Sunday, July 26, 2020

ARP159 Battle of the Clouds

Last week I covered the Battle of Brandywine, which was the major battle both sides had hoped would be decisive.  General Washington had hoped to halt the British advance on Philadelphia.  General Howe hoped to wipe away the American rebels and take their capital.  Howe won the battle and forced the Continentals to retreat, but he did not capture the enemy army.  Washington and the bulk of his soldiers escaped to fight another day.

Brandywine Aftermath

Following the battle, General Howe made no real effort to follow up and crush his opponent.  Instead, the British and Hessian soldiers remained in camp near Brandywine Battlefield for five days.  Remember, the British had only landed in Maryland a little over two weeks earlier.  Most of the soldiers were sick or out of shape after being kept aboard ship for six weeks. Most of their horses had died, and the remainder were in terrible condition.  After fighting a major battle, Howe did not want to push his men too hard.

Gen. William Howe
(from Wikimedia)
Although Howe had tried to put a stop to looting in hopes of winning over the local populace, he was fighting a losing battle.  At least two British soldiers were executed in the days after the battle for looting and marauding.  The British army did spend its time looking for American soldiers in hiding and for stashed supplies.  They also commandeered necessary food, horses, and anything else the army needed from the local population.

Howe deployed General James Grant with a couple of regiments, to look for American stragglers during the Continental retreat.  Grant's men scoured the area, finding little. Without horses, the soldiers on the march could cover little ground.  The feeble horses they had to pull their cannons could barely make it up some of the hills.

The British also had a large number of their own wounded, as well as several hundred wounded American prisoners.  Howe sent a message under a flag of truce inviting him to send doctors to care for the wounded prisoners held by the British.  Several Philadelphia surgeons, including Dr. Benjamin Rush (as signer of the Declaration of Independence) entered British lines under a flag of truce to care for the wounded prisoners.  While there, Rush met with a number of British officers, and spoke with an old friend, Joseph Galloway, who had also been a delegate to the Continental Congress at one time.  Rejecting independence, Galloway had thrown in his lot with the British and was assisting General Howe.  The two men, now enemies, spoke cordially and respectfully to each other.

Continental Retreat

The Continental Army had retreated from Brandywine in relatively good order.  The men were exhausted, but did not panic.  Most of the army marched into the village of Chester for the night.  The next morning, Washington moved his soldiers up to the Schuylkill River where they crossed a pontoon bridge and entered Philadelphia.  Fearing an imminent attack on the city, Washington removed his wounded to Trenton and to other towns north of Philadelphia.  The wounded General Lafayette went to Bethlehem.

George Washington
(from Wikimedia)
The Schuylkill River was the last major barrier separating the British from Philadelphia.  It took the army two days to move across the narrow bridge to the east bank of the Schuylkill.  If the Continentals removed that bridge, there would be no way for the British to cross in the face of the enemy.

Of course, Washington knew that Howe could also move north further upstream and cross where it was easier further up river.  Then Howe could march down and turn Washington’s flank just as he had done on the banks of the Brandywine.  Washington could easily find himself pinned in Philadelphia and forced to surrender his army along with the city.

Washington’s other concern about this position was that his position left Reading exposed.  Reading was a village to the west where the Continental Army had stored a great quantity of food and supplies.  The British would undoubtedly receive intelligence about this supply depot.  Howe could send an army to capture the supplies that his own army needed and deny them to the Continental Army.

So, on September 14, while the British continued to camp near Brandywine for days after the battle, and after Washington had given his army one day’s rest, he provided his soldiers with more ammunition and crossed back over the Schuylkill River.  He crossed further upstream across one of the fords, near what is today called Conshohocken.  Washington put the Continental army in a position where they could contest any British movement to the north, either toward Reading, or to move upstream where the regulars might ford the Schuylkill and take Philadelphia.

British Take Wilmington

With the Continentals on the march, the British remained in camp.  The British spent much of September 12 burying the dead from both sides and tending to the wounded.  They sent out foraging parties to collect food for the army.  On September 13, Howe sent a detachment to capture Wilmington, Delaware.  The local militia there put up no fight, and fled, abandoning their cannons without a shot fired.  The British captured Delaware’s President John McKinly, who had remained in town to oversee the town’s so-called defense.  After taking the town, Howe moved his wounded and his American prisoners to Wilmington as well.

As planned, at least a few ships from Admiral Howe’s navy also reached Wilmington about this time and helped to remove the wounded.  The Continentals still had forts and other defenses that prevented the navy from sailing further upstream to Philadelphia.  But the lower part of the Delaware was relatively open to the British.

Philadelphia Threatened

Although the British Army took its time and Washington prepared to put up another defense once it started to march again, most people feared that Philadelphia would fall within days.  On September 12, Thomas Paine penned his Crisis #4 where he began by noting the loss at Brandywine:
The event of yesterday was one of those kind of alarms which is just sufficient to rouse us to duty, without being of consequence enough to depress our fortitude. It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.
Paine went on to point out that with Howe’s limited number of soldiers, being reduced with every battle, he must eventually fail, no matter how many field victories he had.

Thomas Paine
(from Wikimedia)
The Continental Congress began in inquiry into the loss at Brandywine.  It ordered General Washington to open a court of inquiry against General Preudhomme du Boore for his actions at Brandywine.  As you may recall from last week, the Continental general from France had been in command of the left wing on Birmingham Heights.  The soldiers were out of position and ran when attacked.  The fall of the left flank led to the general retreat of all the divisions on Birmingham Hill and could have proven much more disastrous, but for the rear guard action led by General Nathanael Greene.

When informed that he would face a court of inquiry, General de Borre instead submitted his resignation on September 13, blaming his failure on ill-trained and incompetent soldiers.  Congress accepted his resignation the next day.  That would be the end of de Borre’s career in the Continental Army, but not his end in the Revolution.  De Borre returned to France and to his commission as a colonel in the French Army.  A few years later, he would return to America with the French Army after France entered the war.  But that is getting ahead of our story.  For now, de Borre was going home.

Congress also requested General Sullivan, who was supposed to be commanding the division on Birmingham Hill, also be recalled from duty until there could be a court of inquiry.  On this request, Washington demurred.  He needed Sullivan to remain commander of the Maryland troops.  He told Congress that he could not afford to suspend Sullivan or conduct an inquiry at that time because he anticipated another battle within days.  Sullivan would retain his command.  He would face a court martial later that year, not only for Brandywine but also for his actions on Staten Island a month earlier and for other things.  The court martial would acquit Sullivan of all charges and cleared him to return to duty.

