1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brandywine
BRANDYWINE, the name of a stream in Pennsylvania and Delaware, U.S.A., which runs into the Delaware river a few miles east of Wilmington, Delaware. It is famous as the scene of the battle of Brandywine in the American War of Independence, fought on the 11th of September 1777 about 10 m. north-west of Wilmington, and a few miles inside the Pennsylvania border. Sir William Howe, the British commander-in-chief, while opposed to Washington’s army in New Jersey, had formed the plan of capturing Philadelphia from the south side by a movement by sea to the head of Delaware Bay. But contrary winds and accidents delayed the British transports so long that Washington, who was at first puzzled, was able to divine his opponents’ intentions in time; and rapidly moving to the threatened point he occupied a strong entrenched position at the fords over the Brandywine, 25 m. south-west of Philadelphia. Here on the 11th of September the British attacked him. Howe’s plan, which was carefully worked out and exactly executed, was to deliver an energetic feint attack against the American front, to take a strong column 12 m. up the stream, and crossing beyond Washington’s right to attack his entrenchments in rear. Washington was successfully held in play during the movement, and General Sullivan, the commander of the American right wing, misled by the conflicting intelligence which reached him from up-stream, was surprised about noon by definite information as to the approach of Cornwallis on his right rear. Changing front “right back” in the dense country, he yet managed to oppose a stubborn resistance to the flanking attack, and with other troops that were hurried to the scene his division held its ground for a time near Birmingham meeting-house. But Howe pressed his attack sharply and drove back the Americans for 2 m.; the holding attack of the British right was converted into a real one, and by nightfall Washington was in full retreat northward toward Chester, protected by General Greene and a steady rear-guard, which held off Howe’s column for the necessary time. The British were too exhausted to pursue, and part of Howe’s force was inextricably mixed up with the advancing troops of the frontal attack. The American loss in killed, wounded and prisoners was about 1000; that of the British less than 600. Howe followed up his victory, and on the 27th of September entered Philadelphia.