tv 1777 Battle of Brandywine CSPAN July 2, 2021 11:29pm-12:22am EDT
next on american history tv, author michael hares discusses the 1777 battle of brandy wine. and misconceptions surrounding general john sullivan's role in the battle. the office of historic alexandria and partnership with the emerging revolutionary war hosted this talk and provided the video. >> all right, it is my pleasure to introduce our last speaker today. michael harris has worked at the national park service here in fredericksburg, virginia. also forts lot park in new jersey. and at brandy wine battlefield. he's led numerous tours. that have been able to take part of. and was awarded the american revolution war table awarded 2014. his second campaign in
germantown was released in 2020. michael to graduated university marilyn washington in the american military university. to close this out welcome michael with general john sullivan, the battle of brandywine. it's put in the bio, and supposed to say go caps because you're a philly fan. but as we know watching the capitals, they're not going anywhere. but our wizards in washington or plain the 76 years. we will just go ahead and have nba competition. which i think you are going to come out on top of. but for those that are going to watch michael i had the recommend both his germantown book which we will put the link to and brandy wine which is speaking about this afternoon. michael, i appreciate you being here. we will go ahead and get started. >> all right, when i agreed to do this might book wasn't out yet, but then covid hit. everything got pushback. otherwise i'd probably be talking about germantown. so you're going to get some
brandy wine. so that is why i'm doing brandy wine, not the new book. but why did i wait this book? i did work there. that's not the only reason. when i got hired there back in 2005 i went down and look to the files. there was really no research. and there was only two books out on the battle of brandy one. in terms of a book that just cover them. when it was written for the bicentennial. it's actually by samuel smith. get some kind of a book. but i defy you to find a copy of it it's a hard one to find. it's expensive if you can find it. the other one was written around the year 2000. and it was written by a local newspaper writer. i'm going to be kind and it called the book folklore. it's basically chock full of myths and miss representations
of what actually happened. so i started doing digging. and what is shocking is that the fact that brady won headman so little written about. considering the re-more troops engaged here than anywhere else. they were more troops in the armies at long island but most of them were not engaged. there's over 30,000 troops engaged at brandy one. it's also the longest single bay battle. four shots about six in the morning and is not going to end until six or 6:30 at night. it pick up more space than any other battle. over ten square miles. when you factor all of it in, and it leads to the capture of philadelphia after this, it is sort of shocking more has not been written about it. i can't help to caliber the whole thing today. in the 40 minute said i have. but what i would try to tell you as much of the story as i can to the eyes of john sullivan, one of the american division commanders. now a lot of people at the time,
politicians, people in congress, a lot of books written about the campaign and the battle like to blame john sullivan for the loss. i'm going to have to prove to you through primary source analysis that it was not sullivan's fault. that the americans lose the battle. so who is john sullivan? he is from new hampshire. he was in the militia. he studied law before the war. he becomes a general when the war starts. he fights in canada the first year. and right before the battle of long island he's given a division command and made a major general. then he starts to get a bad reputation. which is why people are going to be quick to blame him. at least politicians are. he gets captured. is whether two generals captured. it's not his fault when it gets captured. but he gets captured. while he's a prisoner of war william how, the british commander of north america, will use him as a pawn in the
peace division. he's actually sent by how, while prisoner, to tell the americans that the british will negotiate for peace. but that's kind of crazy. first of all, he's an american general, he shouldn't be getting involved whether or parole or whatever the situation was. but it's also bad timing. this is august of 76. or september 76. and they just signed the declaration of independence. only a couple months after that. so congress is not in any mood or form of mind to discuss peace and the congress is going to start to look at this officer with a scant eye. fast forward to the philadelphia campaign. for a big chunk of it, the first seven weeks of the campaign near the beginning of the campaign, john sullivan's division is not with the rest of the army. as most of the army is moving
south, crossing the delaware river, moving into delaware to confront the british eventual landing by ship. he was left behind to keep an eye on the lower hudson river. and northern new jersey. while he is separated he decides to launch an attack against staten island. william how left new york for the philadelphia campaign, he lifted pretty sizeable force behind under the command of william clinton. who's in the picture at the bottom. and sullivan decides to attack a british outpost on staten island. yes, he has some initial success pushing them back. but he also ultimately gets pushed back as clinton rushes reinforcements to the island. they drive him back. sullivan is going to lose about 200 guys in this operation. the grand scheme of things, this is not that big of a deal. but it's another case a bad timing for sullivan because at the same time that congress
gets the news of his failure on staten island congress also found out about the fall of fort tire going rogue. on the lower end of lake sham plane. keep in mind the philadelphia campaign is rolling along, the saratoga campaign is happening at the same time. as part of that campaign john we're going had a capture. all of this bad news is coming into congress about the same time. congress wanted answers. they wanted a court of inquiry into his operation. to hold that court, you basically need about every senior officer in the army to stop with they are doing and to hold this investigation. washington cannot do that. he's in the middle of a major campaign. at least for now washington is going to be able to put it on hold. now sullivan will eventually rejoin the main army in northern delaware.
