“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near West Chester in Chester County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)


Surprise on the American Right Flank

Brandywine Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., April 2, 2022
1. Brandywine Marker
Inscription.  "General Howe will strain every nerve to possess Philadelphia,"
- General George Washington, September 9, 1777

You are facing northwest, towards the scene of some of the hardest fighting of the Revolutionary War. On September 11, 1777, British commander in chief Sir William Howe ordered Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis to cross Brandywine Creek out of sight of the Continental Army's right flank. Cornwallis crossed at Jefferis Ford, moving southeast when Continental scouts spotted his 8,400 troops on Osborne Hill at 2:00 P.M.

General George Washington dispatched 4,300 Continental soldiers in three divisions under Major Generals William Alexander (known by title as Lord Stirling), Adam Stephen, and John Sullivan to guard the American right flank. Stirling and Stephen reached Birmingham Hill to form a strong battle line adjacent to a meetinghouse and cemetery. The British columns appeared at 4:00 PM. Sullivan arrived but was out of position from the other American divisions. Before his men could link up with their fellow Continentals, Cornwallis launched his attack.

The Americans
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on Birmingham Hill faced repeated musketry, cannon fire, and bayonet assaults from 7,000 of the British Army's finest soldiers. Five times the Americans were driven back only to retake the ground. Sullivan's force, holding the southwest portion of the hill, broke first. The Marquis de Lafayette soon entered the fight, dismounted from his horse, and tried to prevent the remaining troops from crumbling. Soon Lafayette was struck in the leg by a musket ball, spilling his French blood for American independence.

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Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. At Brandywine, the British general would once again have his chance to "bag the fox” (George Washington) that had eluded him nine months before at Trenton, New Jersey.

William Alexander, Lord Stirling, fought at the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and in the coming years. His leadership earned him George Washington's trust. He died in January 1783, likely explaining why his name is often forgotten among the war's best commanders.

Major General John Sullivan was a daring field commander who fought at Long Island, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. He briefly served in Rhode Island and then led an expedition against the Iroquois Confederacy in New York. He retired from service soon after and settled in New Hampshire, where he served
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as the state's third governor.

[map caption shown last]

General Charles Cornwallis advances from Jefferis Ford to surprise Washington's right flank. The maneuver is reminiscent of the Battle of Long Island where the Continental forces were routed by a similar American miscalculation.
Erected by American Battlefield Trust.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Revolutionary. A significant historical date for this entry is September 9, 1777.
Location. 39° 53.962′ N, 75° 34.404′ W. Marker is near West Chester, Pennsylvania, in Chester County. Marker is on Birmingham Road, 0.2 miles west of S. New Street, on the right when traveling east. It is off south side of Birmingham Road between that road's end (at Old Wilmington Pike) and the junction where southbound New Street splits off. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: West Chester PA 19382, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Brandywine (within shouting distance of this marker); American Battlefield Trust (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dilworthtown (approx. 0.3 miles away); Brandywine Battlefield A Commonwealth Treasure (approx. 0.3 miles away); William Darlington Birthplace (approx. 0.4 miles away); Brinton Run Preserve (approx. 0.4 miles away); Sandy Hollow Heritage Park (approx. 0.4 miles away); Sandy Hollow (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in West Chester.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 24, 2022. It was originally submitted on April 4, 2022, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. This page has been viewed 89 times since then and 32 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on April 4, 2022, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 29, 2023