The War of Brandywine was a territorial struggle waged between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its thirteen North American colonies. During the American Revolutionary War, the fighting took place between 1775 and 1783. During the time of this battle, the British and the American forces engaged with each other on the battlefield located close to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The battle began on September 11, 1777, in a foggy morning. This weather enabled the British forces to gain a solid coverage, but later the weather turned into a blazing sun and heat. The War of the Brandywine was a decisive battle between “Big Britain and its thirteen North American colonies.” The United Kingdom emerged triumphant in this war, although the United States won a tactical victory. 1
During the war, the American forces were led by George Washington, while the British forces were led by William Howe. Washington had just endured a humiliating loss in New York, but a victory in the Brandywine battle was critical in reviving American strength and morale. Howe, on the other hand, was a massive inspirationby the Philadelphia Campaign, which was mainly a British objective to capture Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War. Both Howe and Washington had pivotal roles in deciding the results of the American Revolution.1
The Battle of Brandywine
The battle began in an early morning after the British, and the Hessian soldiers departed from Kennett Square. They left after a stroll along the Brandywine Creek in order to encircle the American soldiers crossing Jeffries’ ford. This arose from a need to seize control of Philadelphia. On receiving information about the planned attack by the British, Washington organized his troops and positioned them at Chadd’s Ford, awaiting the arrival of the British troops.
On the other hand, the British soldiers grouped converged at a nearby Kennett Square and came up with a plan on how to launch their attack. Their plan was to have part of the troops march from Kennett Square in a manner indicating intentions to meet Washington and his troops at Chadds Ford. The bulk of Howe’s men were to march north of Wistar’s Ford, then cross the river at an unspecified place unknown to Washington. The British troops beat Washington and his troops on their own battlefield due to superior strategy and battlefield experience.2
The British mounted an effort in 1777 to put down the smoldering uprising in their North American colonies. Its key aim was to separate the colonies by sending converging expeditions to the Hudson Valley. During this time, General Howe declined to fight at Saratoga and instead went to Pennsylvania, where he beat Washington in the Brandywine war. Howe won over Philadelphia and overcame Washington’s assault on Germantown in Brandywine.
The victory in the Battle of Saratoga was aided by diplomatic support from France and other European countries. The war in the Middle Atlantic area came to a halt at one point, but international assistance was ultimately brought in to save the situation. Following the Battle of Saratoga, France formed a coalition with the United States, and Franklin and the French foreign minister of the time concluded a treaty. In 1779, Spain waged war on the United Kingdom. In the other hand, the assistance given by the Spanish to the Americans was of little help to the Americans. The French, on the other hand, provided enormous support in the form of troops, sailors, provisions, and resources, all of which were critical to America’s victory at Saratoga.
The The Americans tried to struggle valiantly, but the British forces had outwitted them on the Brandywine’s rolling hills. The victory did not deter the arrival of British forces at the battleground, who managed to arrive during the night. Despite the fact that the British troops were totally exhausted, their morale to camp on the battlefield and its surroundings remained high. However, the surrender of the American troops from the battle did not demoralize the troops. To them, their defeat was not as a result of poor fighting tactics but rather due to unfamiliarity with the terrain and poor reconnaissance information.3 In the coming days, General Howe and his troops made closer approaches towards Philadelphia without much opposition from Washington and his men. The British and the American troops moved around with high hopes of finding the enemy at a disadvantage, but there were no any decisive military actions that were undertaken over a period of two weeks.
Increased pressure from the British troops forced the Congress to give up on Philadelphia in order to move to Lancaster and later to New York before the British arrival for a takeover. To be on the safe side, the congress had to move essential military supplies out of Philadelphia to Reading and Pennsylvania, where security was guaranteed. After the successful capture of Philadelphia by the British troops, Washington made a cautious response. The loss of Philadelphia had immense implications on the patriot cause. On the other hand, Washington’s men had declined from approximately 15,000 before the start of the battle to about 6’000 at the time of surrender.