the hind the red clay creek defenses. the british are going to be coming at them from the southwest here. eventually with the rest of the army sullivan will cross the state line where washington starts to form his defenses behind chad's forward, along the brandy wine a river. so this is september 9th, two days before the battle brady won. who is the commanding? he's got about 1800 men. broken down into two brigades. it's mostly maryland troops. every maryland continental line unit. the only delaware regiment with the army is with this division. there's sort of an odd unit out of canada which i will go into into a second. mostly maryland troops, there are some delaware in canadian troops. many were new to the army. keep in mind, one of the reasons mark was talking earlier today about the
president campaign, why such a big deal, the army was disintegrating. the army had -- their enlistments were expired. expiring. the army was bleeding troops all through 76. when they win the battles, a bit of a miracle within themselves, and go into winter quarters at morristown in northern new jersey, there wasn't much of the army left. so they have to spend the entire winter spring, i would argue to the summer months of 1777, bringing in new recruits, forming regiments through greats. they're almost building the army all over again yes, some of the senior and ceos and officers do realist. a lot of the rank and file had not served in 76. so very little combat experience for many of the units going into the battle of brandy wine. who commands the two brigades?
one of the brigades should've been commanded by general william small would. he detached earlier from the campaign to help raise the marilyn militia. he's not at that battle. i think the senior colonel, colonel john stone in the picture here, is likely commanding the brigade. i cannot one hunted percent prove it. this is my best guess. if you're into these kind of details, these are the regiments of the brigade. the other one is committed by a french officer. more on him in a moment. if you end to these kind of details, these are the regiments of the brigade. to sort of audience in this rugged, the german regiment was made up of german settlers from pennsylvania and maryland. the idea behind this regiment was to counteract the use of german troops by the british army. just kind of stupid. this is one regiment. the british had dozens of german residents helping them.
that was the idea behind it. the other regiment is made up of french canadians. they're in the field canadian campaign earlier in the war a lot of french canadians, french catholics that were anti british rule, british government, sort of disgruntled after the end of the french indian war, were recruited to serve the american cause. because they're not from one of the original 13 states they are known as congresses own regiment. that's the origin of the canadian troops. now a little more on the french general, he plays a big spark, there's no image of him, that is why i'm using this metal to represent him. he's a french officer. 35 years of experience in europe. like many officers, like lafayette, kosciuszko, polanski, he volunteers to come over here and help with the americans. the key here is of the two brigade commanders, him and stone, who i think is stone, he
is the senior brigade commander. which means if anything happens this 11, if he gets killed, if he gets wounded, if sullivan is given a different command for some reason that will leave him in command of the division why does a matter? he barely speaks english. the letter he writes to washington after the battle, basically his report of the battle, more on that later, is basically a mixture of broken english and french. keep in mind, washington couldn't speak or read french. so the fact he is writing to the commander-in-chief in a language, a mixture of a language that washington cannot speak says a lot about this guy. he probably cannot communicate with the troops under his command. keep that in mind. all right, where is sullivan the morning of the battle? here's the brandy wine battlefield, at least a chunk of it.
you can see the river here sneaking through the middle of the battlefield. also notice there's an east branch and west branch. brandy one is actually formed from these two branches. that's important because of the way the british are going to get around the american flag. sullivan is the right flank of the army on the morning of the battle. the book of the division, oh but to regiments, there are britons forward. they're responsible for watching this crossing. it's about a mile north of chad's forward, for the rest of the army, almost half of, it is stacked up around chad's forward. he's also got, though, responsibility for the tory forwards farther to the north. or the right of the american line. this is david hall, the colonel of the delaware regiment. about 200, maybe 250 troops at touch from sullivan, watching jones is forward.
they are a good mile, maybe mile and a half aboard -- the next two forwards to the north are being watched by the french comedians i talked about. under the command of colonel moses hastily. about 300 of these guys and they are split with 150 at two different forwards. sullivan also has a two gun artillery battery with him. look at this position he's responsible for. he is the right flank of the army. he is spread out over between five or six miles from where moses is. all the way back to the other forward. it's a long front he's watching. remember he only has 1800 troops total and only a little over 500 of them are out here on the right flank. spread out over five miles.
