History of the Loyalists: Movements of the Armies Before the Battle of Brandywine

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History of the Loyalists: Movements of the Armies Before the Battle of Brandywine
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS MOVEMENTS OF THE ARMIES BEFORE THE BATTLE OF BRANDYWINE. General Howe's Plan or Battle—Cornwallis Executes a Plank March and Falls on the American Right—Total Defeat of Washington's Army. BY JAMES HANNAY. CHAPTER XXI.-Concluded. HOWE ISSUES A PROCLAMATION. On the 27th August General Howe issued a proclamation to the people assuring them that he did not come to make war upon the peaceful, but to put down the rebellious. That private property would be respected; that their persons would be secure, and that pardon would be extended to all who would return to their allegiance and surrender themselves to any detachment of the royal forces within a specified time. This proclamation would have been better received if the people of Pennsylvania could have been assured that they would not be abandoned to their enemies, as those of New Jersey had been. On the 3rd of September Howe commenced his advance, and on that day his advance guard was attacked by Maxwell’s corps of foot, formed in ambuscade, in the vicinity of Pencander. Maxwell was defeated and driven back with severe loss, his attempt to stop the advance of the army being merely one of those cases of recklessness which amateur officers are apt to indulge in. The attack seems to have been repelled by the troops under Lieut. Col. Wurmb, who were thanked in general orders next day for the spirited manner in which they had defeated the chosen advanced corps of the enemy. This officer was in command of the Chasseurs, or Jagers as they were sometimes called. These were trained marksmen, recruited among the hunters and gamekeepers of Germany. They numbered altogether at their fullest strength, 1,067 men, divided into five companies, one of which was mounted. There were few operations of importance in which these Chasseurs did not take part. MOVEMENTS OF THE REBEL ABMY. At this time Washington's army lay behind Red Clay creek, a tributary of the Delaware, his left resting on Christiana Creek and extending in the direction of New Port. On the 8th the British advanced, as if to attack the American left at Newport, and made a feint of attacking the American front. That night Washington learned that the greater part of Howe’s army was at Milltown on his right. The American general then became apprehensive, that it was the intention of Howe to turn the American right across the Brandywine, cut off their communications with Philadelphia and thus hem the Americans in between their army; and their British fleet. Washington’s position had evidently been badly chosen, and he at once abandoned it and, crossed the Brandywine at Chad’s ford, at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 9th. A redoubt commanded by Procter was thrown up, on the east bank of the river, to protect the ford. Wayne’s division of the American army was within supporting distance and Green’s further to the rear, was to act as a reserve. The Pennsylvania militia, under Armstrong, were posted at the ford below Chad’s, and formed the left wing of the American army. The American right wing, which was commanded by Sullivan, was composed of his own division, and chose of Sterling and Stevens. The fords were guarded for about three miles above Sullivan’s position, which was about four miles distant from the extreme left of the army. HOWE’S PLAN OF BATTLE. The Brandywine River is a large affluent of the Delaware, distant from Philadelphia about 25 miles. It was behind this river that Washington proposed to offer battle, and check the British approach to Philadelphia. As the fords were guarded it was not thought that they could be forced, but here again General Howe who was more of a strategist than a tactician resorted to a flank march, for the purpose of falling on Washington’s right and rear. The army was divided into two columns, one commanded by General Knyphausen and the other, which Howe accompanied in person, by Lord Cornwallis. Knyphausen, who had under his command dismounted Jagers, 2nd brigade of artillery, the Hessian brigade of Stirn, a squadron of dragoons, the 40th regiment, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 71st regiment, the Queens Rangers and Ferguson’s riflemen, and the 1st and 2nd British brigades, numbering altogether about 6,000 men, marched direct to Chad's ford. MARCH OF CORNWALLIS’S COLUMN. The column commanded by Cornwallis numbered about 7,000 men, and consisted of the 1st and 2nd grenadiers, the Hessian grenadiers, Jagers infantry, the 1st and 2nd battalion of guards, the 1st and 3rd brigades of artillery, the 3rd battalion of the 71st regiment, two squadrons of dragoons, and the 3rd and 4th British brigades. This body of troops took the road leading north to a point above the forks of the Brandywine, then turned to the east crossed the west branch of the river at Trimbles’ Ford and the East Branch at Jeffrey’s ford, and then moved south. This involved a very long and fatiguing march, and would have been an operation of some danger, if Washington had been an able general, but it had the effect of throwing half of Howe’s army, on the American right wing, and exposing them to a severe defeat. The distance from Jeffrey’s ford on the east branch of the Brandywine to the American right is about six miles. The Americans appeared to have some intimation of the march of Lord Cornwallis, but it was of a doubtful and conflicting nature, and that general had made a march of 17 miles, crossed two rivers, and was actually within striking distance of the American right, before Washington had any reliable information in regard to his movements, At that time, and indeed throughout his career in America. Lord Cornwallis display great energy and activity, and if he had had command of the army in chief instead of Howe or Clinton, much better results would have been achieved. Cornwallis made his appearance on Sullivan’s right flank, about 1 o’clock on the 11th September. In the meantime Knyphausen, who made a direct march to Chad’s Ford, had come into contact with a part of the rebel army, which was in front of the ford. This corps was under the command of Maxwell, who was attacked about 10 o’clock, and driven across the ford. The brunt of this conflict fell upon Ferguson riflemen and the Queens rangers, both of which suffered severe loss, and it may be stated here that no corps that fought at Brandywine in that day distinguished itself more or displayed better military qualities that the Loyalist regiment just mentioned. It was then under the commands of Major Wymness a regular officer in the British army, who had succeeded Colonel Rogers, by whom the Queen’s Rangers were originally raised. TOTAL DEFEAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. Knyphauen having driven the Americans across the Brandywine at Chad’s ford, made no further effort to advance until Lord Cornwallis had been heard from, his business being merely to amuse the enemy, until the flank attack on Sullivan could be properly developed. When the presence of Cornwallis was discovered by Washington, Sterling and Steven were deployed on the hill in front of him and Sullivan’s division was ordered to join them. Cornwallis, however, was prompt to begin the attack and the Americans at that point were speedily routed and driven in confusion from the field. The fugitives from the American right came flying into the center, and Green who endeavored to rally them and check Lord Cornwallis was also obliged to retreat. Knyphausen, now knowing that the attention of the Americans was well engaged on their right pushed across the river at Chad’s ford driving off the corps of Wayne, Maxwell and Proctor which endeavored to bold him in check. The American army was completely defeated at both points and retreated to Chester in the night and thence to Philadelphia. The American loss in this battle was upwards of 1,000 according to Washington's account, which however was not furnished until a month after the engagement took place. The American general Green put the loss down at 1,200, while Howe estimated their loss at 300 killed, 600 wounded and 400 taken prisoners. This last estimate is probably correct. The loss of the British was 81 killed 456 wounded and 6 missing. The Hessians had 8 killed and 32 wounded. The total loss of the British army was therefore 583, of which only 40 fall on the Hessians, showing that the part taken by them was comparatively unimportant and that the severest fighting fell to the lot of the British regiments.