The American troops got food and clothing from the local leaders. In addition, the congress added further reinforcement, which saw Washington regaining his fighting morale since he felt that there was sufficient support that would assist his men in launching a new attack. However, it was too late for the Americans to save Philadelphia because the British troops had already taken over the city.4
Battle of Saratoga
Following this successful battle, the European powers, especially the French gained interest on Americans and began offering support to the Americans. In September of 1777, Major General Burgoyne came up with a plan on how to defeat the Americans. According to Burgoyne, the New England was the main seat of the rebellion. Therefore, he suggested eliminating the rebellion from the rest of the colonies by shifting down the Hudson River corridor. The second strategy was to have a second force under the leadership of Colonel Barry advancing east of Lake Ontario. On the other hand, the third troop under the leadership of General Howe was to advance north from New York. General Howe had gotten approval from London, but his role in the plan remained not clearly defined, which made it difficult for Burgoyne to issue orders Howe.5
Burgoyne’s plan began to materialize once Fort Ticonderoga got into the hands of his men. Capturing the port enabled the troops to move further into the south from Lake Champlain. However, Burgoyne’s plan began to cause trouble, especially in securing supplies. Another move that ended up causing trouble to Burgoyne was his attempt to dispatch troops to raid Vermont for supplies.5
At this point, Burgoyne appeared to be terribly lonely and had serious challenges in obtaining supplies. This situation forced him to choose the south direction in attempts to capture Albany before winter. However, a soldier under the command of General Horatio opposed Burgoyne’s move. Later, Horatio got an appointment to command an army that was growing rapidly due to success at Bennington.5
September 7, 1777 saw Horatio and his men move north from Stillwater and took over strong positions atop Bemis Heights, which lies approximately ten miles south of Saratoga. On the other hand, the American camp had fastened tensions while the relationship between Horatio and Arnold continued to sour. However, the souring relationship did not stop Arnold from taking command over the left-wing as well as the responsibility to prevent the capture of heights to the west. After crossing the Hudson on the northern part of Saratoga, Burgoyne was in a good position to advance on the Americans. However, Americans efforts to block the road, broken terrain, and heavy woods denied Burgoyne a chance to attack the Americans. On his side, Burgoyne came up with a three-prong attack on Americans.6
The three-prong attack was to have Riedesel advancing with mixed British-Hessian troops along the river while Burgoyne and Brigadier Hamilton were to move inland and then make a turn to the south in order to attack Bemis Heights. The third set up was under the command of Brigadier Fraser and was to move further into the inland and focus on turning the Americans to the left. In the American camp, there were serious disagreements between the commanders after Horatio failed to mention Arnold in a report prepared for the congress in relation to the Freeman’s Farm battle.6 After serious confrontations, Horatio relieved Arnold of his duties and appointed General Lincoln to take over the roles of Arnold. However, despite having a chance to go back to Washington’s army, Arnold decided to remain in Horatio’s camp as more and more troops arrived at the camp.6
After a continued fight between the Americans and the British troops, Burgoyne could not withstand the massive losses further. His first move was to withdraw some of the troops from the northern region. Later called for the council of war after realizing that his supplies were exhausted, and he could no longer sustain his men in Saratoga. AlthoughBurgoyne troops were optimistic of fighting their way towards the north, Burgoyne had no option but to open surrender negotiations with Horatio. Initially, Horatio had demanded an unconditional surrender, but later agreed to sign a treaty of the convention, which required Burgoyne’s men to be taken to Boston as prisoners. In addition, the troops were to be permitted to return to England on the grounds that they will never engage again in a fight, in North America.7
In October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered the remaining troops. This marked the turning point of the American Revolution War since America’s victory at Saratoga proved to be a vital achievement in securing a treaty of partnership with France.7
Analytically, considering the Brandywine battle and the Saratoga battle, the Brandywine battle was fought first, and the Americans lost the battle to Great Britain. On the other hand, Americans win in the Saratoga battle marked the first major American win in the revolutionary war. After winning this battle, a number of European nations were comfortable to get into alliances with America. Therefore, one can deduce that the battle of Brandywine was a tactical win in the right direction for the United States to gain recognition from France and isolate the British diplomatically. This can be supported using a number of facts.
