The Battle of the Brandywine in Pennsbury Township

Pennsbury Township battle took place Sept.11th 1777 from early morning to late afternoon at which point it shifted towards Birmingham and Chadds Ford Township. A good part of the battle was under the direct command of George Washington who used telescopes, flags and horsemen to direct the action.

General William Maxwell headed the forces in Pennsbury Township. Maxwell was Washington's first commander of the light infantry troops known as Maxwell's Brigade. Maxwell enjoyed to the last the special regard of Gen. Washington, who frequently eulogized him in his letters. Unfortunately for biographical purposes, Gen. Maxwell's house took fire just after the close of the Revolution, and all his valuable papers and correspondence were destroyed,"-The First Sussex Centenary, Newark, 1853, p. 60. Most historians have largely ignored or downplayed the morning action in Pennsbury Township due this lack of papers and correspondences.
General Howe's British army composed of 17,000 troops, 1,000 of whom where involved with artillery, were engaged in the Battle of Brandywine. Click Here for The Montresor Journals showing 17,000 troops During the early morning of Sept. 11th 1777 the greater part of the British forces with their artillery made its way from Kennett Square directly to Pennsbury Township while a smaller force of 7,000 British troops made its way up the Brandywine 17 miles to cross and flank Washington's forces late in the afternoon. Click Here for The Montresor Journals showing 7,000 of the troops marched out of Kennett Square up the west side of the Brandywine towards Trumbull's Ford Other sources indicate the British force was anywhere between 11,000 and 17,000 men but the Montresor Journals indicates the "gros" of the forces marched directly to Pennsbury Township.

From early morning until about 10 o'clock Patriot forces directly battled the "gros" of the British force in Pennsbury Township, inflicting heavy losses after which the British "lay upon their arms in a close valley covered with wood". British Sgt. Thomas Sullivan notes "Twas about ten o'clock and the 2nd with all the Hessians and Artillery joined us, after we pursued the rebels as close as we could without being in danger of their cannon above the ford, all the men lay upon the arms in a close valley covered with wood." This "close valley" has to be Ring Run valley, a very sharp valley starting where the old part of McFadden road transverses Ring Run. After 10 o'clock Patriot forces several times crossed the Brandywine inflicting more losses on the British.

The battle in Pennsbury Township raged from morning to evening. It included the largest artillery battle of the nation, the first under our new flag. Click Here for Flag Info About 5:30pm when the battle shifted to Birmingham Township, the battle in Pennsbury Township came to an end with an enormous roar of cannon and charge of men.

From Chadds Peak shot poured across Ring Run valley striking British in the McFadden road area. Add Proctor's cannons and the considerable American force propelled the British artillery, Queen's Ranger's, Ferguson riflemen and regiments back up Ring Run valley and off the Ring Run hills, up McFadden road area, across the pike to William Harvey Sr. house (0.2 miles behind Gables on Brinton's Bridge Road) at which point additional British reinforcements and artillery stalled the scouring. This part of the battle made a lasting impression on the American troops in that so many British where killed and so few Americans. As the stories of the battle spread thousands of additional men were inspired to join Washington's forces next spring.

Washington Salutes Congress on the Way to Brandywine

A view at Barns Brinton Tavern

Barns Tavern

Chadds Ford Historical Society

Map prepared by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in 1918 showing the roads as they were at the time of the battle. The road we call McFadden Road intersected with Hillendale Rd at Twin Turns near bottom left of the image. The two creeks running under McFadden Road down to "Rings Run" can be seen today. The cart path running a little above and parallel with "Rings Run" is visable in parts through the woods . Chadds Peak is right about where the 'R' of "Rings Run" is. The '3' on the map marks the location where a large bronze tablet was erected by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, September 11th 1915. The '3' is located at the intersection of McFadden Road and Old Baltimore Pike.
McFadden Road Area
The bronze tablet was long ago torn down perhaps to make way for developers.

McFadden Road Area

McFadden Road Area

Map drawn by the British doesn't show all the cart paths. Notice the many red and blue boxes on Old Baltimore Pike. This part of the road still exists today across from Brinton-King barn (Gables restaurant) at the top of McFadden Road. The line (hard to see) running down and across Ring Run creek represents the movement of British troops which where under heavy action from Proctor, Maxwell and others. The little Xs mark stationary British Cannon positions near McFadden Road on Geewax area.
Battle Map

Map drawn the day after the battle by British also doesn't show all the cart paths. Notice the rectangles near Chadds Peak. These mark areas of heavy action.

Battle Map

Another map drawn the day after the battle.

Battle Map

A view of the 1714 Barns-Brinton Tavern in Pennsbury Township before "Ye Great Road" was moved to the north side of the building in 1938. This is the view the 10,000 men British force had when approaching Chadds Ford. Notice the ridge in the distance. Right beyond this ridge is McFadden Road which runs to the right and down to Ring Run where British Sgt. Thomas Sullivan noted "Twas about ten o'clock and the 2nd with all the Hessians and Artillery joined us, after we pursued the rebels as close as we could without being in danger of their cannon above the ford, all the men lay upon the arms in a close valley covered with wood." i.e. Ring Run valley. Beyond the entrance to McFadden Road is the long drop to the flats leading to the Brandywine.

