barely avoiding William's legs, until, a little farther on, it buried itself six feet deep in the earth. It is recorded that William hesitated no longer, but sought a safer locality. His house was thoroughly despoiled when the British came up."1 He, however, lived nearly forty years after that trying ordeal.
|1 Lippincott's Magazine for September, 1877: "Brandywine, 1777," by Howard M. Jenkins.|
The pertinacity of the attack of Maxwell's brigade, as well as the audacious action of Porterfield and Waggoner, made it necessary for Knyphausen to send forward two brigades, supported by artillery, while at the same time a heavy column was marched toward Brinton's Ford, thus outflanking Maxwell, who was compelled to recross the Brandywine. Simultaneously with these movements the Queen's Rangers, under Capt. Weyms, of the Fortieth British Regiment, poured so hot a fire down the valley that Porterfield and Waggoner were also forced hastily to retire across the creek. The high ground about half a mile back from the Brandywine, vacated by Maxwell, was immediately occupied in force by the enemy, and guns were placed in position by Knyphausen to command the ford. From thee occasionally a few shots were discharged, and responded to by Proctor's cannons, which desultory firing inflicted but little damage. The casualties on the American side thus far had not exceeded sixty, while those of the British and Hessian troops were about one hundred and sixty. Hence, at half-past ten o'clock in the morning, when the enemy at Chad's Ford seemed disinclined to make any vigorous attack, Col. Harrison, Washington's secretary, might be well excused for having dispatched a hurried note to Congress, stating that he had no doubt but that the enemy would be repulsed.
Major Ferguson, the commander of the rifle corps in the English army, in a letter describing this battle, stated that while his men were lying concealed in a clump of woods, he noticed "a rebel officer in a hussar dress" pass in front of the American line, followed by another officer in dark green and blue, who was "mounted on a good gray horse, and wearing a remarkably high cocked hat." Ferguson ordered three of his men to creep towards and fire at them, but hardly had he done so when he recalled the command, for the Americans were so near that he felt to shoot at them would be little less than deliberate murder. After the officers had passed some distance, they returned, and were again within easy reach of his sharpshooters. The following day Ferguson, in conversation with a wounded American, learned "that Gen. Washington was all the morning with the light troops, and attended only by a French officer in a hussar dress, he himself mounted and dressed in every respect as above described."
On the morning of the battle Gen. Washington ascertained that Cornwallis had moved northward to some of the upper and unimportant fords, deigning thus to turn the right flank of the American army. The commander-in-chief, fully aware that Maj. Spear was posted at Buffington's Ford, whence he could dispatch intelligence of such a movement to Gen. Sullivan, who would promptly communicate with him, had resolved to strike Knyphausen, while beyond the reach of the support of Cornwallis' division, and overwhelm him by numbers, and thus crush the British army in detail. The Hessian General, it is known, did not begin his advance until nine o'clock in the morning, and it was rightly believed that Cornwallis would have to march twelve miles before he could cross the creek, even if he effected a passage at Buffington's Ford. Between nine and ten o'clock Col. Bland, with a few light-horsemen, crossed to the west side of the stream at Jones' Ford, three miles above Chad's, and, observing that Cornwallis' column was then approaching Trimble's Ford, on the west branch, he immediately dispatched a messenger with the tidings to Gen. Sullivan. Col. Hazen also made a report of like import. The following dispatch, which Col. Carrington2 states is a model for clearness
|2 Carrington's "Battles of the American Revolution."|