The Battle of Brandywine
nelltown, for Gen. Washington had taken the Birmingham meeting-house as a hospital for his sick and wounded soldiers, even before he moved his army to Chad's Ford, and hearing a disturbance outside, the meeting was brought to a close. While endeavoring to quiet several of the women of the neighborhood, who were alarmed at the approach of the British troops, Townsend relates: "Our eyes were caught, on a sudden, by the appearance of the army coming out of the woods into the field belonging to Emmor Jefferies, on the west side of the creek, above the fording-place. In a few minutes the fields were literally covered over with them, and they were hastening towards us. Their arms and bayonets, being raised, shone bright as silver, there being a clear sky and the day exceedingly warm." This eye- witness records how "the space occupied by the main and flanking parties (of the British army) was near half a mile wide;" that Cornwallis "on horseback appeared very tall and sat very erect. His rich scarlet clothing, loaded with gold lace, epaulets, etc., occasioned him to make a brilliant and martial appearance, and that most of all the offcers who conversed with us were men of the first rank, and were rather stout, portly men, well dressed, and of genteel appearance, and did not look as if they had ever been exposed to any hardship; their skins were as white and delicate as is customary for females brought up in large cities or towns."
The entire column of British troops had crossed Jefferies' Ford by two o'clock, its advance having reached the vicinity of Osborne's Hill, and in half an hour thereafter the whole body of men halted to refresh themselves, for they had not eaten since the early morning, and had marched about seventeen miles almost without a halt. Many of the soldiers on that weary tramp had fallen out of ranks, and exhausted remained along the road.1
|1 "Journal of Capt. Montressor," Penna. Mag. of History, vol. v. p. 416.|
When Washington first learned that the lost column of Cornwallis had been found, unfortunately for the Continentals in such a position that the inferior American force - in numbers, in discipline, and arms - would have to fight at great disadvantage, or, as Capt. Montressor states it, "were instantly obliged to divide their army, leaving part to oppose our right," Gen. Sullivan was ordered to bring his division to bear upon the British, and this compelled a forward movement of the whole right wing up the Brandywine. The American troops formed in a strong position above Birmingham meeting-house on a hill about a mile and a half removed from the British column, the ground falling gradually for more than half a mile in their immediate front "a natural glacis," and a thick woods covered their rear. As the divisions of Gens. Stirling and Stephens formed, Lord Cornwallis, on horseback, - Sir William Howe and his generals gathered about him, - sat watching the American offcers arrange their line of battle, and as his glass showed him the disposition they were making, his eminent military abilities, never excelled in England's history during the last three hundred years, except by Marlborough, compelled him to pay this tribute to their merit, "The damned rebels form well!"
Cornwallis, under the immediate supervision of Sir. William Howe, formed his battle array in three lines. The Guards were on the right of the advance, the First British Grenadiers to the left, the centre of the latter organization, supported by the Hessian Grenadiers, formed in a second line. "To the left of the Second Grenadiers, who held the centre, were two battalions of light infantry, with the Hessian and Anspach Chasseurs, supported by the fourth brigade, for a second line." The third brigade, consisting of the Fifteenth, Forty-fourth, and Seventeenth Regiments, was held in reserve, and was not called into action during the day. Both flanks of the British army were covered by very thick woods, and the artillery was advantageously disposed so that its fire might most seriously affect the American lines, and sustain the advance in its attack on the Continental troops.
Gen. Sullivan seems to have questioned his own judgment and hesitated to decide what was best to be done, when the true situation of the two armies ryas clearly presented to his mind. He had command of the entire right wing, hence the command of his immediate division devolved on Gen. DeBorre, his brigadier, a French offcer of thirty-five year,' experience in service, but a martinet, insisting on every little punctilio of military etiquette, even where such trifling matters might jeopardize the whole army. Hence when the latter marched his division to form, because it had laid along the Brand ywine, fronting across, he insisted on moving his command on the right of ' Stephens and Stirling, which determination on his part made disorder in the division and occasioned an interval in the American line of over half a mile. It should be remembered that Stirling and Stephens as soon a_ they learned that the enemy were on their flank moved promptly, without waiting for orders from Sullivan. to the nearest good position from which they could resist the advancing British columns. Sullivan, thereupon leaving his old division in disorder, rode forward to where the other general offcers were, and it ryas their unanimous opinion, he tells us in his report, " that his division should be brought on to join the other and the whole should incline further to the right to prevent our being= out-flanked." Even the graphic account of the battle furnished by Gen. Sullivan shows that lie lost that self-control which in Gen =. Greene and Washington showed conspicuously during that afternoon of disaster tai the American arms. "-1t half-past two," lie gays, " I received orders to march with my division to join with and take corn