Image from here: Chadds Ford Historical Society
From McFadden Road area, an early 2007 view of Chadds Peak, the largest and steepest hill in the entire area and location of the late Chadds Peak ski resort Click for Chadds Peak Ski Info. Notice one of the old ski trails running down the middle of the peak. The Revolutionary war artifacts (see below) were found near the bottom left of the photo.

The Battle of the Brandywine was the bloodiest battle of the revolution for the Britsh. As indicated below at least 898 British and Hessian where killed or wounded in the lower Chadds Ford battle zone and 1088 in the upper part of the battle.

August 31st 1777 Washington sent a detachment to Pyle's ford in Chadds Ford. About this time he was out scouting the area and had dinner at the Ring house.

To THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS Wilmington, August 30, 1777. I was reconnoitring the Country and different Roads all Yesterday and am setting out on the same business again. August 30th, 1777

GENERAL ORDERS Head Quarters, Wilmington, August 31, 1777 Genl. Potter will order two battalions of Militia, (each to be 250 strong, rather more than fewer) to march, one to Richling's ling's ford, and the other to Gibson's ford, (Gibson's Ford is in Chadds Ford i.e Pyle's Ford) to take post on the east side of the Brandiwine, and fix upon the best ground for defending those passes August 31th, 1777

As indicated above, several days before the battle General Washington, General La Fayette, Count Pulaski, Gen. Knox, and others visited Chadds Ford and had dinner with the family in Ring House (Washington's headquarters). From the Ring House family:

"I have heared my father say that the visit of Washington and his staff created considerable sensation in the neighborhood for a few days, but before the morning of that memorable day it had relapsed into the wonted quiet; the husbandman was at his labor, the flocks feeding in the village, and on the peaceful hills of the Brandywine, but on the morning of September 11th, 1777, he said, the Americans began to come in, in such numbers, that he felt perfectly secure he thought that there were not enough men on the habitable globe to overpower them.

"In about an hour the Britsh began to pour in, all the Brandywine hills appeared scarlet, in the meantime the booming of cannon commenced, which shook the ground. He stated that he thought from the firing, thousands would be left dead on the fields.

"In the morning some of the American spies informed grandfather that he and his family had better get away from the place, for it would not be safe to stay there, and that they had no time to lose. A one horse vehicle rigged in a few minutes and things of the most value placed in it, in as quick time as possible, but time proved too short, grandmother and some of the girls took passage in carriages, and I think, if I mistake not, your father drove the horse, but they had not proceeded far before they met the American soliders. The road became completely blocked up, and the horse and carriage with its contents of valuables, was abandoned, and grandmother, the girls and your father made their escape across the fields."

The American action in Pennsbury Township was headed by Brigadier General Maxwell who commanded the American Light Infantry known as Maxwell's Brigade. He was immensely liked by his men and by Washington. Maxwell was a clever veteran of the French and Indian war. He formed a brigade of handpicked riflemen, sharpshooters and hunters hailing from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and most likely all the other colonies.

In August, Washington authorized Maxwell to garnish 117 men from each of the 11 brigades to form a twelfth brigade. On the day of the battle Washington and Maxwell probably added more to the brigade given the opportunity provided by the topography and vegetation. Click here for more information about Maxwell

Sept. 7th, 1777 Washington orders all sick to Birmingham Meeting House
GENERAL ORDERS Head Quarters, Newport, September 7, 1777.
No more sick to be sent to Concord, but to Birmingham. Sept. 7th 1777

Sept. 10th, the day before the battle, Maxwell's scouts sounded an alarm cannon when a detachment of British went to a tavern for water. Before dawn, riflemen, sharpshooters and hunters lined the defiles, woods and hills along the road to Chadds Ford. They were armed with Pennsylvania rifles (Kentucky rifles.), other rifles, muskets and artillery. Maxwell set three major ambushes.

11th September 1777 the first British and loyalist troops came down the road from Kennett Square, Major Patrick Ferguson's Riflemen and the Queen's Rangers (Click here for more information about Ferguson and Queen's Rangers) , followed by two British brigades (4th, 5th, 23rd, 49th, 10th, 27th, 28th, 40th Foot and three battalions of Fraser's 71st Highlanders) and a Hessian brigade. The column was commanded by the Hessian Lieutenant General Knyphausen. He had a squadron of 16th Light Dragoons and guns.

The topography of this area, in a military aspect, impressed the English chief of engineers as "an amazing strong country, being a succession of large hills, rather sudden with narrow vales, in short an entire defile." 1 Journal of Capt. John Montressor, Penna. Mag. of History, vol. v. p. 415.

Heath to Morgan about Porterfield's early action:

Brigadier General George Weedon's Correspondence Account of the Battle of Brandywine:
Sept. 11th 1777
... The Enemy appeared & formed on the high Grounds in Front, they soon engaged Maxwell & he with great Firmness repulsed them twice with much Loss; they were reinforced & he retreated in good Order about 10, crossed & formed on the Banks of the River - the rest of the Army were Spectators of the Gallantry of this little Corps, who frequently crossed & skirmished with the Enemy in the Course of the Day ...

