Historical Markers
Battle of Brandywine (Knyphausen Attack] Historical Marker
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Battle of Brandywine (Knyphausen Attack]

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
99 Baltimore Pike (US 1), at park entrance, Chadds Ford

Dedication Date:
May 12, 1952

Behind the Marker

On the afternoon of September 11, 1777, General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, the Hessian General in command of 7,000 British and German soldiers, watched as American soldiers mysteriously retreated from the area around markerChad’s Ford on the Brandywine River. He did not know that General Washington had just ordered three divisions away from the river to protect his vulnerable right flank three miles north. Knyphausen and his men had been in place for more than three hours before the Americans departure, waiting for orders from General Cornwallis, who commanded 8,000 British and German troops then marching to the north.
Wilhelm von Knyphausen
At 4pm, “we heard a firing on our left,” a member of Knyphausen’s artillery observed, “at first gentle, but in a little very heavy indeed both of cannon and musketry.” As a tremendous cannonade shook the ground, Knyphausen and his men realized it was time to cross the river that they had been staring across most of the day and begin their own attack. Cornwallis had launched his assault from markerOsborne Hill.
It took Knyphausen an hour to reorganize his men who were thinly stretched five miles along the river. To protect his troops from the Continental artillery, which had a direct view of Chad’s Ford, Knyphausen at 5pm ordered his men across the Chad’s Ferry, which was covered by trees. Carrying their muskets and ammunition above their heads, the British and German soldiers waded waist-deep across the river through deadly grapeshot fire from Proctor’s artillery. Proctor’s guns, “[played] upon us with grape shot, which did much execution,” a member of the Queen’s Rangers recalled. “The water took us up to our breasts, and was much stained with blood.”
Battle of Brandywine Map

As Knyphausen’s men crossed Chad’s Ferry, Nathanael Greene’s division, which had been positioned to meet this assault, received orders to take his men and reinforce the three American divisions defending against the main markerBritish attack at Birmingham Hill. Greene’s departure left only General markerAnthony Wayne’s division and William Maxwell’s light infantry division to meet Knyphausen’s attacking army.
Knyphausen’s British and German forces quickly drove back the Americans, then pushed east along the Nottingham Road, capturing American cannons along the way. “British Troops came on with the Greatest boldness & bravery,” a member of the Pennsylvania Militia would later recall.
They then clashed with Wayne’s division, just south of Chad’s Ferry. As the bullets flew, Wayne falsely assumed markerGeneral John Armstrong’s division of local volunteer militiamen, who had been defending Pyle’s Ford two miles south all day, would reinforce the fight. Armstrong and his men, however, for reasons still unknown, never arrived.  Upset by the poor performance from the Pennsylvania militia during the battle, Nathanael Greene would later write that “The militia of this country is not like the Jersey militia, fighting is a new thing with these, and many seems to have a poor stomach for the business.”
Wayne’s men delayed the British advance long enough for Knyphausen’s men to turn around captured American cannons and use them against Wayne’s division. Slaughtered by former American guns and outflanked on both sides, Wayne retreated. By 7 pm, as darkness fell, the British and German soldiers halted their attack. “The approach of the night,” a German soldier regretfully noted, “made it impossible to pursue the enemy further.” Later that night, Wayne and his men rejoined the rest of the Continental Army in Chester.
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