Casimir Pulaski

Congress was not just looking for leaders to blame.  They also had praise for many of the commanders at Brandywine.  The Marquis de Lafayette’s battlefield wound only improved the young general’s reputation.  The other foreign hero from Brandywine was Casimir Pulaski.  On September 15, Congress granted Pulaski a commission as a brigadier general in the Continental Army.

Gen. Casimir Pulaski
(from Wikimedia)
I mentioned Pulaski last week when he organized a cavalry charge to halt the British advance and give the rest of the army time to retreat.  Congress had been debating whether to give him a commission since he had arrived in America in late July.  His leadership and daring at Brandywine was enough to convince the delegates that he was the man for the job.

Pulaski had been born in Warsaw in 1745.  At the time, Warsaw was capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  It had a king who was elected by the nobles.  Coming from a noble family, Pulaski was a member of the national elite.  He served as a cavalry officer and grew in reputation.  The King, Stanislaw II Augustus, allied himself with the Russians and sought to turn the country into a Russian protectorate.  Stanislaw cut off alliances with France and Austria, leading to war.  The war went bad for Poland.  Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the country in 1772.

During the war that led to the partition, Pulaski was part of a conspiracy to kidnap the King.  This led to charges of attempted regicide and made him a wanted man throughout Europe.  Pulaski had to flee his homeland, first to Prussia, then to the Ottoman Empire, and then again to France.  He attempted to join other armies, but the criminal charges against him meant that no other king would offer him a commission.

Facing debtors prison, Pulaski heard that American agents in Paris were looking for officers to go fight in America.  He met with Benjamin Franklin and impressed him with his military experience and zeal for liberty.  French officials strongly encouraged Franklin to give Pulaski a commission, and even offered to pay his travel costs to America.  France was eager to get him to leave the country before his presence created an international incident.

Pulaski took Franklin’s recommendation and boarded a ship for America in June 1777.  He arrived in Boston in late July, studying English during his voyage.  After presenting his credentials to Congress in August, he rode off to join the Continental Army without waiting for Congress to act.  He served as an unofficial gentleman volunteer to George Washington in the weeks leading up to Brandywine.

Along with his commission as general, Pulaski served as the Continental Army’s first Cavalry commander with the title “Commander of the Horse.”

Baron de Kalb

Also, on September 15, the same day Congress granted a commission to Pulaski, it also granted a commission as major general to Baron Johannes de Kalb.  Remember that de Kalb had traveled with Lafayette and several other would-be generals to America months earlier, but got caught up in the political dispute over having too many French generals.

Gen. Johann de Kalb
(from Wikimedia)
Congress had offered Lafayette a commission as major general after Lafayette agreed to serve without pay.  Congress left de Kalb and others cooling their heels in Philadelphia while they decided what to do.  In the weeks leading up to Brandywine, Congress had voted not to accept de Kalb’s offer of service.  Delegates then took a few weeks to debate how much to pay for his travel expenses and costs of returning home to France.

In the meantime, de Kalb did a little sightseeing, visiting the Continental medical facilities in Bethlehem.  Lafayette’s performance at Brandywine raised the reputation of French officers generally, and is credited in part with Congress’ change of heart.  It was probably also Lafayette’s strong support for de Kalb, who had been his superior and mentor in the French Army, that contributed to the change.

Congress voted to make de Kalb a major general. When de Kalb received the news of his appointment the following day, he sent a letter rejecting the offer.  Two days later, he had a change of heart and requested several conditions before he would accept his appointment.  One was the request that Congress back date his commission to the date of Lafayette’s.  That way de Kalb would not suffer the indignity of ranking below his former subordinate.  He also wanted the option to return to France if he determined his superiors disapproved of his service in the Continental Army.  He wanted his aide to be commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel, that he receive a pension, and that his wife receive a pension if he was killed in service.

As a result of these negotiations, de Kalb did not join the army immediately, but remained in Bethlehem, where he remained with the wounded General Lafayette.  He would not accept his commission and join the army until well after the British occupied Philadelphia.

Battle of the Clouds

As Congress debated about officers, General Washington prepared for round two in the British Army’s advance toward Philadelphia.  As I said, the Continentals had retreated across the Schuylkill River.  When the British remained in camp near Brandywine, the Continentals moved back toward the British and prepared to contest any advance.

Troop Movements 
On September 15, General Howe learned that the Continentals had advanced toward his camp and were about ten miles north of his army.  Washington seemed to be daring him to fight another direct battle on open fields, something the British thought they would win every time.  Further, Washington’s forces had fallen to around 10,000 after Brandywine, so Howe had a numerical advantage.

In the early pre-dawn hours of September 16, General Howe assembled his army and began a march to meet the Americans near White Horse Tavern a few miles to the north.  Around 9:00 AM, Washington received word from Pulaski’s cavalry that the British were on the march.  Rather than take up an immediate defensive position, Washington marched his army three miles toward the advancing British.

Around 1:00 PM, General Cornwallis reported that his British regulars had encountered Pulaski’s cavalry and a few hundred militia, who fled as the first shots were fired.  Next, General Knyphausen’s Hessian jaegers ran into Continentals under General Anthony Wayne and William Maxwell.  An American charge unnerved the jaegers, and almost led to the capture of Hessian Colonel von Donop.  British grenadiers provided support to the jaegers and stopped the American advance.

The British formed a line of battle as General Matthews joined Knyphausen in a preparation to attack the Americans.  The Continentals were forced onto muddy ground which made maneuverability of their cannons difficult and was not an advantageous defensive position.  Washington ordered a withdrawal to higher ground, but it looked as though the British would be able to charge the American position before the Ameircans could withdraw.

Then, just as things were looking bleak, the sky darkened and a driving thunderstorm unleashed across the region.  One Hessian officer said that the rain  "came down so hard that in a few moments we were drenched and sank in mud up to our calves."  The wet powder prevented either side from being able to fire their guns.  The thick mud and driving rain made it impossible even to order a bayonet charge.

With the loss of their powder, and given the relatively weak defensive position, General Washington gave the order to withdraw as the worst nor’easter many had ever seen flooded everything.  The Continentals slogged north through the mud and rain, marching about five miles before reaching camp around 10:00 PM.  There, the soldiers spent a miserable wet night in the field before marching back to the Schuylkill River the next day.