Journal of Colonel Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts:

September 11th. This morning a cannonade took place, the enemy having advanced to the heights opposite to those occupied by us, on the other side of the ford. A hot skirmish took place between our light troops, under Maxwell, and a party of Hessians, in which the latter were chiefly killed and wounded, not thirty running away, it being judged by Maxwell that three hundred of them were killed and wounded. The enemy made no attempt to cross at this place The cannonade was mutual; theirs did us no harm, save killing one man.

" Philadelphia, Sept. 13, 1777.
' Honored Sir,
" You should certainly have heard from me before this time, but the continual hurry and almost constant movements we have been engaged in, have prevented it.-

"The inclosed* contains some account of an action on the llth instant; which, thoagh unfortunately it wears the appearance of a defeat, you may be assured is the most unlucky affair that general Howe has ever encountered on this continent.-Our loss in killed, wounded and missing, as near as any judgment can be formed (for no return has yet been made) may amount to between five and six hundred at most;-though numbers who were missing, and thought to be lost, are now coming in :-Three hundred and fifty, I should suppose, were wounded, and the most of them safely brought off by our people;-the rest may have been killed, or fallen into the hands of the enemy. All this is merely supposition, and I would, by no means, have it regarded as an accurate computation ;-it may give some idea until the matter can be properly ascertained.

"The enemy sustained a much greater loss; you may at least rate it at the double of ours.-I was myself a witness to the havock which general Maxwell made among them in the morning, being directly on the opposite side of Brandywine.

" Had it not been for the incongruous information which general Washington received, concerning the movement of the enemy's main body to our right; had we been apprized of it in time to bring up our whole army, and form, I believe, in my soul, that day would have put an end to the British army in America; but the division in front was attacked before they knew where the enemy were, and of consequence gave way; being supported, they afterwards rallied, and after a long and sharp conflict, checked the progress of the enemy.-They were in possession of the field, and we might have remained in the neighborhood; -it was however thought preferable to retire, and the whole army, at present, occupy their old ground near Germantown.

" It is thought we will not remain here more than one night, but advance to meet the enemy, who have employed the whole of yesterday in 'burying their dead, and dressing their wounded; these must be a great clog upon any of their future movements, as they have no shipping or other place of safety to deposit them in. I am inclined to think they will not advance towards this city, but take post at Wilmington, where their wounded may be taken care of, and they wait for their fleet to come up the Delaware.

" General Smallwood, with four thousand militia of Maryland and the lower Counties, is on the march, and will be in their rear ; and the same number of Jersey men are coming down to us.-The next will be an important week

"I am persuaded that our men can fight them upon equal terms, and I hope we shall not wait for them to attack us again

"Our troops in high spirits, and will march towards the enemy with much greater cheerfulness than they did from them

"And am, with the greatest esteem and affection, your dutiful son,

*Harrison and Washington's letters to congress, on the day and evening of their defeat at Brandywine. Click here for info about Livingston

At least 898 British were killed or wounded in this southwest battle zone and 1088 in Birmingham Township area.

Southwest battle zone British Totals and Casualties recorded by a British Officer:

Second Brigade:------------------------2,240---------580
Queen's Rangers--------------------------480---------290
Sub Total------------------------------3,520---------898

Men sent from the Pike - McFadden Road area towards Brinton's Bridge:
Second Battalion, Guards-----------------500---Unknown Casualties
Second Battalion, Second Highlanders-----700---Unknown Casualties
Second Battalion, Seventieth Highlanders-700---Unknown Casualties

Total British in Pennsbury Battle: 5,420. Casualties: 898 + Unknown Casualties.

British and Hessian Killed and Wounded in the entire battle:

"The official letter of Sir William Howe stated his loss at rather less than 100 killed and 400 wounded, and this account was accepted at the time as true. A late discovery shows its falsehood. Mr. Headley, in his recent "Life of Washington," notices the finding of a document which settles the question.

It was found, he says, among Gen. James Clinton's papers, carefully filed away and indorsed by himself. On the back, in his own handwriting, is inscribed: "Taken from the enemy's ledgers, which fell into the hands of General Washington's army at the action of Germantown."

Within is the following statement: "State of the British troops and position they were in when they made the attack at Brandywine, the 11th of September, 1777".

The upper ford, under the command of Lieutenant Lord Cornwallis:

------------------------------------------------------Killed and
Second Regiment, British Guards; Second------------------wounded.
Regiment, Light Infantry----------------------1,740---------612
Second Brigade, British Foot------------------2,240---------360
First Division, Hessians------------------------800----------70
Ferguson's Riflemen------------------------------80----------46

Middle ford, under the command of Major-General Gray:

Second Battalion, Guards 500---Unknown Killed wounded
Second Battalion, Second Highlanders 700---Unknown Killed wounded
Second Battalion, Seventieth Highlanders 700---Unknown Killed wounded
Total 1,900---Unknown Killed wounded

Lower Chadds Ford, under the command of Lieutenant-General Knyphausen:

Second Brigade, consisting of the Fourth,------------Killed and
Fifth, Tenth, Fifteenth, Twenty-third,----------------wounded.
Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Fortieth,
Forty-fourth, and Fifty-fifth Regiments-----2,240---------580
Hessians to the amount of---------------------800----------28
Queen's Rangers-------------------------------480---------290

The whole British force--------------------10,280-------1,986

The estimate, says Mr. Headley, of the total force which the British had on the field, makes the two armies actually engaged about equal. The heavy loss here given seems, at first sight, almost incredible, and puts an entirely different aspect on the battle. Of the authenticity and accuracy of this document I think there can be no doubt".

