restricted access Chapter 8. Battle and a Wise Determination to Avoid Battle: The Struggle for Philadelphia (July to September 1777)
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GW_051-100.indd 92 5/2/12 7:34 AM CHAPTER 8 Battle and a Wise Determination to Avoid Battle: The Struggle for Philadelphia (July to September 1777) General Washington marches towards the Delaware. - Takes measuresfor checkingBurgoyne . -British army lands at theftrry on Elk River. -General Washington advances to the Brandywine. -RetreatofMaxwell. -Defeatat Brandywine. -Skirmish on ther6th ofSeptember.-Retreat to French Creek.- General Wayne surprised.- General Howe takespossession ofPhiladelphia. -Congress removes to Lancaster. July 1777 WHILE THE British troops were embarking at New York, the utmost exertions were made by General Washington to strengthen the army of the north, which was retreating before Burgoyne. He not only pressed the Governors ofthe eastern states to reinforce it with all their militia, and hastened the march of those generals who were designed to act in that department, but made large detachments ofchoice troops from his own army, thus weakening himself in order to reinforce other generals, whose strength would be more useful. On receiving intelligence that the British Reet had sailed, the American army, under his immediate command, commenced its march southward. On the 30th ofJuly, the Reet appeared offthe capes of Delaware, and orders were given for assembling all the several detachments in the neighborhood of Philadelphia. Scarcely were these orders given, when they were countermanded . An express brought the information that the Reet had sailed out of Delaware bay, and was steering eastward. On the 7th ofAugust, it was again seen a few leagues south ofthe capes of Delaware; after which it disappeared , and was not again seen until late in that month, when it appeared in the Chesapeake. 92 GW_051-100.indd 93 5/2/12 7:34 AM ~ The Strugglefor Philadelphia ~ The original design had been to proceed up the Delaware; but, on entering that bay, its obstructions were found to be so considerable, that this design was abandoned, and the resolution taken to transport the army up the Chesapeake. The fleet sailed up that bay, and proceeded up Elk river as high as it was safely navigable. On the 25th ofAugust, the troops, estimated at eighteen thousand effectives, were landed at the ferry. On the appearance of the fleet in the Chesapeake, the several divisions of the American army were again ordered to unite in the neighborhood of Philadelphia; and the militia of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the northern counties of Virginia, were directed to take the field. The day before Sir William Howe landed, the American army marched through Philadelphia to the Brandywine. The divisions of Greene and Stephen were advanced nearer the head of Elk, and encamped behind White Clay creek. The militia of Maryland and Delaware, with Richardson 's continental regiment, were assembled in the British rear, under General Smallwood; and the militia of Pennsylvania were united with the main body of the army. It was estimated by General Howe at fifteen thousand, including militia; and his estimate did not far exceed their total numbers; but the effectives, including militia, did not exceed eleven thousand. Morgan's regiment of riflemen having been detached to the northern army, a corps of light infantry was formed for the occasion, and placed under General MaxwelU This corps was advanced to Iron Hill, about three miles in front of White Clay creek. The British army, on landing, encamped in two divisions-the one at Elkton, the other at Cecil Court-House. On the 3d of September, they formed a junction at Pencader, or Aiken's tavern. On the march, Lord Cornwallis fell in with, and attacked Maxwell, who retreated over White Clay creek, with the loss of about forty men, killed and wounded. r. After the battle of Great Bridge, Virginia (chapter 4, above), Thomas Marshall had been commissioned Major, and his son John First Lieutenant, of the Third Virginia Continentals, and marched north to join Washington's army in August of 1776. In December of1776 John Marshall was promoted to Captain-Lieutenant and transferred to the Fifteenth Virginia, and in August of1777 was chosen to serve in the select corps formed prior to the battle of Brandywine , known as Maxwell's Light Infantry. See Beveridge, The Lift ofjohn Marshall, !, pp. 79-80, 91, 93-94; on light infantry, see chapter 5, note 6 above.William Maxwell (c. 1733-96), of Ireland and New Jersey, was Brigadier General in the Continental army. 93 GW_051-100.indd 94 5/2/12 7:34 AM ~ COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE REVOLUTION ~ The American army encamped behind Red Claycreek, on the...


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Subject Headings

  • Washington, George, -- 1732-1799.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1775-1783.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1783-1809.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Campaigns.
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