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in the city, and the larger part were at Germantown. The American army was then, about the end of September, encamped at Skippach creek, and Washington determined to avail himself of the divided state of the British army, to fall upon their encampment at Germantown. He took this resolution with the more contidence, as he was now reinforced by the junction of the troops from Peekskill and the Maryland militia.
The British line of encampment crossed Germantown at right angles about the center, the left wing extending on the west from the town to the Schuylkill
. That wing was covered in front by the mounted and dismounted German chasseurs, who were stationed a little above, toward the American camp; a battalion of light infantry and the Queen's American rangers were in the front of the right. The
View of the Chew House, Germantown, Phila. center, being posted within the town, was guarded by the 40th regiment, and another battalion of light infantry, stationed about three quarters of a mile above the head of the village. Washington resolved to attack the British by surprise, not doubting that if he succeeded in breaking them, as they were not only distant, but totally separated from the fleet, his victory must be decisive.
He so disposed his troops that the divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway's brigade, were to march down the main road, and entering the town by the way of Chesnut Hill, to attack the English center and the right flank of their left wing; the divisions of Greene and Stephens, flanked by Macdougal's brigade, were to take a circuit toward the east, by the Limekiln road, and entering the town at the market house, to attack the left Hank of the right wing. The intention of the American general in seizing the village of Germantown by a double attack, was effectually to separate the right and left wings of the royal army, which must have given him a certain victory. In order that the left flank of the left wing might not contract itself, and support the right flank of the same wing, Gen. Armstrong, with the Pennsylvania militia, was ordered to march down the bridge-road upon the banks of the Schuylkill, and endeavor to turn the English, if they should retire from that river. In like manner, to prevent the right flank of the right wing from going to the succor of the left flank, which rested upon Germantown, the militia of Maryland and Jersey, under Gens. Smallwood and Forman, were to march down the Old York road, and to fall upon the English on that extremity of their
wing. The division of Lord Sterling, and the brigades of Gens. Nash and Max well, formed the reserve. These dispositions being made, Washington quitted his camp at Skippach creek, and moved toward the enemy on the 3d of October, about seven in the evening: Parties of cavalry silently scoured all the roads, to seize any individual who might have given notice to the British general of the danger that threatened him. Washington in person accompanied the column of Sullivan and Wayne. The march was rapid and silent.
At three o'clock in the morning, the British patrols discovered the approach of the Americans; the troops were soon called to arms; each took his post with the precipitation of surprise. About sunrise the Americans came up. Gen. Conway, having driven in the pickets, fell upon the 40th regiment and the battalion of light infantry. These corps, after a short resistance, being overpowered by numbers, were pressed and pursued into the village. Fortune appeared already to have declared herself in favor of the Americans; and certainly if they had gained complete possession of Germantown, nothing could have frustrated them of the most signal victory But in this conjuncture, Lieut. Col. Musgrave threw himself, with six companies of the 40th regiment, into a large and strong stone house, situated near the head of the village, from which he poured upon the assailants so terrible a fire of musketry that they could advance no further. The Americans attempted to storm this unexpected covert of the enemy, but those within continued to defend themselves with resolution. They finally brought cannon up to the assault, but such was the intrepidity of the English, and the violence of their fire, that it was found impossible to dislodge them. During this time, Gen. Greene had approached the right wing, and routed, after a slight engagement, the light infantry and Queen's rangers. Afterward, turning a little to his right, and toward Germantown, he fell upon the left flank of the enemy's right wing, and endeavored to enter the village. Meanwhile, he expected that the Pennsylvania militia, under Armstrong, upon the right, and the militia of Maryland and Jersey, commanded by Smallwood and Forman on the left, would have executed the orders of the commander-in-chief, by attacking and turning, the first the left, and the second the right, flank of the British army. But, either because the obstacles they encountered had retarded them, or that they wanted ardor, the former arrived in sight of the German chasseurs, and did not attack them; the latter appeared too late upon the field of battle.