Graham's American Monthly Magazine 1854


Howe reported his own loss as only five hundred and seventy-eight killed and wounded but didn't want to encourage the "rebels".

John C. Fitzpatrick's information about the British casualties:

In the Papers of the Continental Congress (152, 5, folio 87) is "a true Copy of a Return found in one of the British officers Marquis at the time of the Engagement at Germantown on the 4th of October. 1777", which is headed "State British Forces and Disposition Septr 11th 1777 at the upper Ford under the Command Lt. Gl. Lord Cornwallis." The British loss at Brandywine appears on this paper as 1,976, but no distinction is made as to what proportion of this total were killed and what wounded. Charles Thomson has indorsed this document "Copy of a return of the British forces and of the killed and wounded at the Battle of Brandywine." Head Quarters, near Germantown, September 13, 1777

Jacob Hiltzheimer's diary indicates he saw the above document shortly after the Battle of Germantown which can be inspected at the American Philosophical Society's library at 105 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3386

"Certain it is that the English not continuing the pursuit is some evidence that they were in no condition to do so. Thomas Paine declared that Brandywine, "excepting the enemy keeping the ground, may be deemed a drawn battle," and that as Washington had collected his army at Chester, "the enemy's not moving towards him next day must be attributed to the disability they sustained and the burthen of their wounded." Paine's letter to Franklin, Penna. Mag. of History, vol. ii. p. 283

The battle was the largest engagement of the revolution and it inspired the nation. Preparations went on for over two years. The nation knew the British would try to take Philadelphia (the captial) and stockpiled cannon and powder for the eventuality.

"As stated in the letter hereinbefore quoted, giving an account of the activity in military affairs in the provinces as early as July, 1775, the people were busy "in making saltpetre." Grave apprehensions were entertained early in the war that possibly that commodity could not be had in sufficient quantity to meet the demand in making gunpowder. To prevent such a disaster the Committee of Safety made extraordinary efforts to instruct the people in the manner of preparing the necessary article. Hence the following advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet in February, 1776:


"Pursuant to the recommendation of the Committee of Safety for the Province of Pennsylvania to the Committee for Inspection for the County of Chester, Benjamin Brannan, Walter Finney, and John Beaton were appointed to attend the saltpetre manufactory in the City of Philadelphia, in order to perfect themselves in said art, We having complied therewith, do hereby give notice to all those whose public virtue and patriotic spirit would excite them to such a valuable and necessary undertaking at this crisis of time; that attendance will be given at the house of Benjamin Brannan, in Darby,2 on the 23d and 24th of February; at the house of Mr. Cochran, in East Fallowfield, on the 27th and 28th; at the house of Mr. Whithy (Withy), in the borough of Chester, on the 1st and second of March; at the house of Mr. Hood, in Oxford, on the 4th and 5th; at the house of Mr. Miller, in Birmingham, on the 6th and 7th; at the house of Mr. Bell, in Kennet, on the 12th and 13th; and at the house of Walter Finney, in New London, on the 14th and 15th of said month, in order to teach and instruct all persons who may please to apply at the times and places above mentioned.
Benjamin Brannan,
Walter Finney."
Ashmead History of Delaware County

More from Ashmead's History

By ten o'clock Maxwell had by the pressure of superior numbers been forced backward 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. (William Harvey house is 0.2 miles off of Route 1 on Brinton's Bridge Road behind Gables restaurant).

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 ititself 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.

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.

House of William Harvey, the elder, 0.2 miles off of Route 1 on east side of Brinton's Bridge Road behind Gables restaurant:

Ferguson Rifle used in the battle:

Ferguson Rifle

From then on until late in the afternoon a heavy cannon battle ("brisk fire") ensued. As mentioned above the largest cannon battle of the nation and the first under our newly adopted flag. (Congress had adopted the flag two months before the battle).
Continental Artillery

Letters at 5:00pm from Lower Ford area and midnight from Washington:

Letter to Congress:

CHAD'S FORD, September 11, 1777. 5 O'Clock, P.M.