The British march north, attempting to get around the American right flank and push the Continentals back against the flooded Schuylkill River.  The two camps eyed each other the next day, but neither seemed ready to re-engage.  By the following day, Friday September 19, the Schuylkill water levels had fallen enough that the Continentals could move across the fords and take up positions on the other side of the river.

Thus, thanks to the weather, what could have become a decisive major battle at White Horse Tavern was called on account of rain.  Both sides suffered about 100 casualties in the early fighting, but no full battle could play out.  The event became known as the Battle of the Clouds.

The British advanced as the Americans tried to remove supplies stored at Valley Forge and other areas around the region.  With their powder destroyed by the rain, it was not clear if the Americans even could put up a defense at the Schuylkill river. Washington directed Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton as one of many officers instructed to remove or destroy supplies that might fall to the enemy.  Hamilton was in the process of doing so when his small unit fell under enemy fire.  The team fled back to a flat bottom boat on the Schuylkill river, exchanging fire with the enemy as they polled back across to the American side.  The British Army was poised to cross the Schuylkill.  Hamilton wrote to President of Congress John Hancock that day: “If Congress have not yet left Philadelphia, they ought to do it immediately without fail, for the enemy have the means of throwing a party this night into the city.

With most of the Continental Army along the east bank of the Schuylkill, Washington left one contingent of soldiers under General Anthony Wayne in the field  on the west bank to harass the enemy and delay their advance.  Wayne’s army camped at a small village called Paoli.

- - -

Next Episode 160 The Paoli Massacre

Previous Episode 159 The Battle of Brandywine

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Virtual Marching Tour, Battle of the Clouds:

Paine, Thomas Crisis #4:

Casimir Pulaski

Johann de Kalb:

Letter From Alexander Hamilton to John Hancock, [18 September 1777]:

Itinerary of George Washington:

Fyers, Evan W. H. “GENERAL SIR WILLIAM HOWE'S OPERATIONS IN PENNSYLVANIA, 1777. The Battle on the Brandywine Creek—11 September—and the Action at Germantown—4 October.” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 8, no. 34, 1929, pp. 228–241.

Ecelbarger, Garry “Aggressive Minded Gamblers: Washington, Howe, and the Days between Battles, September 12-16, 1777, Journal of the American Revolution, March 10, 2020:

Sullivan, Thomas. “Before and after the Battle of Brandy-Wine. Extracts from the Journal of Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of H.M. Forty-Ninth Regiment of Foot.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 31, no. 4, 1907, pp. 406–418.

Battle of the Clouds Battlefield

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Kapp, Friedrich, The life of John Kalb, Major-General in the Revolutionary Army,
New York: H. Holt and Co. 1884.

Manning, Clarence A. Soldier Of Liberty Casimir Pulaski, Philosophical Library, 1945.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965 (borrow only)

Smith, John S. Memoir of the Baron de Kalb, Baltimore: J.D. Toy 1858.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Harris, Michael C. Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, Savis Beatie, 2014.

Kauffman, Gerald J. and Michael R. Gallagher The British Invasion of Delaware, Aug-Sep 1777,, 2013.

McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign Vol. 1, Stackpole Books, 2006.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Pioneer Press, 1980 (orig. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965).

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003 (book recommendation of the week).

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

ARP158 Battle of Brandywine

Last week, I left off with the British Army commanded by General Howe, having landed in Maryland, skirmished with the continentals in Delaware, and then moved westward into Pennsylvania in a march toward Philadelphia.  The Continentals under General Washington pivoted from Delaware into Pennsylvania.  They deployed along Brandywine Creek, prepared to confront the British advance there.

Brandywine Creek is a relatively small waterway that begins with the merger of two smaller creeks about thirty miles west of Philadelphia.  It then flows down to Wilmington, Delaware, before merging with the Christiana Creek and then into the Delaware River.  It is not big enough to sail ships, but was deep enough in most places during this era to prevent men from fording across.

Continental Defenses

That said, there were a number of fords along the creek where an army could cross. The Continentals deployed around those fords and planned to force the enemy to cross that water in the face of enemy fire if it wanted to advance.

Battle of Brandywine
General Washington believed the most likely crossing point would be at Chadds Ford, a small village in Pennsylvania, about two miles north of the border with Delaware.  By September 9, 1777, his Continentals had secured the Chadds Ford, as well as two other fords just upstream from Chadds.

They also secured Pyle’s Ford to the south in Delaware.  This left flank of the Continental Army included divisions commanded by Major Generals Anthony Wayne and Nathanael Greene, along with Pennsylvania militia.  Major Generals John Sullivan, Adam Stephen, and Lord Stirling took command of the heights above Chadds Ford which covered the army’s right flank.  Beyond their divisions further north, Colonel Moses Hazen covered two smaller fords further upriver, Buffington’s Ford and Wistar’s Ford (aka Shunk’s Ford).  In the event of enemy movement toward those fords, the nearby reinforcements of the army’s right flank could be deployed there.  Buffington’s Ford was actually north of the place where the Brandywine splits into two smaller branches. To reach that, the enemy would have to ford both the west branch and the east branch of the creeks to reach the Continental’s side.

British Lines

On the British side General Wilhelm von Knyphausen and marched his Hessians to Kennett Square, only a few miles from Chadds Ford where the Americans were already deployed.  General Howe did not realize that Knyphausen would move so quickly and expected him to camp several miles further back.

Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen
(from Wikimedia)
By the time Knyphausen received Howe’s orders, he had already set up camp in Kennett Square and had no interest in marching backward several miles that night.  Instead, he ordered his army to camp without campfires in hopes of keeping their position a secret from the enemy.  By the morning of September 10, Howe’s Regulars also reached Kennett Square.  The entire army of about 15,000 Regulars and Hessians was united and ready.

General Howe was not going to charge into battle without getting the lay of the land.  Although he landed in Maryland with few detailed maps or intelligence about the area, He had been working with local Tories to get what he needed.

Joseph Galloway, who had opted to confirm his loyalty to the King after attending the First Continental Congress, had fled from his home near Philadelphia to join the British in New York City.  He had traveled with Howe to Maryland and served as a local guide. Howe also received guidance from other local residents, including many Quakers, who lived in the area and knew the area well.  On top of that, Howe sent out scouts to determine enemy positions.  So the two armies sat on September 10, as Howe gained intelligence and finalized his plans.

