Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration (1961). Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, administered by Brandywine Battlefield Park Commission.
Significance. The Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, was the only major clash of the two main armies during the campaign that ended in the British capture of Philadelphia. Although the battle was an American defeat, Washington extricated his force in good order and the Continentals demonstrated their ability to withstand the determined attack of British regulars.
In the spring and early summer of 1777, Washington and Sir William Howe engaged in fruitless maneuvers in New Jersey. At the end of June, Howe moved to New York and on July 23 set sail from Sandy Hook with more than 15,000 men, bound for the American Capital, Philadelphia. The British Fleet sailed up Chesapeake Bay while Washington moved to the south to meet Howe's advance. The American Army, numbering about 11,000 men, took up a defensive position east of Brandywine Creek, its center on high ground overlooking Chadd's Ford. In this position it blocked the main road to Philadelphia, 30 miles distant. On September 11 the two armies renewed the contest they had waged from Boston to the banks of the Brandywine.
Washington deployed his army in three wings, one under his own eye at Chadd's Ford, another under Gen. John Sullivan guarding the right flank upstream, and a small detachment covering a crossing on the left, 2 miles below Chadd's Ford. Instead of delivering the expected frontal attack, Howe made a wide flanking movement to take Sullivan in the rear. Washington mistakenly believed that a diversionary attack in his front was the main British thrust. Only at the last minute, when Sullivan was under heavy attack, did Washington conclude that the major effort was against the right wing. Gen. Nathanael Greene with two brigades was ordered to support the collapsing right flank. Washington and his staff galloped toward the sound of heavy firing. Greene's stout action saved the Army from entrapment, but by his move to the right Washington's defenses at Chadd's Ford were weakened and he was forced to retreat. Although confused and scattered, most of the Army got away and returned to Chester. Helping to restore order was the young Marquis de Lafayette, active despite a bullet wound in his leg.
A few days later, still between Howe and Philadelphia, Washington attempted to strike a blow at the British but was thwarted by bad weather. After further skirmishing, marked by the disastrous defeat of "Mad Anthony" Wayne's American rearguard at Paoli, Howe occupied Philadelphia on September 26. Brandywine gave no new luster to Washington's generalship, but the Army's quick recovery was a tribute to both the quality of its ragged troops and its determined leadership.
Present Appearance (1961). Brandywine Battlefield Park includes approximately 50 acres of rolling ground overlooking Chadd's Ford and the main battle areas to the north and west. Situated within the park are the restored quarters of Lafayette and the reconstructed headquarters of Washington. Part of Lafayette's headquarters dates from the late 17th century, and the restoration today exhibits three periods of construction: the original frame structure, a mid-18th-century stone addition on the west, and the north wing, added in 1782. The treatment of Washington's and Lafayette's headquarters was carried out by C. Edwin Brumbaugh, an authority on the early houses of southeastern Pennsylvania. The park contains well maintained picnic areas and excellent roads. 
Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005