The consequence was, that Gen. Grey, finding his left flank secure, marched, with nearly the whole of the left wing, to the assistance of the center, which, notwithstanding the unexpected resistance of Col. Musgrave, was excessively hard pressed in Germantown, where the Americans gained ground incessantly. The battle was now very warm at that village—the attack and the defense being equally vigorous. The issue appeared for some time dubious. Gen. Agnew was mortally wounded, while charging with great bravery at the head of the 4th brigade. The American Col. Matthews, of the column of Greene, assailed the English with such fury that he drove them before him into the town. He had taken a large number of prisoners, and was about entering the village, when he perceived that a thick fog and the unevenness of the ground had caused him to lose sight of the rest of his division. Being soon enveloped by the extremity of the right wing, which fell back upon him when it had discovered that nothing was to be apprehended from the tardy approach of the militia of Maryland and Jersey, he was compelled to surrender with all his party : the English had already rescued their prisoners. This check was the cause that two regiments of the English right wing were enabled to throw themselves into Germantown, and to attack the Americans who had entered it in flank. Unable to sustain the shock, they retired precipitately, leaving a great number of killed and wounded. Lieut. Col. Musgrave, to whom belongs the principal honor of this affair, was then relieved from all peril. Gen. Grey, being absolute master of Germantown, flew to the succor of the right wing, which was engaged with the left of the column of Greene. The Americans then took to flight, abandoning to the English, throughout the line, a victory of which, in the commencement of the action, they had felt assured.
The principal causes of the failure of this well-concerted enterprise, were the extreme haziness of the weather-which was so thick that the Americans could neither discover the situation nor movements of the British army, nor yet those
of their own; the inequality of the ground, which incessantly broke the ranks of their battalions — an inconvenience more serious and difficult to be repaired for new and inexperienced troops, as were most of the Americans, than for the Eng. lish veterans; and, finally, the unexpected resistance of Musgrave, who found means, in a critical moment, to transform a mere house into an impregnable fortress.
Thus fortune, who at first had appeared disposed to favor one party, suddenly declared herself on the side of their adversaries. Lord Cornwallis, being at Philadelphia, upon intelligence of the attack upon the camp, flew to its succor with a corps of cavalry and the grenadiers; but when he reached the field of battle, the Americans had already left it. They had two hundred men killed in this action; the number of wounded amounted to six hundred, and about four hundred were made prisoners. One of their most lamented losses was that of Gen. Nash, of North Carolina. The loss of the British was little over five hundred in killed and wounded; among the former were Brig. Gen. Agnew, an officer of rare merit, and Col. Bird. The American army saved all its artillery, and retres the same day about twenty miles, to Perkyomy creek.
The congress expressed in decided terms their approbation, both of the plan of this enterprise and the courage with which it was executed; for which their thanks were given to the general and the army. Gen. Stephens, however, was cashiered for misconduct on the retreat. A few days after the battle, the royal army removed from Germantown to Philadelphia.
About twenty-five miles south west of Philadelphia, near the line of the state of Delaware, and but a few miles west of the Delaware River, the battle of Brandywine was fought, on the 11th of September, 1777. nexed account of this action is also from Botta :
“Washington retired with his troops behind the Brandywine, and encamped on the rising grounds which extend from Chadsford, in the direction of north-west to south-east. The riflemen of Maxwell secured the right bank of the Brandywine, in order to harass and retard the enemy. The militia, under the command of Gen. Armstrong, guarded a passage below the principal encampment of Washington, and the right wing lined the banks of the river higher up, where the passages were most difficult. The passage of Chadsford, as the most practicable of all, was defended by the chief force of the army. The troops being thus disposed, the American general waited the approach of the English. Although the Brandywine, being fordable almost everywhere, could not serve as a sufficient defense against the impetuosity of the enemy, yet Washington had taken post upon its banks, from a conviction that a battle was now inevitable, and that Philadelphia could only be saved by a victory. Gen. Howe displayed the front of his army, but not, however, without great circumspection. Being arrived at Kennet Square, a short distance from the river, he detached his lighthorse to the right upon Wilmington, to the left upon the Lancaster road, and in front toward Chadsford. The two armies found themselves within seven miles of each other, the Brandywine flowing between them.