he has two very questionable brigade commanders. he's exceptionally vulnerable to a flank attack. so it happens now the morning of the battle? most of the morning sullivan -- for those of you not familiar with this battle, william house splits his army. about 9600 of them are going to make a 70 mile flank to come around sullivan and washington's right rear. you will see that develop as we move forward. well another roughly 6800 of them are going to come straight off the main road here. and basically as a diversion, putting on a big show, make washington think the whole army is coming up this road. but in reality this is meant to be a distraction to give time for the flank to make this march. sullivan is uninvolved with the morning fighting. he doesn't get involved into about between eight or nine in
the morning. with artillery in the fourth regiment of foot. approaching britain's ford and fire develops with sullivan's troops. okay, but a series of conflicting intelligence reports are going to start rolling in to settlements headquarters throughout the morning hours and midday hours that sullivan is going to have to start to interpret. before a rigid the quote, let me explain the choice of image of washington. people love to portray this man at an age he never achieved. you want to talk about myths and misconceptions? washington is only 45 at the time valley forge, not long after this, he still had red hair. he never wore a wig a day in his life. when he's older, as white hair as president, that's his hair pulled back. these people that love to portrait him as an 80-year-old, on respect, leading men into battle drive me insane. this is a much more accurate
representation of him during the 1770 campaign. this is the wax figure of him at mount vernon in their exhibit. all right, the first piece of intelligence, major jameson came to me and on a clock. said he came from the wrath of the army so he gets a report from a dragoon officer. it's written here and this report coming in about 9:30, a half hour after it's written, remember the dispatches have to be delivered by horseback, nothing is fast, and he says he doesn't find anybody. well, yes, and an o'clock in the morning the british are not up there yet. more on that in a second. this is charles coates worth. he's a south carolina officer. for reasons i don't understand he's hanging around washington. he has no official purpose with the army. is regiment is not here. he confirms with sullivan says.
-- to see if the actually had crossed. and when they return abroad information that was no appearance of the enemy in that quarter. so these guys are saying that they sent dragoon's up here between the two branches of the brandy one and they never found anybody. well, yes, they did not get that for yet. the british left can square about 5:00 in the morning. they are not going to get to the first crossing because that the cross both branches. till around 11:00 in the morning. they are nowhere near where the caliber rate patrol is yet. that's why they're not saying it. a half hour goes by. sullivan and gets a report from moses, just as a reminder, he commands the regiment watching the two most forwards. at least the uppermost forward the americans are keeping an eye on. and he reports the british were making a flank movement. who is in the best position to
know that? but haisen, i know for sure, send patrols out onto the other side of the river. they are watching these roads. they see the british column moving north. he's also a former british army officer. i can't remember off the top of my head which regiment. he served in the french and indian war as a british officer. it's not an unintelligent man that doesn't know what is talking about. sullivan reports information. sullivan is starting to worry based upon hastens report. i had no orders, even hints to look in other places. nor had a light troop or horsemen for the purpose. i had about four light horsemen. to which i had them bring intelligence. the other i kept at the headquarters. so process this for a. minute sullivan, this is from his report onto the battle. he's saying that during the
battle other than himself and his senior staff, senior officers, nobody is on horseback in his entire division except for dragons men assigned. to which he put in the upper forward, to her with him. for guys to watch a six mile front. i can tell you, i've done a lot of research, there's about 600 cavalrymen with the army. where are they? the logical place to put them would be opted to flanks, or out in front of the army screening for the approach of the enemy. that is where they are. they are all stacked up back here behind the rear, the rear area of the army. a good mile from chats forward. nowhere near the flanks. if you're familiar with the battlefield, if you ever visit to depart, this is roughly where the entrance to the modern battlefield is. if you're familiar with it, there's a creek that runs through a swell where the
entrance of the parkas. my guess is that they are can't along there. sullivan goes on to write it was never my opinion the enemy would come around on our right flank. this opinion i often gave the general. i wrote him that morning it was clearly my opinion. nobody listens to him. washington decides to listen to him. as i mentioned earlier who said veteran officer that had to be listened to instead washington is going to send theodore land to confirm the report from moses. who's theodore blamed? he's a doctor by profession. i don't know how much military experience or training he had at this point. but he's also from virginia. he's not a local pennsylvania person that knows the terrain or roads. washington could not have picked a worse person to send on this mission. doesn't know where he's going.
