This Sunday on the Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page, Robert Dunkerly will join the “Rev War Revelry” to discuss his newest publication, Decision at Brandywine: The Battle of Birmingham Hill.
The Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777, saw the defeat of the American forces in southeastern Pennsylvania. The victory by the British opened the road to Philadelphia, which fell to Sir William Howe’s forces on September 26, fifteen days after the battle.
Dunkerly, a park ranger with Richmond National Battlefield Park and a contributing historian for Emerging Revolutionary War will discuss the pivotal action that happened around Birmingham Hill on that Thursday in 1777. The engagement at Brandywine was the largest and longest battle in the entire American Revolution and the third bloodiest. This new publication examines the action near Birmingham Hill and Meeting House where the action that day turned against George Washington’s forces.
Thus, this Sunday, at 7 p.m. EDT, tune into ERW’s Facebook page for the next historian happy hour as the popular “Rev War Revelry” series continues with this author spotlight.
Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat serving in the French army, and recently married, when the Revolution broke out in America. He followed events with interst, and was motivated to come and fight with the Americans.
He arrived in March, 1777, nineteen years old and eager. He immediately formed a friendship with Washington, and was an aide on his staff. In the meantime British forces had invaded Pennsylvania, intent on capturing Philadelphia. Washington’s army took a position behind Brandywine Creek, and the British attacked on September 11, 1777. British troops had flanked the Americans, and reinforcements were rushed to the threatened sector, making a stand on Birmingham Hill.
Eager to get to the fighting, Lafayette and a group of French officers rode to the unfolding battle at Birmingham Hill, arriving as the action was at its hottest. Approaching from the south, they rode up the Birmingham Road, and turned to the left, coming in behind the brown-coated troops of General Thomas Conway’s Pennsylvania brigade.
Before the horrific terrorist attacks that struck the United States on September 11, 2001, this date in American history saw the longest single day engagement with the highest number of combatants during the entire American Revolution fought in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Known to history as the Battle of Brandywine, approximately 30,000 soldiers were involved and 1,887 became casualties, the majority, 1,300 being Americans. One of those 1,300 individuals was Reverend or Chaplain Joab Trout, from New Hampshire.
The night before the engagement, he gave the following sermon beat the evening call on the eve of battle. And 242 years later the words still echo with a sense of patriotism and stoicism for a cause that was worth fighting and dying for. Below is the full sermon:
Captain John Ashby and his fellow Virginians would face their greatest test of the war on the afternoon of September 11th, 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine. Following a wide flank march the bulk of the Crown forces emerged on Washington’s right flank, ready to trap and smash the Continental Army. Washington reorganized his line, drawing men north in a desperate attempt to meet the new threat. The Third Virginia was ordered into position far in advance of the American lines – their objective was to hold a wooded hill near the Birmingham Friends Meeting House in order to buy time for the rest of the American troops to take up position. Ashby and his fellow officers arranged their men among the buildings and woodlot of the Samuel Jones farm and awaited the attack that was certain to come.
From a Pennsylvania State Historical Commission marker, one quickly can find out the importance of Osborne Hill to the Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777.
The hillside was the site of British General William Howe’s post in which he coordinated and commanded the different components of the British and Hessian forces that day. The battle opened the way for the British conquest of Philadelphia and was the largest, in terms of manpower fighting, of any American Revolutionary War battle.
Our friends at Campaign 1776, an initiative of the Civil War Trust, have passed along a few important updates from their very busy September.
First, another installment of their very popular “In4” video series sheds light on the Battle of Brandywine, fought in southeastern Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777. The video is narrated by Thomas McGuire, historian and author. Check out the video here.
Switching gears to the Southern Theater, Campaign 1776 has kicked off an initiative to save 1,037 acres at six sites in South Carolina. Those sites include land on Port Royal Island, Fort Fair Lawn, Colleton Castle, Lewisfield Plantation, Hanging Rock, and Waxhaws.
This appeal is the “first of its kind”, according to Civil War Trust Communication Manager Meg Martin, “to save land at these sites.” Furthermore, some of these sites were pivotal to the eventual outcome of the American Revolution, as some historians believe that the war was essentially won in the Southern Theater.
Learn more about the Campaign’s involvement here. But, feel free to leave your opinion on whether you agree that the American Revolution was won in the South or not in the comments below.
*Thank you to Meg Martin for her contributions to this post.*
Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian Daniel Welch to the blog. A brief biography of Mr. Welch is at the bottom of the post.
Several weeks ago I decided to take my usual weekend off of visiting American Civil War battlefields to take a moment to explore some American Revolutionary War historic sites just several hours down the road. Since it was a rather last minute decision, I was not completely prepared before visiting other than some basic historical context and a vague idea of operating hours and things to do while at these historic sites. So, if you want to follow the Continental Army during their experiences in the fall and winter of 1777-1778 read on to help plan a great weekend day trip.
Battle of Brandywine
If you want to follow these events as they happened, and in chronological order, began your day at the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates site. Walking the site is free, but there is a charge if you want to go through the museum or on a tour of one of two historic homes on the property. Their hours are constantly changing so make sure you check their website. (click here), before you plan your visit. To go on a house tour, view the film, and go through the museum there is an $8.00 charge; the museum and film alone is $5.00. I would suggest, if you have the time, to take in the film and museum. The film lasts approximately twenty minutes while a thorough look of the museum could take one an additional forty minutes. Between the film and museum, a firm foundation to the events of September 11, 1777 will be in place before you head out to other locations associated with the battle. The house tour is a guided tour through Washington’s headquarters on the property and is conducted by a volunteer at the site. The tour took over an hour and a half, and considering that the home had burned to the ground nearly 100 years ago and has been rebuilt and filled with modern reproductions, your time would be better spent going to other sites associated with the battle.