WHEN I had the honor of addressing you this morning, I mentioned that the enemy were advancing and had began a cannonade. I would now beg leave to inform you, that they have kept up a brisk fire from their artillery ever since. Their advanced party was attacked by our light troops under General Maxwell, who crossed the Brandywine for that purpose, and had posted his men on some high grounds on each side the road. The fire from our people was not of long duration, as the enemy pressed on in force, but was very severe. What loss the enemy sustained cannot be ascertained with precision, but from our situation and briskness of the attack, it is the general opinion, particularly of those who were engaged, that they had at least three hundred men killed and wounded. Our damage is not exactly known, but from the best accounts we have been able to obtain, it does not exceed fifty in the whole. After this affair the enemy halted upon the heights, where they have remained ever since, except a detachment of them which filed off about eleven o'clock from their left, and which has since passed Brandywine at Jones's Ford, between five and six miles above Chad's; the amount of it is not known, accounts respecting it being various--some making it two or three thousand strong, and others more. Generals Sullivan, Stirling, and Stevens, with their divisions, are gone in pursuit and to attack it, if they can with any prospect of success. There has been a scattering loose fire between our parties on each side the brook, since the action in the morning, which just now became warm, when General Maxwell pushed over with his corps, and drove them from their ground, with the loss of thirty men left dead on the spot, among them a Captain of the 49th, and a number of intrenching tools, with which they were throwing up a battery.

At half after Four o'clock the enemy attacked General Sullivan at the Ford and above this, and the action has been very violent ever since. It still continues. A very severe cannonade has began here too, and I suppose we shall have a very hot evening. I hope it will be a happy one.

I have the honor to be, in great haste,
Sir, your most obedient servant,
The Honorable JOHN HANCOCK, Esquire.
Published by Order of Congress.

CHESTER, September 11, 1777. Twelve o'Clock at Night.

SIR, I AM sorry to inform you that in this day's engagement we have been obliged to leave the enemy masters of the field. Unfortunately the intelligence received of the enemy's advancing up the Brandywine, and crossing at a Ford about six miles above us, was uncertain and contradictory, notwithstanding all my pains to get the best. This prevented my making a disposition adequate to the force with which the enemy attacked us on our right; in consequence of which the troops first engaged were obliged to retire before they could be reinforced. -- In the midst of the attack on the right, that body of the enemy which remained on the other side of Chad's Ford, crossed it, and attacked the division there under the command of General Wayne and the light troops under General Maxwell; who after a severe conflict also retired. The Militia under the command of General Armstrong, being posted at a Ford about two miles below Chad's, had no opportunity of engaging. But though we fought under many disadvantages, and were from the causes above mentioned, obliged to retire; yet our loss of men is not, I am persuaded, very considerable; I believe much less than the enemy's. We have also lost seven or eight pieces of cannon, according to the best information I can at present obtain. -- The baggage having been previously moved off is all secure; saving the men's blankets, which being at their backs, many of them doubtless were lost.

I have directed all the troops to assemble behind Chester, where they are now arranging for this night. -- Notwithstanding the misfortune of the day, I am happy to find the troops in good spirits; and I hope another time we shall compensate for the losses now sustained.

The Marquis La Fayette was wounded in the leg, and General Woodford in the hand. Divers other officers were wounded, and some slain, but the numbers of either cannot now be ascertained.

..........I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient humble servant,

.......... G. WASHINGTON.

P. S. It has not been in my power to send you earlier intelligence; the present being the first leisure moment I have had since the action.
.......... Published by Order of Congress,
.......... CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.

A captured American made cannon from the battle is (or was) in the Tower of London.

No matter the exact figures, stories of the battle spread throughout the colonies with accounts of four British deaths for each American death. Next spring Washington received thousands of additional volunteers.


(from Library of Congress)

Richard Henry Lee to Patrick Henry

My dear Sir, Phila. Septr. 13. 1777 On the 11th instant at Chads ford on the Brandywine about 10 miles above Wilmington we had a most bloody battle with Gen. Howes whole Army... But Gen. Howe may say with Pyrrhus, such another victory will ruin me. Every account of Officers and Country people who have been in the field since the Action say the enemies loss in killed & wounded must be between 2 & 3000. Nothing proves this more strongly than their remaining yet upon the field of battle, when every interest called upon them to push. Our loss in killed & wounded scarcely comes up to 500. The Militia were never engaged, nor was a strong division of our Army much in battle...

Henry Laurens to George Galphin

Dear Sir,(1) 16th Septmber 1777. ... Mr. Holmes will relate to you the Substance of our present accounts of the Battle of Brandywine fought on Thursday the 11th Inst. in which our brave American Troops shewed they were not to be intimidated by Cannon or fixed Bayonets, both which they opposed with undaunted Courage from 9 in the Morning to Sunset & although from an unlucky mistake they lost the Feild & 7 or 8 Peices of Cannon, yet they made their antagonists pay for the purchase very dearly. This is proved by their inability to pursue the advantage. They have remained ever Since on the Same ground, their principal employment burying their dead & dressing & housing the wounded, which from the modest accounts exceede the losses on our Side at least Quadruple. ...

William Williams to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Hond Sir Philadela. Sepr. 13th. 1777, Saturd. Eveng. ...Between 8 & 9 oClock in the morning the Enemy attempted to force a passage over the Brandywine river at Chads Ford near which our main Body was placed, they began a heavy Canonade which was returnd & brot on a prodigious Fire, wherein we had great advantage &ca in an Engagemt which lasted till about 11...

Richard Henry Lee to Mann Page

Phila. Sept. 15, 1777. Reports on the battle of Brandywine. "Gen.Washington marched his army here after the battle and having refreshed his men with a little rest &c he yesterday recrossed the Schuylkil and was this morning about 16 miles from hence and about 12 from the enemy. Our army is in very high spirits and eagerly wish to attack the enemy...

