Original Document
Original Document
Thomas Burke’s letter to General John Sullivan, October 12, 1777.

October 12, 1777
“Sir: I was present at the action at Brandiwine and saw and heard enough to convince me that the Fortune of the day was injured by Miscarriages where you Commanded. I understood you were several days posted with the Command on the Right Wing, that you were Cautioned by the Commander in chief early in the day to be particularly attentive to the Enemy’s Motions who he supposed would attempt to cross higher up the Creek and attack your Flank, that you were furnished with proper Troops for reconnotring, and yet you were so ill informed of the Enemy's motions that they came up at a time and by a rout which you did not expect. That you Convey’d Intelligence to the Commander in Chief which occasioned his Countermanding the Dispositions he had made for encountering them on the rout by which it afterwards appeared they were actually advancing. That when at length the mistake was discovered you brought up your own Division by an unnecessary Circuit of Two miles, and in the greatest disorder, form which they never recovered, but fled from the fire of the Enemy without resistance. That the miscarriages on the Wing made it Necessary to draw off a great part of the Strength from the Center which exposed General Wayne to the Superiority of the Enemy-
I heard Officers on the Field lamenting in the bitterest Terms that they were cursed with such a Commandr and I overheard Numbers during the Retreat Complain of you as an Officer whose evil Conduct was forever productive of Misfortunes…
From these Facts I concluded that your Duty as a General was not well performed. Otherwise the Enemy’s motions on the Wing where you particularly Commanded would not have been unknown to you during great part of the day of action, nor could they have advanced by an unknown and unexpected rout, for you ought to have made yourself well acquainted with the Ground. Not would you have brought up your Troops by an unnecessary Circuit and in disorder, which exposed them to be Surprised and broken.
I also concluded that the Troops under your Command had no Confidence in your Conduct, and from the many Accounts I had Officially received of your miscarriages, I conceived, and am still possessed of an Opinion that you have not sufficient Talents of your rank and office, tho I believe you have Strong dispositions to discharge your Duty well-
I consider it as one Essential part of my Duty to Attend to the Appointment of the Army, and where I perceive that any person so unqualified as I deem you to be has got into a Command, where Incompetence may be productive of disasters and disgrace, it is my Duty to Endeavour at removing him. In discharge of this I gave to Congress all the Information I was able, carefully distinguishing what I saw, what I heard, and from whom, as far as I was acquainted with persons. I urged your recall with all the force I could, and thought it, and still do think it necessary for the public good because, in all your Enterprise and in every part of your Conduct, even as represented by yourself, you seem to be void of Judgement and foresight in concerting, of deliberate Vigor in Executing, and of presence of mind under Accidents and Emergencies- and from these defects Seem to me to arise your repeated ill Success. These Seem to me to form the great Essentials of a Military Character- nor do I think you the only Officer in our army who is deficient in them- Nor were my Endeavours to free the army from Insufficient Officers intended to be Confined to you.- for a particular Reason I should have had great pleasure in Justly forming a better Opinion of you, but no reason can induce me to overlook the defects of Officers on whom so much depends. Nor will any thing deter me from pursuing the measures Suggested yo mu own Judgement.
I have not related every thing which I acted with relation to you in Congress together with my motives- I have Set down every Intelligence, and the Opinion I gave concerning you. What Hills you struggled for what fires you Sustained, I neither saw or heard of. Your personal Courage I meddled not with. I had no knowledge of it, and I was Cautious to Say nothing unjust or unnecessary. My objection to you is want of Sufficient Talents, and I consider it as your misfortune, not fault. It is my Duty, as far as I can, to prevent its being the Misfortune of my Country.
The purpose of this Information is that you may Indubitably know I gave Congress all the Intelligence and Opinion Concerning you here set down, and then to ask you in direct Terms if you meant the disrespectful Expressions in your later Letter to Congress on the Subject of your Conduct at Brandiwine to be applied to me? If you did Sir I must inform you, you are mistaken in the matter Contained in those Expressions. My demeanor was entirely void or parade and Ostentation, and entirely Simple and attentive. I did not Gallop my Horse at all but when I attempted to rally some of your flying Troops. The manner of those Expressions which I suppose you meant for Wit and Sarcasm are unbecoming the Soldier as the Gentleman, and Inconsistent with the plain and dignified Simplicity which ought to be the Stile of persons in either rank.”

Credit: Michael Harris, Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777. El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2014.
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