Early in the morning of the 11th of September, the British army marched to the enemy. Howe had formed his army in two columns; the right commanded by Gen. Knyphausen, the left by Lord Cornwallis. His plan was, that while the first should make repeated feints to attempt the passage of Chadsford, in order to occupy the attention of the republicans, the second should take a long circuit to the upper part of the river, and cross at a place where it is divided into two shallow streams. The English marksmen fell in with those of Maxwell, and a smart skirmish was immediately engaged. The latter were at first repulsed; but being reinforced from the camp, they compelled the English to retire in their
But at length, they also were reinforced, and Maxwell was constrained to withdraw his detachment behind the river. Meanwhile, Knyphausen advanced with his column, and commenced a furious cannonade upon the passage of Chadsford, making all his dispositions as if he intended to force it. The Americans defended themselves with gallantry, and even passed several detachments of light troops to the other side, in order to harass the enemy's Hanks. But after a course of skirmishes, sometimes advancing, and at others obliged to retire, they were finally, with an eager pursuit, driven over the river. Knyphausen then appeared more than ever determined to pass the ford ; he stormed, and kept up an incredible noise. In this manner the attention of the Americans was fully occupied in the neighporhood of Chadsford. Meanwhile, Lord Cornwallis, at the head of the second column, took a circuitous march to the left, and gained, unperceived, the forks of the Brandywine.
By this rapid movement, he passed both branches of the river, at Trimble's and at Jeffery's fords, without opposition, about two o'clock in the afternoon, and then turning short down the river, took the road to Dilworth, in order to fall upon the right flank of the American army. The republican general, however, received intelligence of this movement about noon, and, as it usually happens in similar cases, the reports exaggerated its importance exceedingly-it being represented that Gen. Howe commanded this division in person. Washing. ton, therefore, decided immediately for the most judicious, though boldest measure: this was to pass the river with the center and left wing of his army, and overwhelm Knyphausen by the most furious attack. He justly reflected that the advantage he should obtain upon the enemy's right, would amply compensate the loss that his own might sustain at the same time. Accordingly, he ordered Gen. Sullivan to pass the Brandywine with his division at an upper ford, and attack the left of Knyphausen, while he, in person, should cross lower down, and fall upon the right of that general.
They were both already in motion in order to execute this design, when a second report arrived, which represented what had really taken place as false, or in other words, that the enemy had not crossed the two branches of the river, and that he had not made his appearance upon the right flank of the American troops. Deceived by this false intelligence,
Battle Field of Brandyrine. Washington desisted ; and Greene, who had already passed with the vanguard, was ordered back. In the midst of these uncertainties, the commander-in-chief at length received the positive assurance, not only that the English had appeared upon the left bank, but also that they were about to fall in great force upon the right wing. It was composed of the brig. ades of Gens. Stephens, Sterling and Sullivan. The first was the most advanced, and consequently the nearest to the English ; the two others were posted in the order of their rank, that of Sullivan being next to the center. This general was immediately detached from the main body, to support the two former brigades, and, being the senior officer, took the command of the whole wing. Washington himself, followed by Gen. Greene, approached with two strong divisions toward this wing, and posted himself between it and the corps he had left at Chadsford, under Gen. Wayne, to oppose the passage of Knyphausen. These two divisions, under the immediate orders of the commander-in-chief, served as a corps of reserve, ready to march, according to circumstances, to the succor of Sullivan or of Wayne.
But the column of Cornwallis was already in sight of the Americans. Sullivan drew up his troops on the commanding ground above Birmingham meeting house, with his left extending toward the Brandywine, and both his flanks covered with very thick woods. His artillery was advantageously planted upon the neighboring hills ; but it appears that Sulli. van's own brigade, having taken a long circuit, arrived too late upon the field of battle, and had not yet occupied the position assigned it, when the action commenced. The Eng: lish, having reconnoitered the dispositions of the Americans, immediately formed, and fell upon them with the utmost impetuosity. The engagement became equally fierce on both sides, about four o'clock in the afternoon. For some length of time the Americans defended themselves with great valor, and the carnage was terrible. But such was the emulation which invigorated the efforts of the English and Hessians, that neither the advantages of situation, nor a heavy and well-supported fire of small arms and artillery, nor the
unshaken courage of the Americans, were able to resist their impetuosity. The light infantry, chasseurs, grenadiers and guards, threw themselves with such fury into the midst of the republican battalions, that they were forced to give way. Their left flank was first thrown into confusion, but the rout soon became general. The vanquished fled into the woods in their rear; the victors pursued, and advanced by the great road toward Dilworth. On the first fire of the artillery, Washington, having no doubt of what was passing, had pushed forward the reserve to the succor of Sullivan. But this corps, on approaching the field of battle, fell in with the flying soldiers of Sullivan, and perceived that no hope remained of retrieving the fortune of the day. Gen. Greene, by a judicious maneuver, opened his ranks to receive the fugitives, and after their passage, having closed them anew, he retired in good order-checking the pursuit of the enemy by a continual fire of the artillery which covered his rear. Having come to a defile, covered on both sides with woods, he drew up his men there, and again faced the enemy. His corps was composed of Virginians and Pennsylvanians; they defended themselves with gallantry — the former, especially, commanded by Col. Stephens, made an heroic stand.