North Carolina Delegates to Richard Caswell

Sir Philada. Septr. 17th. 1777 On the 11th Instant there was a very severe Ingagement between the Armies of General Washington and Howe, on the Brandywine twelve Miles above Wilmington. The enemy made the attack at 8 oclock; it lasted with little intermission untill dark. The officers say the fire from the Cannon and small arms was the hottest they ever heard of, they kept the ground but paid dearly for it having from the best accounts we have had, lost upwards of 2000 men, one General & several Field officers killed & wounded supposed to be their best men. Our loss is said to be 700 killed & wounded tho' the greatest part of the latter were brought off. Only one field officer was killed a Major Bush...It is with pleasure we can inform you that our officers & soldiers are in good spirits anxious for an opportunity of obtaining revenge. You will observe from General Washington's letter to Congress (1) that our loosing the ground was owing to some mistake as to Intelligence relating to the movement of the enemy...

Elbridge Gerry to James Warren

My dear Sir Philadelphia Sepr 17. 1777 ...This occasioned the Removal of our Army to the N E Side of the Brandywine, on the Banks of which opposite Chads Ford they posted themselves. The Enemy approached this Ford on the Morning of the 11th, abt 3/4 after 8, & began a Cannonade, which We distinctly heard at this place (i.e. Philadelphia) & wch was returned by our Army untill 11, when it ceased for the most part. Here General Maxwell twice crossed with about 1000 of the continental Troops, which were picked from the several Brigades & formed into a Corps of light Infantry. The first Time he advanced about a Mile or two, & as the Enemy came on retreated to a pass or Defile, where he formed a Kind of an Ambuscade & poured on them a very heavy Fire. This did considerable Execution, as is agreed on all Sides, & their Loss is by the General's Computation which by far is the most modest, above three hundred killed & wounded. The second attack of Maxwells, by the Secretary's Letter left 30 of the Enemy dead on the Spot, & of Course the wounded were double the Number...

Thomas Burke to Richard Caswell

Dr Sir Burlington Sepr. 20th. 1777 By the same Opportunity which this goes, you will I hope receive a Letter from me in which I gave you a pretty circumstantial account of a very Important action which happened on the eleventh Instant on the Heights near Brandywine Creek.(1) Ever since we have been in Constant Expectation of another General Engagement, and not free from apprehensions from the Consequences. I for my own part would be at ease could I confide in the Abilities of our Superior General officers, for I had Occular proof that our Troops are very good...

Henry Laurens to William Brisbane

Dear Sir York 17th October 1777 ...we shall then for our Winter's amusement have little to do but with General Howe whose Situation in & about Philadelphia I can assure you from good authority is already very uneasy to him. The purchase even if he should succeed & keep footing would be counted very dear. Depend upon it in the Actions of Brandywine & German Town their Loss does not amount to less than 3000 Men to which may be added at least another Thousand by Sickness, desertion & Capture. Many considerable, & to them valuable Officers, are included in the Loss...


After the Brandywine, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America, Maj. General Howe, realized a larger force was needed. Charging that he was not properly supported by the home government, Howe resigned:

"In the spring of 1778, William Howe (1729-1814) received word that his resignation as commander in chief of British forces in America had been accepted. He would be able to return to England as soon as his replacement, Henry Clinton (1738-1795), arrived in Philadelphia. The much-criticized Howe resigned because he felt that the British government had not sent him enough troops; without them, he said, he could not be expected to win the Revolutionary War."

"In January 1778, Cornwallis returned to England and was promoted to Lieutenant General. During that time, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America Maj. General Howe had submitted his resignation. At first, it was not accepted. Eventually, it was accepted (14 April, 1778) and other generals were considered to be his replacement, including Cornwallis, but the cabinet finally settled on Lt. General Clinton."

American Cannons
American Cannons

Click here to see period mortar fire

American Cannons
Weapons of the American Revolution

It is said that most every blast of artillery from the Pennsbury Township part of the battle echoed throughout downtown Philadelphia. (Less traffic noise back then). Today one can see the tower of the Philadelphia airport and the fireworks at the Art Museum and Penn's Landing from the hills of McFadden road area.
The southern Chadds Ford battle (Pennsbury Township then Chadds Ford Township) is given little attention but it carried on from early morning to late afternoon. Some describe it as "skirmishes" and "plundering" but in reality our nation's forces held the hills of Ring Run - Chadds Peak area, were forced back then retook the hills as the British fought from Old Baltimore Pike - McFadden Road area. Cannon balls, bombshells and shot were hot and heavy. Our troops showed a lot of courage in the face of the largest and most advanced military of the time. They inflicted a heavy blow to the British who stayed in the area for five days burying the dead and treating the wounded. As indicated above, no matter the exact figures, stories of the battle rang throughout the colonies with accounts of four British deaths for each American death. After the Brandywine, now knowing the futility of the effort, Maj. General Howe submitted his resignation. The spirit of the new nation was high. It was now a matter of time before the revolution was won.