The Battle Begins

On the morning of September 11, General von Knyphausen marched an army of about 6800 mostly Hessian soldiers toward Brandywine Creek.  Although the day would be a hot one, the morning was still chilly and a dense fog hid much of the two armies from each other.  The hilly terrain also made it difficult to track the enemy.  Leading the column was Ferguson’s riflemen and the Queen’s Rangers, a loyalist militia regiment.  Both Ferguson’s riflemen and the Queen’s Rangers wore green coats, resulting in them being mistaken for Hessians during much of the battle.

Brandywine Battle map (from Wikimedia)
That same morning, as the British and Hessians began their march, American General William Maxwell had sent scouts across the Brandywine to track enemy movements.  An American company was eating some breakfast at Welch’s Tavern when Ferguson’s riflemen and the Queens Rangers approached. The two sides exchanged fire as the Americans withdrew. These first shots were fired around 9:00 AM.

Maxwell’s Continentals continued to harass the advancing British in a series of ambushes as the column moved toward the Brandywine.  The few hundred Americans could not halt the British advance.  Their intent was to harass the enemy until they reached the Brandywine, where the Americans would make their stand.  As the battle moved slowly toward the creek, both sides took casualties.  Ferguson’s riflemen proved their worth as they picked off retreating Americans.  Among those wounded was a young captain from Virginia named John Marshall, the future Chief Justice.

By around 10:30 AM, Knyphausen’s main column had reached Brandywine Creek.  Rather than attempt to cross, he brought up his artillery and simply fired across the creek at the enemy.

General Washington was observing the battle through a telescope from a house a short distance from the battle.  It became clear that the force attacking them was not the entire British Army.  Many of his generals feared that the army in front of them was simply meant to amuse them while another force marched around in a flanking maneuver to attack them from a different direction. This was exactly the same tactic Howe had used against them on Long Island.

Washington sent out scouts in search of another enemy column, but received frustratingly inconclusive intelligence.  In fact, General Howe had left camp before dawn and before General Knyphausen began his march.  Howe moved his regulars north.  Washington considered several options.  One was that Howe was attempting a flanking maneuver on the Continental right flank. Another was that Howe was simply keeping the Continentals busy while he marched his army out to Lancaster to seize food and supplies that were stored there.  A third possibility was that Howe had marched north in order to get Washington to send part of his own army north to find Howe.  Then, Howe could double back, join Knyphausen, and crush Washington’s divided army.

By noon, Washington had decided that if Howe’s army really had marched north, they would not participate in the day’s battle.  It would take them too long to find an unguarded ford upstream and march back south.  Washington maintained a strong right flank in case they did show up there, but also began to send regiments across the Brandywine to engage with the enemy.  If he could defeat Knyphausen’s division before Howe arrived, he could then focus all of his army on Howe’s division and defeat the divided army in detail.

Before he could commit his army to the attack, General Sullivan sent intelligence which he received from Major Spear, that there was no sign of the enemy to the north.  If that was true, Howe was likely doubling back to meet up with Knyphausen.  Fearing that, Washington opted not to commit his army to an attack across the creek, but held in his defensive positions.  Washington also recalled Lord Stirling and General Stephen’s divisions to move from the right flank back to the center so that the army could be united against an expected full-on British assault across the creek.

Howe’s Flanking Maneuver

Washington’s intelligence, however, proved incorrect.  General Howe had, in fact, marched more than half of his army north, leaving in the pre-dawn hours before von Knyphausen began his march to the Brandywine.  As many officers guessed, von Knyphausen’s attack was a feint to distract the Continentals while Howe’s larger force could move into position to attack the American right flank.

Washington, Lafayette at Brandywine (from British Battles)
Howe took advantage of local information from Tories to march his army six miles to the north on back roads.  He crossed the Brandywine north of where it forked into two branches.  He crossed both the west branch and east branch of the Brandywine at unguarded fords.  One of the Hessian officers leading his column, Johann Ewald, noted that the army had to pass through a narrow ravine where a few hundred defenders could have held the army at bay for hours.  He was concerned about a possible ambush as he marched his men through.  But the Americans were nowhere to be found.  General Howe had moved his entire division of about eight thousand soldiers onto the east bank and prepared to attack the American right flank from the north.  Howe had marched north about eight miles north to get around the army.

By the time Howe had gotten his army across the Brandywine, it was a little after 1:00 PM.  A local, who supported the patriots, spotted the army and galloped down to inform General Washington.  At first, Washington was convinced of his earlier intelligence that said the British were not to his north, and brushed off the information as an excited local who was exaggerating what he saw.  However, after receiving several more reports, Washington realized he was in trouble, that Howe was about to crash into his right flank and crush the. Continental Army.

Washington redeployed the divisions under Stephen and Stirling to move back to the north and reinforce the right flank.  He ordered General Sullivan to advance on Howe’s army and engage the enemy.  The Continental divisions that had been recalled earlier, had to run back to their positions to the north in order to meet the enemy.  Stephen and Stirling marched their men over three miles in less than half an hour.

The American defenses were still in chaos when the British advance corps came within eyesight of the Americans, less than a mile away.  General Howe could have ordered a charge and scattered the disorganized Continentals.

Regulars rest before going into battle (from history on net)
Instead though, Howe ordered his army to rest and have lunch.  Howe sat with his officers for half an hour to an hour.   They enjoyed tea and talked over their options.  Instead of taking advantage of the surprised and disorganized American defenses, Howe gave them time to organize their lines.  This is just another example of General Howe taking a pause just when he is about to deliver the death blow, and why some of his detractors argue that Howe had no intention of winning this war.

Again, I don't think Howe deliberately sabotaged the British cause.  His men had just marched a grueling seventeen miles and were tired and hungry.  Giving them a short rest before charging into battle might help them to fight better.  Further, it is unclear whether Howe appreciated how disorganized the American lines were, and how much that time would give them to set their defenses.

Birmingham Hill

Taking advantage of the short reprieve, the Americans deployed a defensive line along Birmingham Hill.  General Stephen commanded the right flank.  General Lord Stirling commanded the center.  General Sullivan commanded the left flank.  Stephen and Stirling got their men into place relatively easily.