Knyphausen, finding the Americans to be fully engaged on their right, and observing that the corps opposed to him at Chadsford was enfeebled by the troops which had been detached to the succor of Sullivan, began to make dispositions for crossing the river in reality. The passage of Chadsford was defended by an intrenchment and battery. The republicans stood firm at first ; but upon intelligence of the defeat of their right, and seeing some of the British troops who had penetrated through the woods, come out upon their flank, they retired in disorder, abandoning their artillery and munitions to the German general. In their retreat, or rather flight, they passed behind the position of Gen. Greene, who still defended himself, and was the last to quit the field of battle. Finally, it being already dark, after a long and obstinate conflict, he also retired. The whole army retreated that night to Chester, and the day following to Philadelphia.
There the fugitives arrived incessantly, having effected their escape through by-ways and circuitous routes. The victors passed the night on the field of battle. If darkness had not arrived seasonably, it is very probable that the whole American army would have been destroyed. The loss of the republicans was computed at about three hundred killed, six hundred wounded, and near four hundred taken prisoners. They also lost ten field-pieces and a howitzer. The loss in the royal army was not in proportion, being something under five hundred, of which the slain did not amount to one fifth.
The French officers were of great utility to the Americans, as well in forming the troops as in rallying them when thrown into confusion. One of them, the Baron St. Ovary, was made a prisoner, to the great regret of congress, who bore him a particular esteem. Capt. De Fleury had a horse killed under him in the hottest of the action. The congress gave him another a few days after. The Marquis de Lafayette, while he was endeavoring, by his words and example, to rally the fugitives, was wounded in the leg. He continued, nevertheless, to fulfill his duty, both as a soldier in fighting and as a general in cheering the troops and re-establishing order. The Count Pulaski, à noble Pole, also displayed an undaunted courage, at the head of the lighthorse. The congress manifested their sense of his merit by giving him, shortly after, the rank of brigadier, and the command of the cavalry.
If all the American troops in the action of the Brandywine had fought with the same intrepidity as the Virginians and Pennsylvanians, and especially if Washington had not been led into error by a false report, perhaps, notwithstanding the inferiority of number and the imperfection of arms, he would have gained the victory, or at least, would have made it more sanguinary to the English. However this might have been, it must be admitted that Gen. Howe's order of battle was excellent ; that his movements were executed with as much ability as promptitude; and that his troops, English as well as German, behaved admirably well.
The day after the battle, toward evening, the English dispatched a detachment of light troops to Wilmington, a place situated at the confluence of the Christiana and Brandywine. There they took prisoner the governor of the state of Delaware, and seized a considerable quantity of coined money, as well as other property, both public and private, and some papers of importance.
Lord Cornwallis entered Philadelphia the 26th of Sept., at the head of a detachment of British and Hessian grenadiers. The rest of the army remained in the camp of Germantown. Thus the rich and populous capital of the whole confederation fell into the power of the royalists, after a sanguinary battle, and a series of maneuvers, no less masterly than painful, of the two armies. The Quakers, and all the other loyalists who had remained there, welcomed the English with transports of gratulation. Washington, descending along the left bank of the Schuylkill, approached within sixteen miles of Germantown. He encamped at Skippach creek, proposing to accommodate his measures to the state of things.