To view this battle arena, drive down McFadden Road. Most of the trees seen today were not present at the time of the battle i.e. the entire area was rich farmland bolstered by the many springs and the two pre-war spring houses along McFadden road. At the top of McFadden where it meets Old Baltimore Pike is where the above mentioned plaque was located. The old stone house at the intersection of McFadden and Old Baltimore Pike is said to have been used as a hospital by the British for the wounded in this part of the battle. (The owner has documents indicating its use as a hospital. More than likely the area around the house includes unmarked British graves). As you drive down the road the action was all around you and near the bottom from the right side to the left side ridge (Chadds Peak i.e. the steep hill with Ring Run creek at the bottom of it). This area is within range of Proctor's cannons. Any area much closer to the river especially the lower hills and flats of Chadds Ford was a no-go zone in that it was in direct line of sight for Protor's bombshell, cannon and grapeshot. For a time Washington was on a hill up Ring Road (to the right after the train track bed) with a telescope perhaps flagging the battle. On a civil war map of the Brandywine Valley (see map below) the hill was called "Washington's Hill" and is visible from the McFadden Road battle areas. For a better hill top view give me a call.

Near the end of Febuary 2006 purchased a metal detector. Within a short time (~30 mins.) found several buried artifacts possibly from the battle in the front yard (McFadden Road area) including a time fuze holder what appears could be British cannon flint holder (military secret?), a trowel perhaps used to dig an earth brace for cannon carriages along with other items.

Update: Found time to check the same area again. Within short order found what appears to be an iron rifle or handgun part with studs (curved part that runs from top behind barrel, back) and perhaps a ox or horse shoe. Some of the items match with photos from government site of British Encampment dig.

The bombshell fuze holder extracted near McFadden Rd.

Bombshell Fuze Extractor. Used for pulling fuzes. "A Treatise on Artillery" by John Muller, Published 1756:

An old British plate showing Bomshells with fuzes:

As far back as 1649 Cromwell used iron fuzes that where leaded in place: The History of Drogheda The History of Drogheda By John D'Alton. Vol.2 page 282)

The fall of Drogheda, September 11th, 1649. "By noon on 11 September, the heavy siege guns had blasted breaches in the southern and eastern walls and demolished the steeple of St Mary's Church. Around five o'clock that evening, Cromwell ordered the storming to begin.: The fall of Drogheda, 11 September 1649

Washington had 8" howitzers firing bomb shells, made at a Philadelphia cannon factory. Philadelphia Campaing

From Beatson's Naval & Military Memoirs of Great Britain, 1804. Ordnance taken from the Rebels near Brandywine Creek Sept. 11, 1777. Notice it includes thirty eight 8" howitzer shells: Beatson's Naval & Military Memoirs of Great Britain

The art of gunnery was a jealously guarded trade secret, and the trade was a closed guild. Artillerists were considered elite troops. They were known to be secretive in nature, not wanting knowledge to fall within the realm of the enemy. The Pennsbury battle included the largest artillery battle of the war, the first under our new flag. Washington's artillerists were well stocked with various guns and the finest black powders including French black powder.

With 10,000 British forces and the bulk of the British army's baggage in Pennsbury, no doubt the American batteries with the 8" howitzers fired bombshells at maximum range at such a large target. Range of a black powder 8" Howirtzer is ~2700 yards: Range of a black powder 8" Howirtzer

The size of the shell fuze hole was dictated by the size of the spindle needed to hold the core during the molding of the shell and also by the need to empty the inside of the shell from all the broken up inner core mold, i.e. the hole had to be large enough to allow the inner core of sand and clay to be broken up and removed from inside the newly cast shell. If the hole was too small this could vastly slow down the extraction of the inner sand and clay. A smaller hole would allow a much more violent explosion of the shell and the iron fuze plug essentially provided this smaller hole for larger shells.

Iron fuze adapters were leaded in-place before the shell was filled with powder. They were state of art fuzing for high ballistic exploding shells and were considered military secrets. They were less likely to blow through and cause a premature explosion under high ballistic firing. The smaller hole of the iron fuze adapter still allows easy filling of the shell with rifle powder. It also allows the use of standard size wood fuzes made for smaller shells which are pushed into the inner bore of the iron fuze adapter for use with the larger 8" shell fired with near maximum propellant load. Under such conditions plain wood fuzes would be more likely to blow-through. Iron fuze adapters were much heavier, stronger and much cheaper than copper and allowed the most violent explosion of the shell. The iron fuze adapters have rounded edges about the collar so that if it rubs against the bore of the gun on the way out, it will not dig into the bore as it would if it were a sharp edge. When the bombshell explodes the iron fuze adapter also acts as yet one more piece of deadly flying iron.



Click here for view of Trowel blade excavated at a British Revolutionary War camp. The handle attachment to blade area seems to match the trowel found near McFadden Road
A professional group has determined that the trowel found here is most likely from the 1700s.

During the spring of 2008 a professional team using metal detectors found a brass scabbard tip and buckle from a sword set buried within a few feet of the iron fuze holder and trowel which is a very unusual find in that sword sets were valuable and removed before burying the fallen soldiers. To our knowledge a brass scabbard tip has never been found in and around the entire site of the Battle of Brandywine.
Pennsbury Township map. The shaded area is part of the ten square mile Brandywine Battlefield National Historic Landmark which the U.S. Congress has declared a Priority One Endangered Landmark. The valley of Ring Run is at the foot of Chadds Peak. The creek along McFadden Road is clearly seen in one of the old maps above.

