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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, 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 Test bank, but also that they were about to fall in great force
upon the right wing. It was composed of the brigades of generals Stephens, Stirling, 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 centre. 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 general Greene, approached with two strong divisions towards this wing, and posted himself between it and the corps he had left at Chadsford, under general 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 succour 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 meetinghouse, with his left extending towards the Brandywine, and both his flanks covered with very thick woods. His artillery was advantageously planted upon the neighboring hills; but it appears that Sullivan'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 English having reconnoitred the dispositions of the Americans, inmediately 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 dank 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 towards Dilworth. On the first fire of the artillery, Washington, having no doubt of what was passing, had pushed forward the reserve to the succour 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. General Greene, by a judicious manæuvre, 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 bis 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 colonel 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 succour 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 fight, they passed bebind the position of general 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 fisth.
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: Captain de Fleury had a horse killed under him in the hottest of the action. The Congress gave bim another a few days after. The marquis de la Fayette, whilst he was endeavoring, by his words and
example, to rally the sugitives, was wounded in the leg. He continued, nevertheless, to fulall his duty both as a soldier in fighting, and as a general, in cheering the troops and reestablishing order. The count Pulaski, a noble Pole, also displayed an undaunted courage, at the head of the light horse. 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 Ainerican 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 adınitted that general Howe's order of balile was excellent; that his movements were executed with as much ability as promptitude; and that his troops, Englislı as well as German, behaved admirably well.
The day after the battle, towards evening, the English despatched a detachment of light troops to Wilmington, a place situated at the confluence of the Christiana and the 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.
The other towns of lower Pennsylvania, followed the fortune of the victorious party; they were all received into the king's obedieuce.
The Congress, far from being discouraged by so beavy a reverse, endeavored, on the contrary, to persuade the people that it was by no means so decisive, but that affairs might soon resume a favorable aspect. They gave out, that though the English had remained in possession of the field of battle, yet their victory was far from being complete, since their loss was not less, and perhaps greater, than that of the Americans. They affirmed, that although their army was in part dispersed, still it was safe ; and, in a few days, would be rallied, and in a condition to meet the enemy. Finally, that bold demonstrations might inspire that confidence which, perhaps, words alone would not have produced, the Congress appeared to have no idea of guilting Philadelphia. They ordered that lifteen hundred regulars should be marched to that city from Peek's Kill; that the militia of New Jersey, with those of Philadelphia, the brigade of general Smallwood, and a regiment of the line, then at Alexandria, should proceed with all possible despatch to reenforce the principal army in Pennsylvania. They empowered general Washingion to impress all wagons, borses, provisions, and other articles necessary for the use of the army, on giving certificates to the owners, who were to be satisfied from the contimental treasury. The commander-in-chief exerted himself to inspire
his troops with fresh courage; he persuaded them that they had not shown themselves at all inferior to their adversaries; and that at another time they might decide in their favor what was left in doubt at the Brandywine. He gave them a day for refreshment, in the environs of Germantown; but took care to send out the lightest and freshest corps upon the right bank of ihe Schuylkill, as far as Chester, in order to watch the motions of the enemy, to repress his excursions, and at the same time to collect the dispersed and straggling Americans. As to hiinsels, he repaired to Philadelphia, where he had frequent conferences with ihe Congress, in order to concert with them the measures to be pursued for the reestablishment of affairs. But the fifteenth he returned to camp, and repassing, with all his forces, from the left to the right bank of the Schuylkill, proceeded on the Lancaster road as far as the Warren tavern, with the intention of risking another engagement. Conjecturing that the enemy must be much incumbered with their sick and wounded, be ordered Smallwood to hang with his light troops on their flank or rear, as occasion might require, and do them all the harm he could. At the same time, the bridge over the Schuylkill was ordered to be loosened from its moorings, to swing on the Philadelphia side; and general Armstrong, with the Pennsylvania militia, was directed to guard the passes over ihat river, for the defence of which M. de Portail, chief of engineers, constructed such sudden works as might be of immediate
General Howe, having passed the night of the eleventh on the field of battle, sent the following day a strong detachment to Concord, commanded by general Grant, who was joined afterwards by lord Cornwallis. They marched together towards Chester, upon the bank of the Delaware, as if they intended to surprise Philadelphia. Howe, with the main body of his army, advanced 10 gain the Lancaster road, and had arrived on the sixteenth near Goshen, when he received intelligence that Washington was approaching with all his troops to give him batile, and was already within five miles of Goshen. With great alacrity both armies immediately prepared for action; the advanced parties bad met, when there came up so violent a fall of rain, that the soldiers were forced to cease their fire. The Amricans, especially, suffered exceedingly from it in their arms and · ammunition. Their gunlocks not being well secured, many of their muskets were rendered unfit for use. Their cartridgeboxes had been so badly constructed as not to protect their powder from the severity of the tempest.
These circumstances compelled Washington to defer the engagement. He therefore recrossed the Schuylkill at Parker's Ferry, and encamped upon the eastern bank of that river, on both sides of Perkyomy Creek. But as this retreat left general Smallwood too much exposed to be surrounded by the enemy, general Wayne, with VOL. II.
his division, was detached to the rear of the British with orders to join him; and carefully concealing himself and his movements, to seize every occasion which their march might offer, of engaging them to advantage.
The extreme severity of the weather entirely stopped the British army, and prevented any pursuit. They made no other movement than merely to unite their columns, and then took post at Tryduffin, whence they detached a party to seize a magazine of flour aod other stores, which the republicans had deposited at Valley Forge. Howe discovered by his spies, that general Wayne, with fifteen hundred men, was lying in the woods in the rear, and not far from the left wing of his army. Suspecting some scheme of enterprise, he determined to avert the stroke, by causing Wayne to experience the check he destined for him. Accordingly, in the night of the thirteenth, he detached general Grey, with two regiments and a body of light infantry, to surprise the enemy. That general conducted the enterprise with great prudence and activity. . Stealing his way through the woods, he arrived undiscovered, about one in the morning, before the encampment of Wayne. Having forced bis pickets without noise, the British detachment, guided by the light of their fires, rushed in upon the enemy, torpid with sleep and chilled with terror. In the midst of this obscurity and confusion, a shocking slaughter was executed with bayonets. The Americans lost many of their men, with their baggage, arms, and stores. The whole corps must have been cut off, if Wayne had not preserved his coolness; he promptly rallied a few regiments, who withistood the shock of the enemy, and covered the retreat of the others. The loss of the English was very inconsiderable. When this attack commenced, general Smallwood, who was coming up to join Wayne, was already within a mile of the field of battle; and, had he commanded troops who were to be relied on, might have given a very different turn to the night. But his militia, who were excessively alarmed, thought only of their own safety; and having fallen in with a party returning from the pursuit of Wayne, they instantly fled in confusion.
Having thus secured his rear, the British general resolved to bring the Americans to action, or to press them so far from Philadelphia as should enable him to push suddenly across the Schuylkill, and turn without danger to bis right, in order to take possession of that city. To this end he made such movements upon the western bank, as to give the enemy jealousy that he intended to cross higher up, where the river was more shallow, and after turning his right flank, to seize the extensive magazines of provisions and military stores, which had been established at Reading. In order to oppose so great a mischief, Washington retired with his army up the river, and encamped at Potts Grove. Howe, on intelligence of this change of the enemy's position, immediately crossed the Schuylkill without opposition; a