what's even more confounding about this is that there are several officers, including a brigadier general, several, at least one lieutenant colonel, captains and lieutenants that live either on this battlefield or within a couple miles of here that would've been logical choices to send out on a scouting mission to confirm a report. but that is not what washington does. so about noon a report comes directly to washington. this one does not come from sullivan. that embody of troops under the lieutenant has skirmish with the flanking column out here west of the brandy wine. washington decides he can trust james ross, a pennsylvania officer who's likely serving with maxwell's brigade and was out on a routine patrol. and ran in to the flank man. his father is oh for a sign of
the declaration of independence. washington feels like he can trust this report. so he says, well, i guess the report was right. he still hasn't heard anything from bland. i base all in this report confirming with haze has told him. washington decides to do an attack across the brandy wine against the force on the other side. i don't honestly know if it was wise. but it's going to happen, we will find out in a second. these are the orders he gives. aliments about john sullivan's division and knit daniel greene's division are going to start across the brandy wine. and engage elements of the british army. it's just starting to escalate, skirmish fire increased artillery fire, but it's not really going to blow up into a major fight. sullivan says i was ordered to cross a brady one with my division. and attacked the enemies left
while the army down here crossed below me to attack the right. trinity pecker, he will confirm it. concluding only a part of the army was on the other side of chats forward. and in consequence preparations were made for attacking. again, elements of the army to cross the river and start to engage. just as that is sund heat up, potentially escalating into a major engagement, and now the report comes in to sullivan. this time from a major spear of the militia who came this morning from a tavern called martin's. i will explain a second. in the forks of the brandy wine. he came from the tavern and heard nothing of the enemy. let's process with spears says. spears claims he left the tavern, the modern village of marshall ten, he claims he left,
wrote the welch is, where the answers to the gardens is, and back to sullivan's headquarters. but he didn't find anybody. stop and think about it for a second. look at the route he took. he says he missed 9600 guys with artillery, calorie, wagons, kicking up dust on a light, hot, summer, humid day. there's reports of disclosed being kicked up. he missed all of it. i have trouble believing the report. this is what was reported to sullivan. sullivan does not believe him either. but sullivan feels like he has to tell washington what this guy said. this is his justification for telling washington. had the general crossed over the brandy wine and found the whole british army well posted in his front, his army put to
the route having the river around, other words finding out the intelligence was withheld, which meant to prevented it, demanding more reasons, i believe i never should've been able to give one which would've been satisfactory to handing the congress. this is see why a. sullivan feels like yes it to washington with this guy said. so he does. he sends the information to washington. but it doesn't change sullivan's opinion. by no means upon an apprehension of general how take advantage, any good officer in the situation waited on. this but how is doing. some first time he does it to washington. this is at least the fifth or sixth time that how used a flanking maneuver to beat washington to a better position or to achieve victory in a battle. this is not a new maneuver. washington should have been
looking forward. and he was not. he panics. he gets his information from spears. washington overreacts, panics. he calls off the assault across the brady won. just -- again, and never really escalated into a full scale fight. just as those guys are pulling back our friend theodore blunt, the virginia set up north, finally sends a report at 1:15. i have discovered a party of the enemy on the heights just on the right. i will show you the map in a second. who live close together on the fork road about a mile to the right of the meeting house. so i believe bland is somewhere on a straight road looking west. here is the house he says to the right of. the two windowed davis is on either side of the intersection. and the british at this point we're just starting to come to the end of the flank march and
coming to a rest to take a break, literally. literally, taking tea some of the officers here on osborne's hill. well behind the right flank of washington's army. as you see, they are behind hastens regiment. 2:00, sullivan reports information. colonel blunt at this moment sent word the enemy are at the rear about two miles coming down. there are, he says, about two brigades. there's actually a lot more. he also says he saw dust back in the country for about an hour. the very first intelligence or receipt with that there were coming that way, i instantly communicate to washington, again, i don't see what sullivan has done wrong up to this point. everybody is going to blame him for it. he's reported, he sent forward every bit of information that's come to him. whether he agreed or not.
it's washington's job to interpret with accurate. so washington panics and russia's three divisions to the north adam stevens division. lord sterling's division. they will take a roundabout route to come up onto birmingham hill here. and john sullivan's own division is going to cut across the country to try to link up with the other two divisions and they are facing william how who's an overall commanding officer of the british army. this division specifically is cornwallis. several things are going to happen pretty rapidly here. notice they had to sneak past the flank of the british to link back up to sullivan's main division. but most importantly, i kind of alluded to this being a problem earlier, when sullivan was ordered north by washington he was told to take overall command of this new wing. meaning all three of these
divisions. which means sullivan it was going to have to leave command of his own division and command of our french friend, who we talked about earlier. we are setting ourselves up for disaster if not, if you're not picking up. initially when seven lynn comes up here. he does initially ride with the rest of the division of the way of the street. but if you notice that they are well forward into the left of the other two divisions. and he will later right i then found it necessary to turn off to the right to form and get nearer to the other two divisions which i at that moment discovered drawn up on eminence in both the rear and to the right of a place i was then at. so he's literally looking over his regular shoulder. he sees the two divisions up on the hill. he's like, that's where we need to be.
he's going to turn to the french general and ordered him to move his division up the line with the other two. he's going to leave to go console with sterling stephen. he rides off. when he gets up here he realizes the two divisions, a little bit to the right. they're not of flank by the british force.