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Washington advances to Brandywine,
Early in the morning, the day before sir CHAP. III. William Howe had landed at Elk ferry, the 1777. American general passed through Philadelphia General on his way to meet the enemy. This route advances to was taken in the hope of making some impression on the disaffected of that city, many of whom had been greatly deceived respecting the strength of his army. After stopping some short time on the Brandywine to refresh, and afford an opportunity of reconnoitring both the country and the enemy, the divisions of Greene and Stephen proceeded nearer to the head of Elk, and encamped behind White-clay creek.
Congress had directed general Smallwood and colonel Gist to command the militia of Maryland, who had been ordered by general Washington to assemble near the head of the bay, for the purpose of cutting off small par. ties which might be sent out for horses and forage, and generally, of threatening and harassing the rear of the enemy, when his march to Philadelphia should commence. General Cad. walader, in whose activity, talents, and zeal, great confidence was placed, was likewise requested by the commander in chief to furnish every aid in his power towards getting out the militia, and to take charge of them until the arrival of Smallwood. The militia of the two lower counties of Delaware were also directed to assemble under general Rodney in
CHAP. III. the rear of the enemy, and to co-operate with 1777. those of Maryland. Colonel Richardson's conti
nental regiment, which had been stationed on
The militia of Pennsylvania under the com.' mand of major general Armstrong were expected to act in concert with the army which was to oppose the enemy in front. Great exertions were used to bring them immediately into the field, and to employ them in watching those parties which might be detached to seize horses, carriages, and cattle, which it was foreseen must be the first objects of the enemy.
The scarcity of Arms was now severely felt. The militia in general manifested some degree of spirit; and, although the numbers required by congress, did not take the field, yet more appeared than could be armed. Those nearest danger were, as usual, most slow in collecting; but it is probable that the delays experienced were principally occasioned by their exposed situation, and necessary attention to the care of their families and property.
The real strength of the American army cannot be stated with certainty. It was esti.. mated by sir William Howe at fifteen thousand including militia, and this estimate probably did not far exceed their real total as appeared by the returns. But it is an unfortunate fact, attributable in some degree to the badness of
their clothing and scarcity of tents; and in CHAP. II. some degree to the neglect of the commissary 1777. department to provide those articles of food which contribute to the preservation of health, that the effective force was always very far short. .. of their total number. Including militia the effectives did not exceed eleven thousand.
Morgan's regiment of riflemen, which had been found particularly useful during the incursion of the enemy into Jersey, having been detached in order to join the northern army, a corps of light infantry was now formed consisting of nine officers, eight sergeants, and a hundred rank and file, from each brigade, the command of which was given to general Maxwell, who in the course of the last winter had acquired some reputation as a partisan. This corps was advanced to Iron hill, about three miles in front of White-clay creek and extended towards Atkins' tavern. . The cavalry, consisting of four regiments, amounting to about nine hundred men, including persons of every description, were employed principally on the lines in watching the enemy, gaining intelligence, and · picking up stragglers.
The intended movement of general Howe on the third of September was discovered from his previous arrangements, and it was recommended by the commander in chief to general Maxwell, to post a choice body of men in the night, on an advantageous part of the road, in
CHAP. III. order to annoy him on his march. In the morn1777. ing of the third, general Grant being left with
six battalions at the head of Elk to guard the baggage and preserve a communication with the shipping, the two divisions under lord Cornwallis and general Knyphausen moved forward and formed a junction about Pencader; or Atkins' tavern, where they encamped with the right at Pencader and the left extending
across Christiana' towards Newark. In their Lord Corn way, the column under lord Cornwallis fell in Maxwell's with, and attacked Maxwell, who made a short compelsthem resistance, and then retreated over White-clay
creek, with the loss of about forty killed and
The whole American army, except the light infantry, which remained on the lines, now took a position behind Red-clay creek, having its left at Newport on the Christiana, and on the road leading directly from the camp of sir William Howe to Philadelphia. Its right ex. tended a considerable distance up the creek to Hockesson township. On this ground, the general thought it not improbable that the fate of Philadelphia, and of the campaign, might
be decided; and here he resorted to all the CHAP. III. means in his power to encourage his troops, 1777. and stimulate them to the greatest exertions. . *
General Grant, having embarked the tents Sept. 8. and heavy baggage on board the ships, joined the grand army which was again put in motion. The main body advanced by Newark, upon the right of the American encampment, and took post within four miles of that place, extending its left still further up the country. A strong column, in the mean-time, made'a show of attacking in front, and after manœuvering for some time, halted at Milton, within two miles of the centre.
On reconnoitring their situation, general Washington very clearly perceived that the column in front was designed only to amuse, while their left should effect the principal and real object. That object most probably was to turn his right, and, suddenly crossing the Brandywine, to seize the heights on the north side of that river and thus cut off his communication with Philadelphia. . To prevent the execution of this plan, it was necessary to change his ground. He therefore moved very early in the night, and crossing the Brandywine, took post next morning behind that river, on the heights extending from Chadd's ford, southeastwardly. The light corps under general Maxwell was advanced in front and advantageously placed on the hills south of the river