12 Sep 2018

When Failure Will One Day Lead to Victory: Remembering Brandywine

When Failure Will One Day Lead to Victory: Remembering Brandywine

On September 11, 1777, Gen. George Washington’s army fought valiantly but ultimately failed to stop the British army’s progression toward the American seat of government in Philadelphia. While the Battle of Brandywine had tragic results for the nearly 2,000 soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured in the fighting – and while it ended in the hasty retreat of the Continental Army without achieving their mission - it also had a few unexpected silver linings for the Patriot cause.

Here are three ways the Battle of Brandywine ultimately benefitted the struggle for American independence.

1. The battle proved the Continental Army’s mettle. The British didn’t take their victory for granted, impressed by the Patriots’ tenacity and skill. Continental Army troops’ ability to hold their own for a full day against experienced professional soldiers who outnumbered them was itself an accomplishment. British Lieutenant Martin Hunter admitted, “The Americans never fought so well before, and they fought to great advantage.”

2. Washington’s army escaped relatively intact. While the Continental Army’s valor and tenacity on the battlefield were commendable, so was their conduct in the retreat. Forced from the field, the scattered army did not flee in panic, which allowed Washington’s army to fight another day.

3. The Patriot soldiers gained valuable experience. Many Patriot soldiers – mostly ordinary citizens from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia – went into the Battle of Brandywine with little or no previous experience on the battlefield. Brandywine and the winter that followed at Valley Forge would mold Washington’s army into a formidable fighting force.

While the Revolution would claim six more years and many more lives before freedom was won, the spirit and grit shown by the Patriot soldiers on this day in 1777 would ultimately make all the difference in the quest for independence.

Rev War In4: Combat Strategy in the Revolutionary War

Were the Patriots really more guerrilla-style fighters than the British? How did the two sides choose their tactics? David Lawrence describes the combat styles of the Continental and British armies in the Revolutionary War.

Battle of Brandywine: Proving the Patriots’ Mettle

By many measures – duration, geographic spread of the fighting, or number of troops engaged – it was the biggest battle of the Revolution. Get the details of this sprawling engagement from start to exhausted finish.

Saved! Dilworth Farm

We held a news conference with our partners from fellow preservation organizations and local government on September 15, 2017, to celebrate the saving of a crucial piece of land on the Brandywine battlefield.

American Battlefield Trust

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