- Historic Sites
Encounter at the Brandywine
“The damn rebels form well”
February 1973 | Volume 24, Issue 2
Major Carl Baurmeister, Hessian Forces : At sunrise … the army set out in two columns to march along two different roads. General Howe remained with the column on the left, which was led by General Cornwallis. Lieutenant General von Knyphausen commanded the column on the right.
Captain John André, British Army : The design, it seemed was that General Knyphausen, taking Post at Chad’s Ford, should begin early to cannonade the Enemy on the opposite side, thereby to take up his attention and make him presume an attack was then intended with the whole Army, whilst the other Column should be performing the détour [around Washington’s right flank].
Joseph Townsend, a civilian witness to the battle : General Knyphausen commenced his cannonading early after daylight, and continued it the greater part of the forenoon. … Thus were the Americans amused … until information arrived that General Howe and his troops were crossing the creek at Jefferis’ Ford, which unexpected intelligence occasioned a general consternation and commotion throughout the whole of General Washington’s army.
Lieutenant General William Howe, British Army : General Washington, having intelligence of this movement about noon, detached General Sullivan to his right … who took a strong position on the commanding ground … near to the Brandywind. …
Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, British Army, to a fellow officer :
The damn rebels form well.
Captain Enoch Anderson, Continental Army : [Cornwallis] crossed at the Forks and came down upon us rather unexpected. … The word was soon given to march to the right. … “Face to the front in line with the Maryland troops,” was the order, and the battle began. Gannon balls flew thick and many, from both sides, and small arms roared like the rolling of a drum. …
Major General John Sullivan, Continental Army : … the fire was close and heavy for a long time, and soon became general … Five times did the enemy drive our troops from the hill, and as often it was regained, and the summit often disputed almost muzzle to muzzle. … The general fire of the line lasted an hour and forty minutes … in such a manner that General Conway, who has seen much service, says he never saw so close and severe a fire.
General George Washington, Continental Army : In the midst of the attack on the right, that body of the enemy which remained on the other side of Chadd’s Ford, crossed it and attacked the division there under the command of General Wayne … who, after a severe conflict … retired.
Major General John Sullivan, Continental Army : When we found the right and left oppressed by numbers and giving way on all quarters, we were obliged to abandon the hill we had so long contended for, but not till we had almost covered the ground … with the dead bodies of the enemy.
Private Joseph Clark, Continental Army : …The enemy must have suffered very much from our people before they broke, though, indeed, our people suffered much in this action, and would have suffered more if Gen’l Green had not been detached to their assistance, by whose timely aid they made a safe retreat of the men. …
Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, British Army : The … Fourth Brigade moved forward a mile … where they attacked a Gorps of the enemy that had not been before engaged, and were strongly posted to cover the retreat of their Army … which Gorps not being forced, on account of their … being somewhat determined to stand, until after it was dark … the enemy’s Army escaped a total overthrow. …
Captain Enoch Anderson, Continental Army : Here then we experienced another drubbing. … But when it is taken into consideration that our army was not more than one-half the numbers of our enemy, and all things were well appointed and equipped with them, but our army not so … we did, I think, as well as could be expected. … Through all these trying times, I saw not a despairing look nor did I hear a despairing word. We had our solacing words always ready for each other, “Come boys, we shall do better another time,”—sounded throughout our little army. Had any man suggested, merely hinted the idea of giving up … he would have been knocked down. … Such was the spirit of the times. …
Major General Nathanael Greene, Continental Army : We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.