Brandywine Battlefield (from British Battles)
Sullivan’s division had to march through heavily forested and rocky terrain, meaning that it took the soldiers longer to get into position and could not see the other divisions’ positions as they were forming.  By the time Sulllivan had established his line, he realized he was too far forward and had left a large gap between his division and the Stirling’s center.  Sullivan rode off to meet with Stirling and make sure they were coordinated in their defense.  He left his second in command, the French General Preudhomme de Borre in command of his division.  General de Borre did not speak English and did not really command the respect of his subordinates, leading to further command problems.

While Sullivan was still away from his division, General Howe launched his attack around 4:30 PM.  Stirling and Stephen’s divisions stood firm and repelled several assaults on their positions over the next hour and a half of intense fighting.  Howe had left most of his artillery with Knyphausen, meaning that this had to be primarily an infantry assault.  British grenadiers and others among Howe’s best regiments pushed back the soldiers from Sullivan’s division and threatened the American left flank.

During the fighting, General Washington, along with General Lafayette arrived on the scene and assessed the situation.

British Take the Field

At the same time Howe’s forces were storming Birmingham Hill, General Knyphausen, who had been distracting the Americans all day near Chadd’s Ford, heard the distant gunfire and understood that Howe was attacking.  With that, Knyphausen ordered his division, which was nearly half of the entire British Hessian force, to storm across the Brandywine and take the American position.  Since Washington had moved most of the defenders to Birmingham Hill, Knyphausen only had to contend with a smaller force, composed mostly of militia.  This force, under the command of General Anthony Wayne, and supported by Generals Maxwell and John Armstrong, could not hold off Knyphausen’s assault.

General Washington realized that the two pronged attack meant that both lines were about to fail.  He had held in reserve General Greene’s division to reinforce whichever line needed it.  But even if he deployed Green to one of these two lines, the other would certainly fall.  Instead, Washington ordered Green to move into a defensive position where he could form a rear guard action for the retreating army.  Greene rushed his men into position, marching about three miles in just over half an hour.

Continental lines at Brandywine (from British Battles)
As the American divisions defending Birmingham Hill gave way and retreated, Howe’s forces advanced.  At the same time, Wayne’s defenders along the Brandywine also retreated, giving Knyphausen control of the battlefield there.

As Howe continued his advance, hoping to capture the American army, he ran into Greene’s line, which had been reinforced by many of the soldiers retreating from Birmingham Hill.  Howe attempted to roll up the right flank of Greene’s defensive line as the soldiers put up a solid defense.  Casimir Pulaski, the Polish officer with the Continentals, saw this and organized an impromptu American cavalry charge into the British infantry advance, thus forcing the British to halt their attack.  Pulaski had only arrived in America a few months earlier.  Congress was still debating whether to give him a commission, so technically, he had no command authority.  But at Washington’s request, he organized and led this critical cavalry charge anyway.

With the surprisingly strong American defensive line and with dusk approaching, Howe called off his offensive and allowed the Continentals to retreat from the field.


With nightfall, the Battle of Brandywine ended.  With about 30,000 soldiers engaged on both sides, this would be one of the largest battles of the American Revolution.  The British reported nearly 600 casualties, which is probably an under count.  The Americans estimated they inflicted over 2000 British casualties, which is probably an over count.  The true number is probably closer to the British number, but likely a little higher.

Especially hard hit was Ferguson’s regiment and the loyalist regiment of Queen’s Rangers.  These units had led Knyphausen’s column and took the brunt of the American ambushes as the column advanced.  Captain Ferguson himself was shot in the arm and risked amputation for several weeks.  His arm never fully recovered.

There are no good records of the American casualties.  Most estimates are that they were about double that of the British, about 1200-1300.  About a third of those were captured prisoners, although almost all of those captured were also wounded on the field.  Thanks to General Greene’s rearguard action, almost all of the Americans who were able to walk, or run, were able to escape capture.  The Americans did lose quite a few cannons, including several that they had captured from the enemy at Trenton a few months earlier.

Wounding of Lafayette (from British Battles)
General Lafayette took a ball in the leg late in the day.  It proved to be a relatively minor wound that would allow him to return to duty rather quickly.  After the battle, Captain Ferguson reported that he had seen two American officers on the field whom we could have shot from his position with his rifle.  However, since the officers had their backs turned toward him, he considered the shot to be dishonorable and did not take it.  Later, from the description and known position in the battle, Ferguson became convinced that he had had General Washington in his sights, possibly while conferring with Pulaski.  Even so, he said later he did not regret his decision not to shoot.  Sniping at officers was considered murder by many officers at the time.

The highest ranking officer who died over the encounter was not even on the field.  On the day before the battle, French General Philippe du Coudray, who sought to become the Continental commander of artillery, jumped on a horse in Philadelphia and rode out to join the Continental Army in the field.  As he crossed the Schuylkill River, either on a ferry or a pontoon bridge, accounts differ, his horse got spooked and jumped into the river.  With du Coudray caught in the horse’s stirrups, both horse and rider drowned.  Later, his body was recovered and buried in Philadelphia.

With the battle at an end, General Howe and General Knyphausen made camp near the battlefield and rested their army.  General Washington and the Continentals spent another sleepless night making their escape from the British Army.  Despite the loss, Washington put the best face on the day, reporting to Congress: "despite the day's misfortune, I am pleased to announce that most of my men are in good spirits and still have the courage to fight the enemy another day."

- - -

Next Episode 159 Battle of the Clouds

Previous Episode 157 Head of Elk & Cooch's Bridge

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Virtual Marching Tour, Brandywine:

Battle of Brandywine:

Battle of Brandywine Creek:

Letter From Washington To John Hancock, 11 September 1777:

Casimir Pulaski:

Montrésor, John, and G. D. Scull. “Journal of Captain John Montrésor, July 1, 1777, to July 1, 1778, Chief Engineer of the British Army.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 5, no. 4, 1881, pp. 393–417.

Fyers, Evan W. H. “GENERAL SIR WILLIAM HOWE'S OPERATIONS IN PENNSYLVANIA, 1777. The Battle on the Brandywine Creek—11 September—and the Action at Germantown—4 October.” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 8, no. 34, 1929, pp. 228–241.

“COUNT CASIMIR PULASKI AT THE BATTLE OF BRANDYWINE.” The American Catholic Historical Researches, vol. 7, no. 4, 1911, pp. 381–383.