Before leaving, make sure you pick up driving directions from the employees at the counter to get to Birmingham Friend’s Meeting House, and Sandy Hollow, the American’s second line of defense during the battle. Also, make sure to purchase the driving tour map of the battle of Brandywine. This map will take you to numerous other historic sites and homes within the Brandywine Valley that witnessed the events of that day. The cost is a mere $2.95. Plan an additional three to four hours to complete the driving tour.
Ultimately the battle proved to be an American defeat. Although he was defeated on the field, Washington and his generals were able to get large portions of the army to the rear through Polish General Pulaski’s assistance in covering the retreat. Despite the best maneuvers to save his army, Washington was unable to save Philadelphia and the city fell to the British just two weeks later on September 26, 1777. The British remained until June 1778.
By now a late lunch would be in order. A great spot is the Black Powder Tavern. A tavern since 1746, it has a great Revolutionary War history, including a supposed visit by Washington himself. The restaurant’s name is related to a historical legend that none other than Von Steuben had ordered the tavern turned into a secret black powder magazine during the army’s pivotal winter at Valley Forge. The food here was great, as was the service and beer selection.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Following the defeat at Brandywine in September, and another engagement at White Marsh in early December, General Washington looked to put his army into a more secure camp for the coming winter. Active military campaigning for 1777 in Pennsylvania was over. Just twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia, the Continental Army faced numerous challenges here including a lack of food and shelter. Disease also spread during their time at Valley Forge. By February 1778, approximately 2,500 soldiers had perished.
To begin your visit here, start at the visitor center. The museum has its challenges. There is no discernible narrative to the exhibits; rather, numerous cases with laminated pieces of paper hanging on the side with corresponding images and item descriptions. Although there are some unique items on display, if it is busy you could wait at a particular case for the laminated cards to know what you are looking at. After a perusal of the museum, take in the free film. Although it is rather dated it provides a great overview of the winter encampment, its challenges, and outcomes. Between the film and museum, plan on spending an hour at the visitor center.
If you have additional time, take in the one and only National Park Service Ranger program offered. It is a rather short program, in length and walking distance, from the visitor center to the reconstructed Muhlenberg Hut sites. The program also echoes what is presented in the film. Before leaving the visitor center, I recommend getting the auto tour cd, as well as any updates on road closures. The park is currently under a significant amount of construction that has closed some roads and altered the driving tour route. The suggested driving tour cd is two hours in length. This would be a time allotment for those visitors who do not stop at each site, get out of the car, and explore all the stops along the route. You will want to get out and explore monuments such as those to the New Jersey troops, National Memorial Arch, von Steuben, and Patriots of African American Descent. You will also want to explore the several historic homes within the park that were used during the encampment, such as Varnum’s Quarters, Washington’s Headquarters, and the Memorial Chapel. My explorations, coupled with the driving tour cd, lasted nearly five hours.
Although it would be a long day, it can be done in one; however, if you wish to slow the pace of your visit, each site could be done on a separate day during your weekend. There is plenty of lodging in the area to accommodate this schedule. By visiting both of these historic areas and learning about the events of the fall through early spring 1777-1778, a greater picture can be viewed gleaned of military situation during the time period, as well as the tough composition of the Continental Army despite their defeats.
*Dan Welch currently serves as a primary and secondary educator with a public school district in northeast Ohio. Previously, Dan was the education programs coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for six years. During that time, he led numerous programs on the campaign and battle for school groups, families, and visitors of all ages.
Welch received his BA in Instrumental Music Education from Youngstown State University where he studied under the famed French Hornist William Slocum, and is currently finishing his MA in Military History with a Civil War Era concentration at American Military University. Welch has also studied under the tutelage of Dr. Allen C. Guelzo as part of the Gettysburg Semester at Gettysburg College. He currently resides with his wife, Sarah, in Boardman, Ohio.
On August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the majority of the 56 men who would forever be known as the “Signers of the Declaration of Independence” placed quill to ink and affixed their signature.
On September 17, 1787, the men who persevered, haggled, and agreed on the United States Constitution, dipped a quill into ink and placed their signatures on that famous document.
If one looks closely and reads the names of the signers, six gentlemen’s names would appear on both documents. If one hazarded a quick guess, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John or Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin would most likely be the first names to spill off the tongue.
Only one of those names would be correct; Benjamin Franklin. This post, the first in the series, will shed light on whose these men were, who had the great fortune–or luck?–to sign both famous political documents. The first of the “Six Signing Signers” is…..
Emerging Revolutionary War and Revolutionary War Wednesday is pleased to welcome guest historian and author Michael C. Harris this week.
The Battle of Brandywine was fought on September 11, 1777. Visiting the battlefield to commemorate what took place there began just three years later. On his way to Virginia in 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette made a point of stopping for day at the battlefield where he was wounded and giving a tour to the officers that were travelling with him. An older Lafayette returned in 1825 during his celebrated 15-month tour of America.
However, it would not be until after the American Civil War during the golden age of preservation that any kind of markers or monuments began to appear around the ten-square-mile landscape. During the 1877 centennial, artillery pieces were placed to mark the fighting near Sandy Hollow. Eighteen years later, a monument was dedicated along Birmingham Road supposedly marking the spot where Lafayette was wounded. Had Lafayette been alive, he would have been able to put out the error in location.