The Battle of Brandywine Creek 1777
Battle: Brandywine Creek
War: American Revolution
Date: 11th September 1777
Place: Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia
Combatants: British and Hessian troops against the American
Generals: Major General Sir William Howe and General George
British Light Dragoon
Size of the armies: Around 6,000 British and Hessians
against 8,000 Americans.
Uniforms, arms and equipment: The British wore red coats and
headgear of bearskin caps, leather caps or tricorne hats depending on
whether the troops were grenadiers, light infantry or battalion
company men. The two regiments of light dragoons serving in
America, the 16th and 17th, wore red coats and leather crested
helmets. The German infantry wore blue coats and retained the
Prussian style grenadier mitre with brass front plate.
The Americans dressed as best they could. Increasingly as the war
progressed regular infantry regiments of the Continental Army wore
blue uniform coats but the militia continued in rough clothing. Both
sides were armed with muskets and guns. The Pennsylvania regiments
carried long, small calibre, rifled weapons.
Winner: The British and Hessians were left occupying the
field having driven the Americans from their position on Brandywine
Highland Grenadier Sergeant
16th Light Dragoons later the 16th/5th Lancers and now the Queen’s
Two Composite battalions of grenadiers
Two Composite battalions of light infantry
Two Composite battalions of Foot Guards (1st, 2nd and 3rd Guards)
4th Foot later the King’s Royal Regiment and now the King’s Own Royal
5th Foot later Northumberland Fusiliers and now the Royal Regiment of
10th Foot later the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment and now the Royal
15th Foot later the East Yorkshire Regiment and now the Prince of
Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire
17th Foot later the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and now the Royal
23rd Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers
27th Foot later the Inniskilling Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish
28th Foot later the Gloucestershire Regiment and now the Royal
Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment
33rd Foot now the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
37th Foot later the Hampshire Regiment and now the Princess of Wales’s
40th Foot later the South Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s
44th Foot later the Essex Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment
46th Foot later the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and now the
49th Foot later the Royal Berkshire Regiment and now the Royal
Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment
55th Foot later the Border Regiment and now the King’s Own Royal
64th Foot later the North Staffordshire Regiment and now the
Three battalions of Fraser’s Highlanders, the 71st Foot.
The Battle of Brandywine Creek
Wayne’s Pennsylvania Brigade
Weeden’s Viriginia Brigade
Muhlenburg’s Virginia Brigade
Hazen’s Canadian Regiment
Maxwell’s Light Infantry
Colonel Bland’s 1st Dragoons
De Borre’s Brigade
Howe had brought his army by sea to the Chesapeake intending to
capture Philadelphia. Washington marched south to Wilmington and
attempted to delay the capture of the city falling back before the
British and Hessian army.
On 9th September 1777 Washington’s army took positions behind the
Brandywine Creek at Chad’s Ford (now Chadds Ford). The creek flowed
through undulating countryside with steep cliffs in places and heavily
wooded hills. Below Chad’s Ford the flow became narrower and faster so
as to be unfordable. A number of fords marked the creek up to the
point where it divided into east and west branches.
Washington expected Howe’s army to march from Kennett Square in the
West up to Chad’s Ford and carry out a frontal assault.
Pennsylvania militia were posted to the left of the Chad’s Ford
position where little threat was perceived. Washington positioned
Wayne’s Pennsylvania Continentals with Weedon’s and Mulenburg’s
brigades in the centre opposite Chad’s Ford, under the command of
Major General Nathaniel Greene.
Major General John Sullivan commanded on the right, posting forces
under Colonel Moses Hazen at the distant Wistar’s and Buffington’s
Fords. Light Infantry and picquets were posted to the West of the
creek to give warning of the British advance.
At around noon on 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, 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.
Knyphausen marched to the ford, his battalions took position along the
hills on the west bank and he began to cannonade the American
positions across the river.
The Battle of Brandywine Creek : The attack of the British 46th
In the meantime the second British column under Howe and Major General
Lord Cornwallis had turned North to cross the creek some miles
upstream of the Chad’s Ford position. This column would then encircle
the Americans’ rear right flank and cut them off from the Philadelphia
Washington appears to have been advised of the British encircling
movement by Hazen’s distant troops, but to have discounted the warning
for some hours. He and his staff were convinced that the main attack
was to be a frontal assault over Chad’s Ford. It was not until early
afternoon that he was finally persuaded that the main British movement
was to his right rear. During that time he began an assault across the
ford but withdrew it.
On the alarm being given Sullivan marched his right wing of the
American army to the North East and, meeting the retreating Hazen,
formed his troops on a hill at the Birmingham Meeting House. Howe’s
regiments formed three columns and attacked the Americans.
Finally convinced of his mistake by the sound of the bombardment,
Washington dispatched Greene with the American reserve to support
Sullivan. By that time the British attack had driven Sullivan’s troops
off the hill and Greene and Sullivan were forced to withdraw from the
At Chad’s Ford, Knyphausen launched an assault across the river, led
by the 4th and 5th Foot. A force of British Foot Guards and grenadiers
emerged from the forest, where it had been temporarily lost, and
attacked the right flank of the troops at the ford. The Americans were
driven from their positions.
The battle ended with the American army withdrawing up the road to
Philadelphia in considerable confusion and the British encamped on the
battlefield. Nightfall saved the Americans from greater loss.
Casualties: The British lost 550 killed and wounded. The
Americans lost around 1,000 killed, wounded and captured and 11 guns,
2 of which had been taken at Trenton. The Marquis de Lafayette,
fighting with Sullivan, was among the wounded.
Follow-up: Brandywine is not considered a decisive battle.
Nevertheless it hastened the loss of Philadelphia to the British. The
British failed to exploit their success.
- History of the British Army by Sir John Fortescue
- The War of the Revolution by Christophr Ward