ESLING, CHARLES H. A. “WASHINGTON'S HEADQUARTERS AT THE BATTLE OF BRANDYWINE, IN THE HOUSE OF JOHN HOLAHAN, A CATHOLIC.” The American Catholic Historical Researches, vol. 3, no. 4, 1907, pp. 356–358. JSTOR,

Sanborn, Paul J. “The Battle of Brandywine: An Intelligence Evaluation of General George Washington's Tactical Operations During The Battle Along The Brandywine, 11 September 1777.” American Intelligence Journal, vol. 16, no. 2/3, 1995, pp. 69–80. JSTOR,

Sullivan, Thomas. “Before and after the Battle of Brandy-Wine. Extracts from the Journal of Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of H.M. Forty-Ninth Regiment of Foot.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 31, no. 4, 1907, pp. 406–418.

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Hooton, Francis C.The Battle of Brandywine with its lines of battle, Wm. Stanley Ray, 1900.

Lewis, Charlton Thomas Lafayette at Brandywine, Chester County Historical Society, 1896.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965 (borrow only)

Townsend, Joseph Some account of the British army, under the command of General Howe; and of the battle of Brandywine, on the memorable September 11th, 1777, and the adventures of that day, Townsend Ward, 1846.

Trussell, John B.B. Jr. The Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1992.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Harris, Michael C. Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, Savis Beatie, 2014 (book recommendation of the week).

Kauffman, Gerald J. and Michael R. Gallagher The British Invasion of Delaware, Aug-Sep 1777,, 2013.

McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign Vol. 1, Stackpole Books, 2006.

Mowday, Bruce September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia,  White Mane, 2002.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Pioneer Press, 1980 (orig. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965).

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

ARP157 Head of Elk & Cooch's Bridge

When we last left the Howe brothers in Episode 150.  They had loaded up their army aboard hundreds of ships and sailed off from New York out into the Atlantic Ocean in July 1777.  For several weeks no one was quite sure where they were going until the British landed at Head of Elk, Maryland (today Elkton).  To get there, the fleet had to sail to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, past Norfolk Virginia, then back up through the bay, into the Elk River before finally landing.  The fleet led by Admiral Richard Howe in the HMS Eagle, skipped the traditional landing areas, moving up muddy bottomed rivers, to find a remote site as far up the waters as the ships would go.

The Eagle Has Landed

In the very early pre-dawn hours of August 25, 1777 the British Army began to disembark at Head of Elk.  In order to surprise the Americans, Howe had avoided the well-defended Delaware Bay.  He had also avoided all of the established ports in the Chesapeake that would have made the landing much easier.

Head of Elk was a tiny hamlet without a large port.  The water in the area was shallow and muddy.  The British ships of the line could not simply pull up to a port and disembark their soldiers.  The weary men, who had been stuck aboard ship for six weeks, had to climb down onto smaller boats to row ashore.  Much of the army unloaded at Turkey Point, a small ferry on the Elk River.  The process of moving more than fifteen thousand soldiers ashore, along with their equipment, was a slow and tedious process.  The Howe brothers were fortunate that the Americans did not confront them at the landing site.  Fighting a battle while disembarking could easily have become a nightmare for the British.  The ships were also vulnerable with no room to maneuver.

British Fleet offloads at Turkey Point
By the end of a long day, a large portion of the army still remained aboard ship.  While those who had landed began to settle into camps and scout out the area, many more still spent another night on the water.  Aside from the thousands of men, there were many tons of equipment, including hundreds of cannons and tens of thousands of cannon balls, not to mention food, tents, and other supplies.  Loading the ships had taken weeks.  Unloading them in days was a backbreaking process.  The British did not know when the Americans might attack and wanted to get moving as quickly as possible.

By the end of the second day, Tuesday, most of the army had unloaded, including all the horses.  More than half of the 320 horses that had been loaded onto ships in New York and died before the Maryland landing.  Poor food and conditions made survival difficult.  Many of the horses still alive would need time to recuperate. Many of the soldiers were not in much better shape.  Twenty-seven soldiers had died during the six week voyage, and many more were sick.  Even for those not bed-ridden, weeks of poor conditions below deck with meager rations meant that they needed time to recover.  It would still be several more days before all the arms and equipment, including the tents for the soldiers, would be unloaded.

To make things worse for most of the soldiers, who did not yet have their tents, a terrible rain soaked the men.  They had to scrambled to build crude shelters for themselves.  A large amount of British gunpowder was also water damaged.

The trip to Maryland from New York had required the men to remain on board for as long as a typical cross Atlantic trip from Britain usually took.  For all of that effort, the British army still faced about a fifty mile march to Philadelphia.  Three months earlier, the British army had encamped in Brunswick, New Jersey, only sixty miles northeast of Philadelphia.  When they were in New Brunswick, the Continental Army was behind them and nothing stood between the British and Philadelphia.  Now that they had moved to Maryland, Washington had time to move his army into position to defend the city.

Americans Meet the Enemy

General Washington had received word that the British were in the Chesapeake preparing to land about two days before the actual landing.  He had marched his Continental Army through Philadelphia on their way to the south in order to meet the enemy.

British route of attack (from Brandywine Battlefield)
By the evening of August 25, hours after the British had begun their debarkation, the Continentals set up camp at Wilmington Delaware, about 20 miles from the British landing point.  Rather than attacking immediately, General Washington sent out orders for Pennsylvania and Delaware militia to join the Continentals in Wilmington and prepare for an attack.  His men were tired after a two day march from their camp north of Philadelphia and needed to rest before they could engage with the enemy.  Some of his soldiers were still marching into town. Washington also did not have much good intelligence about the enemy.

That evening, Washington held a council of war with some of his top officers to decide whether they should attack the following day, or wait.  Our source for the meeting comes from a British officer who got the information from an aide of another officer who had attended the meeting, so third-hand information.  But according to that source, the French and German officers argued that they should strike right away while the British were still getting unloaded.  The American officers counseled to wait.  They needed to find out exactly what strength they were facing, continue to gather their own forces, and preferably force Howe to attack the Americans at a location of the American’s choosing.

Washington agreed to wait on any attack.  The next morning, August 26, General Washington set out personally to reconnoiter the enemy.  With him were General Greene, the Marquis de Lafayette, and a new brigadier general, George Weedon.

