On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed the tragic events that unfolded in New York City’s skyline. However, 224 years ago, a different scene was playing out in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
British general William Howe came down with his army from New York and met General George Washington’s at Chadds Ford. However, before contact was made, Howe sent a strong portion of his men to sneak up on the colonists from the side. That division took a roundabout route, crossed the Brandywine Creek, and then came down from the north. One scout ran to warn Washington about the other attack, but he was ignored. Two more scouts came, and Washington readjusted his plans to suit the two side force. However, the redcoats won out. Washington’s forces retreated under the direction of Lafayette, one of the most famous generals to come out of the Revolutionary War and after which Lafayette College was named.
Soon after the battle, the British marched to and occupied Philadelphia, which had recently been deserted by the Continental Congress. Washington’s forces proceeded to winter at Valley Forge.
The Battle of Brandywine claims three big names: Howe, Washington, and Lafayette. It also claims two well known Revolutionary War events: the occupation of Philadelphia and the wintering at Valley Forge.
However, for those of us at the Chadds Ford Historical Society, we have a more personal connection with the Battle of Brandywine.
For example, Jacob Ritter, a Bucks County resident, was one of the soldiers who stood in that battle. He heard Washington’s order to retreat and hid, but was captured by the Hessian soldiers under Howe’s command the next day. He was then taken to be a prisoner in Philadelphia. Eventually, he became a Quaker minister, partially due to his traumatic experiences during the war.
Along the same strain, the Battle of Brandywine was fought near a Quaker meeting house, which was in use that day. Their records mark that they could hear the sounds of battle from outside, but “all was quiet and peaceful within”.
Elizabeth Chadds, of our John Chadds House, could also hear the din of war. The sixty seven year old widow hid her silver spoons in her pocket as a precaution. She never filed a property damage claim with the Continental Congress. In fact, in Chadds Ford, only forty seven claims, less than nine percent of the population, were filed. However, that could have arisen from her Quaker beliefs rather than lack of damage. Quakers, as pacifists, would’ve hesitated to try to gain money from the war. We do know, however, that no civilians were killed during the battle.
Happy fourth of July, everyone!