One, the French government was much willing to form alliances with America in its future battles. This is evident from the treaties signed by America and French representatives in 1778. These two nations signed two treaties; a treaty of amity and commerce, and a treaty of alliance. This moved proved that France had full confidence in the United States and was ready to become a major player in providing military supplies to Washington’s troops. In the signing of the treaties, the two nations promised each other to fight until America gets its independence. In addition, the two nations agreed that none of them was to collaborate with Britain without consent from the other nation. The treaty further guaranteed each other’s belongings in America against the other superpowers.
Later on, the American struggle for independence became much bigger and would later turn into a world war. When British vessels fired on the French ship, America and France had no option other than getting into war with Britain. In 1779, Spain chose to assist the two nations in fighting Britain where it entered the war as a France ally. In the following year, Britain declared war on the Dutch on the basis that it was engaging in profitable business with America and France. Apart from fighting the Americans, Britain had to fight India, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, the high seas, and Africa. In doing so, Britain was creating a suitable ground for France and America to invade its territory.
In conclusion, the battle of Brandywine depicted Washington’s leadership at its worst and best scenarios. Troops under Washington’s command were fully determined to tackle the British troops till they emerge the winners. Washington had his blame on the unreliable intelligence information he had received. The battle can be regarded as having being a tactile win for the United States as it formed the basis for the American struggle for independence, as depicted by the revolutionary war. The failure of the Americans during the battle of the brandy wine motivated them to be well organized for future wars. As a result, it can be inferred that the United States won the war of brandy wine on a tactical level.
- Clement, Justin. Philadelphia 1777: Taking the Capital. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2007.
- Fassett, Joseph. The Battle of Saratoga – Freeman’s Farm. Lock Stock and Barrel Living History Newsletter and Event Calendar 4. 2 (2001): Retrieved from: http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/saratogafarm.html
- Hooton, Francis. (2010). The Battle of Brandywine: With Its Lines of Battle: The Old Flag’s Baptism of Fire, Etc. Charleston: BiblioBazaar.
- McGuire, Thomas. The Philadelphia Campaign: Brandywine And the Fall of Philadelphia. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2006.
- Monday, Bruce. September 11, 1777: Washington’s Defeat at Brandywine dooms Philadelphia. New York: White Mane Books, 2002.
- Monday, Bruce. Along the Brandywine River. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.
- Nardo, Don. The Battle of Saratoga. Mankato: Capstone, 2008.
- View, Wendy. The Battle of Saratoga. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003.
-  Hooton, Francis. (2010). The Battle of Brandywine: With Its Lines of Battle: The Old Flag’s Baptism of Fire, Etc. Charleston: BiblioBazaar. p.3.
-  Monday, Bruce. Along the Brandywine River. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2001. p.23-25.
-  McGuire, Thomas. The Philadelphia Campaign: Brandywine And the Fall of Philadelphia. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2006. pp. 313-317.
-  Monday, Bruce. September 11, 1777: Washington’s Defeat at Brandywine dooms Philadelphia. New York: White Mane Books, 2002. p.87.
-  Clement, Justin. Philadelphia 1777: Taking the Capital. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2007. P.42-43.
-  View, Wendy. The Battle of Saratoga. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003. pp. 7-13
- 7 Nardo, Don. The Battle of Saratoga. Mankato: Capstone, 2008. pp. 49-52
- 8 Frassett, Joseph. The Battle of Saratoga – Freeman’s Farm. Lock Stock and Barrel Living History Newsletter and Event Calendar 4. 2 (2001)