George Weedon

Back in Episode 131, I mentioned that congress had appointed a whole pack of new generals, including nine brigadiers in one day.  One of those new appointees was George Weedon.  Since this is the first time I’ve had cause to mention him, I’ll give him a short introduction.

George Weedon (Wikimedia)
Weedon was born in Virginia to a minor plantation owner.  He received a commission during the French and Indian war, rising to the rank of lieutenant-captain by the end of the war.  Following the war, he married, and took over his wife’s family’s tavern near Fredericksburg.  Weedon was acquainted with Washington, not only through his military service, but also because Washington was a frequent patron of his tavern.  Weedon was also the brother in law of Hugh Mercer.  The two men had married sisters.

Weedon was an outspoken patriot at his tavern.  One English traveler noted that Weedon was “very active and zealous in blowing the seeds of sedition.”  In 1774, he and Mercer formed an independent militia company of patriots.  Once the war began, Weedon took a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Third Virginia Regiment which soon was incorporated into the Continental Army.  In the first year of the war, Weedon’s regiment remained in Virginia, defending attacks led by Royal Governor Lord Dunmore.  When the Continentals moved to New York, Weedon’s regiment joined them.

Weedon distinguished himself, participating in the crossing of the Delaware. Washington put him in command of moving the Hessian prisoners back to Pennsylvania after the battle of Trenton.  As part of Congress’ plan to greatly enlarge the Continental Army following the Princeton victory, Weedon received his commission as brigadier general.

Scouting the British

Washington’s small company reached a hill about two miles from the enemy camp, where they could view the British.  That afternoon, a terrible rain storm caused the generals to take shelter in a nearby farmhouse, where they spent the night.  Everyone agreed that it was a great risk.  If an informer word got back to the British that Washington was nearby without his army, it would have been an easy step to capture him, much like they had done to Charles Lee the previous year.  Washington’s luck held out though.  His small troop left at dawn the following morning and rode back to the American lines.  Later that day, General Howe set up command in the same house.  There is also a story that both General Howe and General Washington at one point spotted each other both on hills about one mile apart, both men carefully watching the other.

Over the next few days, both armies continued to consolidate and maneuver.  The British and Hessian scouts scoured the area for supplies and friendly locals.  General Washington continued to survey the land personally, looking for ground to set up a proper defense, as well as figure out exactly what path the British army might take.

Village of Wilmington, DE (from Soc. of Cincinnati)
Part of Washington’s problem in setting a defense was that he was not sure where the British might move.  The almost certain end goal was Philadelphia.  But Howe could move his army up the coast of the Delaware River, and rely on the support of the British Navy as it also worked its way up the river.  Another possibility was that the British could move on Lancaster, where there were large amounts of relatively unguarded stores and supplies. There were also hundreds of British and Hessian prisoners of war being held in that area.

Such a large scale raid across the farms and villages to the west of Philadelphia would have made the landing in the Chesapeake Bay much more sensible.  Otherwise, why didn’t Howe simply march across New Jersey? That would have been much faster and forced the same sort of confrontation with Washington’s Continentals.  Washington also feared a possibility that the British might try a two pronged attack, with Howe moving on Philadelphia from the south While General Henry Clinton marched a second British Army out of New York City to attack Philadelphia from New Jersey.  It was even possible that General Burgoyne might march through New York in time to join up with a final three-pronged push on Philadelphia.

British Advance

In truth, the British did not even seem sure of exactly what they would do next.  General Howe left a few regiments at Turkey Point to defend the fleet as it slowly made its way back out to the Chesapeake.  General Howe and Admiral Howe agreed that the fleet would sail back to the Delaware Bay and up the Delaware River where the army and navy would meet again at New Castle, Delaware.  But as we will see, that never happened.  British officers complained that they had no maps of the area and no intelligence about the enemy or the locals.  Since the few horses they had were too sick to ride, they had no cavalry to reconnoiter the area.  Hopes of attracting many local loyalists to assist the army quickly faded.

Despite these setbacks, the British had no choice but to move forward.  Even before the entire British Army had made it to land, the British began to explore the area around them.  Some of the first troops off the ships were Howe’s best light infantry, grenadiers, and Hessian jaegers.  The soldiers began to scout the area for miles around, looking for food and forage.  They also prepared to meet with local Tories, who they were told were common in the area.  However, they found most of the land abandoned.  Much of the area was still an unsettled wilderness.  Locals had largely abandoned the region, going into hiding.

General Howe had issued strict orders to prevent his soldiers from marauding the region.  A key part of his plan was returning the King’s peace to the region and convincing people so disposed to support the regulars in their efforts to reclaim the region.  On August 27, two days after the landing began, Howe published another one of his declarations offering pardon to any rebels who surrendered and took an oath to support the King.

Howe’s hungry soldiers were more concerned about finding food.  They did capture some abandoned farm animals, and also hunted the abundant wildlife in the region.  Some of the Hessian jaegers reported good hunting, but so much effort without rest after leaving the ships resulted in several of them dying from heatstroke.

They were also interested in plunder.  As Captain John André put it, “There was a good deal of plunder committed by the Troops, notwithstanding the strictest prohibitions.” One soldier was accused of chopping off the fingers of a local woman in order to steal her rings.  General Howe issued orders to execute any soldier found leaving camp without orders or found with plunder.

Howe’s orders to execute his own soldiers for plundering was not the only concern for British and Hessian soldiers. On August 31, one officer recorded that his men had found two regulars on the side of the road with their throats slit. Two other grenadiers were found hanged.  In each of these cases the victims were believed to have been plundering people’s homes.  None of this seemed to discourage continued attacks on whatever small villages or isolated farms that the armies could find.  One British officer in a letter home noted the pervasive and shocking level of plundering.  In his letter, he expressed concern that someday these lawless British soldiers might return home and be unleashed on the English countryside.  Of course, plundering was not one-sided, on September 4, Washington included an angry rant about his own soldiers plundering local civilians, saying there would be no mercy for any offenders who were caught.

Battle of Cooch’s Bridge

Plundering aside, Howe was eager to get his army on the move.  He had tried to send out scouts almost as soon as the first soldiers had landed, but torrential rain and the condition of his soldiers delayed any large movements for several days.  It would be more than a week before his army began to make any significant movements.

The scouts, mostly Hessians, who did venture out found a hostile welcome. Local militia fired on a Hessian advance force at Gilpin’s Bridge.  The militia destroyed the bridge and pulled back.  Militia did report capturing nearly 100 prisoners and deserters as they picked off small groups of foraging parties.  Some smaller groups were not captured, but simply ambushed and killed.