Click here for more information about Brandywine Battlefield National Historic Landmark

Warwick Furnace in Warwick Township on the southern branch of French Creek made many cannon, cannon balls and other iron items (including the first Franklin Stoves). They mined the oar on-site and used charcoal to fire the furnace. It also included a powder depot for the war. Washington moved his forces here for several days after the Battle of the Brandywine to resupply before moving on to winter in Valley Forge.
Credit: The Maryland Historical Society Warwick Furnace, Chester County, by Henry Latrobe, May 6, 1803

The Warwick Furnace was completed in 1738. During the Revolution, Potts and Rutter (owners) had an agreement with the Council of Safety to supply munitions for the continental Army. The Furnace was designated as an official arsenal. In 1776 it produced sixty cannon of twelve and eighteen pound calibre and thirty-seven forty-eight pound cannon. Warwick was larger than the average furnace of the day. One local historian claims that it was Pennsylvania's largest furnace after the Revolution.

Washington's Hill from Civil War Era map:

Congress adopted the stars and stripes in June so the Pennsbury battle was the first offical battle under the new flag. Click Here for Flag Info The all day artillery battle was the largest such battle of the nation and likewise was the first artillery battle under the new flag.


Preached on the eve of the Battle of Brandywine, (September 10, 1777,) in presence of Washington and his Army, at Chadd's Ford.

Before the drums beat evening call that signaled rest and sleep, a young chaplain named Joab Trout preached a remarkably eloquent sermon to a portion of the troops. The following transliteration is taken from a copy of the original in the New Hampshire State Archives which was transcribed at our Country's 1875 Centennial:

--We have met this evening perhaps for the last time. We have shared the toil of the march, the peril of the fight,the dismay of the retreat--alike we have endured toil and hunger, the contumely of the internal foe, the outrage of the foreign oppressor. We have sat night after night beside the same camp fire, shared the same rough soldier's fare; we have together heard the roll of the reveille which called us to duty, or the beat of the tattoo which gave the signal for the hardy sleep of the soldier, with the earth for his bed, the knapsack for his pillow.

And now, soldiers and brethren, we have met in the peaceful valley, on the eve of battle, while the sunlight is dying away beyond yonder heights, the sunlight that tomorrow morn will glimmer on scenes of blood. We have met, amid the whitening tents of our encampment--in times of terror and of gloom have we gathered together--God grant it may not be for the last time.

It is a solemn time. Brethren, does not the awful voice of nature, seem to echo the sympathies of this hour? The flag of our country, droops heavily from yonder staff--the breeze has died away along the plain of Chadd's Ford-the plain that spreads before us glistening in sunlight-the heights of the Brandywine arise gloomy and grand beyond the waters of yonder stream, and all nature holds a pause of solemn silence, on the eve of the bloodshed and strife of the morrow...

(Chaplain Joab Trout did not survive the battle.)

Artist: P. Patrick White

Artist: P. Patrick White

Artist: P. Patrick White

Uniforms of the American Revolution: American Farmers

3rd Pennsylvanian regiment 1777:


Artist: Don Troiani

Royal Artillery Gunner with common light 3lb. gun:

Artist: Don Troiani

2nd Pennsylvania Regiment:

2nd Penn

Artist: Don Troiani

British Grenadier 33rd Regiment of Foot. Fought at Brandywine:


Artist: Don Troiani

Continental Artillery Gun Crew

Artillery Gun Crew

Artist: Don Troiani

Here's an interesting tidbit:

"Molly Pitcher Fought at Battle of Brandywine in Male Disguise. September 11 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War when General George Washington had more troops under his command than he ever would have again. Among them may have been Molly Pitcher, America's most famous military woman, says Professor Linda Grant De Pauw."

"Mary Hays McCauley, who is usually considered the real Molly Pitcher, is identified with the Battle of Monmouth, fought in June 1778," says De Pauw. "But there is no contemporary evidence to confirm that. Her obituary notices do not mention any military service beyond support for her soldier husband, and the pension she received from the Pennsylvania legislature mentions 'services rendered during the Revolution,' but doesn't specify what those were. There is, however, a newspaper article published when the pension was awarded saying 'She was called Sgt. McCauly and was wounded at some battle, supposed to be the Brandywine, where her sex was discovered.' That means she was disguised as a man."

Dr. Linda Grant De Pauw is the Founder and President of the H-Minerva list. She earned her B.A. at Swarthmore College in 1961 and her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 1964. Currently Dr. De Pauw is Professor of History at George Washington University. She is also the editor and publisher of MINERVA: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military and Minerva's Bulletin Board.

Click here for info. about Henry Muhlenberg, the Muhlenberg (Bog) turtle and its relation to this battle site.

Click here for more info. about the Pennsbury Township part of the battle from

Click here for yet more Info. about the Pennsbury Township part of the battle from

Bryan Boardman 159 McFadden Road Chadds Ford PA 19317