Today on September 11, 1777, George Washington was decisively beaten at the Battle of Brandywine.
The Battle of Brandywine was the first major engagement of the long and bloody American Revolution. The conflict pitted the newly appointed Colonial General, George Washington, against the experienced British General, William Howe. The battle took place near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. A few weeks earlier, Howe initiated a campaign to take back control of Philadelphia, which served as the colonial capital during the revolution. A combined total of almost 30,000 soldiers were present on the battlefield, making it the largest battle of the revolution by troop count. It was also the longest single-day battle of the war, lasting a total of eleven continuous hours.
Less than two months earlier, Howe and the British Army captured the town of New York City. He immediately solidified his position in the region before continuing the advance north. By early September, the Redcoats began marching directly toward Philadelphia. Desperate to engage with the enemy, Washington decided to make his stand at a location near Brandywine Creek. Several small skirmishes had broken out prior to the main battle, but every American attack was easily repulsed. Instead of directly attacking Washington’s position, Howe led the bulk of his army north. The British managed to cross the river well beyond the Colonial Army’s right flank. Due to poor scouting, their movements went largely unnoticed and the Americans were ultimately caught by surprise.
Upon hearing the news, Washington immediately ordered three divisions to block the British advance. After a bitter fight, his hastily formed right flank was beaten back. Howe continued the battle by assaulting Washington’s left wing, which also quickly fell. The Colonial Army eventually broke out into a full-blown retreat toward Philadelphia. General Nathanael Greene’s division bravely held off the advancing British columns long enough for Washington to escape. The British captured the colonial capital city less than two weeks after their victory at the Battle of Brandywine.