To assist with the harassment of the British, Washington put together a temporary regiment of 700 riflemen, one hundred pulled from each of the seven Continental brigades.  He put this special force under the command of General William Maxwell.  Normally, this sort of duty would have been covered by Daniel Morgan’s riflemen, but Washington had dispatched Morgan to upstate New York to assist with the defense against General Burgoyne’s northern army, still on the march at this same time.  The riflemen were supplemented by another three hundred militia to occupy Iron Hill, the high ground near Cooch’s Bridge in Delaware.  This was about six miles northeast of the Head of Elk, and about fifteen miles south of Washington's main encampment in Wilmington, Delaware.

Battle of Cooch's Bridge (from Delaware Way)
Iron Hill gave a good view of the whole region, from the Delaware River to the east, to the Head of Elk Landing where the British fleet had just landed.  It sat on the southwestern side of the Christiana Creek, where some officers had recommended that Washington make his stand.  Instead, Washington remained with the main army further back near Wilmington.  He relied on Maxwell to make the first engagement.

On September 3, Hessian jaegers approached Iron Hill.  While they were still miles away, they ran into an ambush.  Skirmishers on both sides engaged in a running battle back to the hill, where the bulk of Maxwell’s Continentals had entrenched themselves for a defense.  About 450 jaegers approached the roughly 1000 defenders.  As the two sides fired on each other, another 1300 British grenadiers and other regulars marched up to support the jaegers.

The two sides engaged in a firefight lasting most of the day, about seven hours.  There is sometimes a popular myth that the British always fought in lines and did not hide behind trees or other cover as the Americans did.  In truth both sides used both traditional and nontraditional tactics as the circumstances dictated.  Descriptions of the jaeger assault on Iron Hill have Hessian soldiers crawling on the bellies in the underbrush as they moved forward, taking shots at the enemy when the opportunity arose.

As the battle progressed, the British brought up three cannons to use against the Continentals.  The Continentals had no artillery, but were able to keep the enemy at bay with their rifles.  The Americans, however, did not carry extra ammunition, and over the course of the day simply ran out of bullets.

Later in the day, General Howe had personally joined the front lines.  He ordered the Hessians to storm the hill and drive off the Americans.  There is an account of some fierce hand to hand fighting on the hill, although the casualty rates for the day do not seem to suggest it.  The Continentals held Cooch’s Bridge until the soldiers on Iron Hill had a chance to cross.  The British then stormed the bridge, driving back the Continentals.  According to British reports, the Americans fled back toward Wilmington in poor order, abandoning their wounded.

Casualties for what later became known as either the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge or the Battle of Iron Hill are, as usual, much in dispute.  Some British accounts list only three killed and twenty wounded.  Other accounts say as many as thirty were killed and a similar number wounded.  One eyewitness says ten wagons full of wounded moved back to the main British camp.  American reports say they had about twenty killed and another twenty wounded. But British reports state that they buried 41 American bodies.

Whatever the exact numbers, the fighting at Cooch’s Bridge would be the only battle to take place in Delaware during the course of the war.  Washington braced for a British assault in Delaware on his lines near Red Clay Creek.

Instead, General Howe gave up on his plans to meet up with the British Navy at New Castle on the Delaware River.  After taking Iron Hill, Howe remained in place for several days, using the hill to reconnoiter the region.  The Americans sent skirmishers to harass British outposts over the next few days but made no attempt to retake the hill.

On September 8, before dawn, the British and Hessians packed up, marched through Newark, Delaware and continued north to Hockessin.  This was around Washington’s right flank.  At that point, the British could have chosen to assault the Americans and push them back against the Delaware River.  Howe sent a force that came within two miles of Washington’s lines, giving the impression that might be the plan.

However, Howe had no intention of attacking Washington on the ground of Washington’s choosing.  Instead, Howe turned his army northwest, moving into Pennsylvania.  By avoiding a battle, Howe could have simply marched miles to the west, and then north toward Philadelphia.  The Continentals had no real defenses along this route.

In order to avoid this, Washington had to march his soldiers west, taking up a position along the Brandywine River.  That is where the Continentals made their new plan to make a stand against the British Army.

- - -

Next Episode 158 Battle of Brandywine 

Previous Episode 156 The Siege of Fort Henry

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolutionary War, The Philadelphia Campaign 1777:

George Weedon:

George Weedon:

Howe Declaration Aug. 27, 1777:

Delaware in the American Revolution:

Ecelbarger, Gary "George Washington's 1777 Wilmington, Delaware, Headquarters: Insights to an Unmarked Site" Journal of the American Revolution

The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge:

The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge:

Letter from George Washington to Major General John Armstrong, Sr., 25 August 1777, Founders Online, National Archives

Letter from George Washington to John Hancock, 25 August 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives:

Sullivan, Thomas. “Before and after the Battle of Brandy-Wine. Extracts from the Journal of Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of H.M. Forty-Ninth Regiment of Foot.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 31, no. 4, 1907, pp. 406–418.

Baurmeister, Carl, et al. “Letters of Major Baurmeister during the Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 59, no. 4, 1935, pp. 392–419. JSTOR,

W. H. Moomaw. “The Denouement of General Howe's Campaign of 1777.” The English Historical Review, vol. 79, no. 312, 1964, pp. 498–512. JSTOR,

Ecelbarger, Gary “Washington’s Head of Elk Reconnaissance: A New Letter (and an Old Receipt)”
Journal of the American Revolution, April 16, 2020:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Proceedings at the unveiling of the monument at Cooch's Bridge, Historical Society of Delaware, 1902.

Hooton, Francis C.The Battle of Brandywine with its lines of battle, Wm. Stanley Ray, 1900.

Kauffman, Gerald J. and Michael R. Gallagher The British Invasion of Delaware, Aug-Sep 1777,, 2013 (Univ. Del. website).

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965 (borrow only)

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Harris, Michael C. Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777, Savis Beatie, 2014.

Kauffman, Gerald J. and Michael R. Gallagher The British Invasion of Delaware, Aug-Sep 1777,, 2013 (book recommendation of the week).

McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign Vol. 1, Stackpole Books, 2006.

Mowday, Bruce September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia,  White Mane, 2002.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Pioneer Press, 1980 (orig. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965).

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.