Historical Markers
Battle of Brandywine (Army divides) Historical Marker
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Battle of Brandywine (Army divides)

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
US 1, 1 mile E of Kennett Square

Dedication Date:
March 18, 1952

Behind the Marker

The Brandywine River, Christiana, DE, 2011.
On the morning of September 11, 1777, a mere eight miles separated markerGeneral Howe’s British Army in Kennett Square from General Washington’s Continental Army along the Brandywine River.  To occupy Philadelphia, the British would have to cross the Brandywine, but Washington had already mounted a formidable defense, fortifying its major crossings, and positioning his artillery on the high ground above the markerChad’s Ford. 
Philadelphia, December 8, 1777 "Regulations" Broadside
"Regulations" Broadside, Philadelphia, PA, December 8, 1777.

Well aware of the Americans’ geographical advantage, Howe devised a strategy similar to the one he had used successfully a year early at the Battle of Long Island. With help from scouting parties and Philadelphian loyalist Joseph Galloway, Howe learned of two crossings Washington had failed to defend: Trimbles' and Jefferis' fords. Rather than attack the Continental Army with a full frontal assault, Howe divided his army hoping to outflank the unsuspecting Washington.

Howe’s daring strategy at Brandywine revealed a revised British military strategy in the unconventional North American theatre. After the lessons learned during the French and Indian War, British military leadership instructed a new military strategy. Howe’s older brother, George Howe, led these renovations, and stressed the importance of light infantry divisions and “hit-and-run” tactics.

At 4am, Howe and General Lord Charles Cornwallis marched 8,000 troops north, and left 7,000 under the command of Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen in Kennett Square.  At 6am, Knyphausen began to march his troops east towards Chad’s Ford.  Howe’s plan depended upon Washington believing that the entire British army was marching east to Chad’s Ford. If Washington suspected that Howe had split his army, he could attack Knyphausen from the west and with his numerical advantage overwhelm him. 
Kennett Square Meeting House, Kennett Square, PA, 2015.

Knyphausen pushed east with the Queen’s Light Dragoons, Major Patrick Ferguson’s Riflemen, and the Queen’s Rangers. William Maxwell’s light infantry division of about 1,400 men attempted to intercept this advance, but by 11am, Knyphausen reached the river. Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, one of Ferguson’s Riflemen, later described the early fighting. The Queen's Rangers and Riffle Corps at the head of Lieut. general Kniphausen’s Column, advancing to the foot of a hill, saw the Enemy formed behind the fence were deceived by the Rebels telling them, that they would deliver up their Arms; but upon their advancing they fired a volley upon our men, and took to their Heels, marker killed and wounded about thirty of them Corps.”

Besides Howe’s outflanking maneuver, the early morning fighting near Chad’s Ford also displayed a revised style of fighting for the British. Major Patrick Ferguson and his newly organized unit of riflemen accompanied Knyphausen’s push east. Not only did the riflemen quickly and effectively drive back William Maxwell’s American division across the river, but they nearly changed the course of American history when General George Washington entered their sights.

Battle of Brandywine Map
Washington, who still believed the entire British Army opposed him from across the river, bravely rode his horse along the east side of the river, surveying his enemy’s movements. Ferguson and his men saw Washington riding with markerCasimir Pulaski dangerously close to their position. Washington believed he was out of range of the standard British musket, but these soldiers had the much more accurate and powerful Ferguson Rifle. Ferguson remembered that he could have, “seldom missed a sheet of paper and could have lodged a half dozen of balls in or about him before he was out of my reach…” However, Ferguson respected the “gentleman’s code” of eighteenth century warfare and, “determine but it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual who was acquitting himself very coolly of marker his duty so I let him alone.” Washington escaped danger, but an hour later Ferguson received a bullet to the elbow and had to be taken to a hospital back in Kennett Square.
Knyphausen did not cross the river, however, for Howe had ordered him no to do so until he received word that Cornwallis had begun his assault on Washington’s right flank. From 11am to 4pm, Knyphausen and his 7,000 troops remained in position, in what would later become known as the mid-day lull.  Aside from an occasional artillery volley, both armies rested and prepared for the major battle to come. Some six miles to the north, Howe and Cornwallis were rapidly approaching markerTrimble’s Ford. So far, Howe’s plan was working perfectly.
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