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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: The Turning Point, 1777-1778
Washington Describes the Battle at Brandywine Creek, September 11, 1777

Although tending to be timid in offensive operations, General Howe nonetheless got the best of the Americans by attacking the Continental Army at Brandywine Creek. In the following letter from Washington to the Continental Congress, how does Washington account for the failure of his troops to beat the British?

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At Midnight, Chester [Pennsylvania], September 11, 1777.

Sir: I am sorry to inform you, that in this day's engagement, we have been obliged to leave the enemy masters of the field. Unfortunately the intelligence received of the enemy's advancing up the Brandywine, and crossing at a ford about six miles above us, was uncertain and contradictory, notwithstanding all my pains to get the best. This prevented my making a disposition, adequate to the force with which the Enemy attacked us on the right; in consequence of which the troops first engaged, were obliged to retire before they could be reinforced. In the midst of the attack on the right, that body of the Enemy which remained on the other side of Chad's Ford, crossed it, and attacked the division there under the command of General Wayne and the light troops under General Maxwell who, after a severe conflict, also retired. The Militia under the command of Major Genl. Armstrong, being posted at a ford, about two miles below Chad's, had no opportunity of engaging. But though we fought under many disadvantages, and were from the causes, above mentioned obliged to retire, yet our loss of men is not, I am persuaded, very considerable, I beleive much less than the enemy's. We have also lost about seven or eight pieces of cannon, according to the best information I can at present obtain. The baggage having been previously moved off, is all secure, saving the men's Blankets, which being at their backs, many of them doubtless are lost.

I have directed all the Troops to Assemble behind Chester, where they are now arranging for this Night. Notwithstanding the misfortune of the day, I am happy to find the troops in good spirits; and I hope another time we shall compensate for the losses now sustained. The Marquis La Fayette was wounded in the leg, and Genl. Woodford in the hand. Divers other Officers were wounded and some Slain, but the number of either cannot now be ascertained. I have &ca.

P.S. It has not been in my power to send you earlier intelligence; the present being the first leisure moment I have had since the action.
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View the original document from the George Washington Papers. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.