Remembering America's 9.11 in 1777
Updated: Sep 12, 2022
September 11th has been a day of great challenges for our country. On 9.11 in 1777, the largest Battle of the War for Independence was fought, known as the Battle of Brandywine. The American Defeat directly led to the fall of the Capitol of the American Cause. Yet, the indomitable spirit was not crushed. May we never forget on this day of fire for our country, that this crucible forged who we may yet be today.
Similar to the Battle of Long Island the year before, Washington's Army was strung out in a vain attempt to guard the Brandywine River from a superior British Army under Howe from crossing. Howe again flanked Washington. The lone Regiment of professional, Continental soldiers fielded by Delaware was commanded by Hazen. As their Captain Caldwell had proudly had a prized Blue Hen, whose several sons were renowned cock fighters for their ferocity, the Delawares earned the name, Sons of the Blue Hen! A similar legend has the Delaware Soldiers, with their blue coats worn when the War began, were called the Fightin' Blue Hens, after the Kent County Blue Hen chicken bred for cock fighting. General Greene remarked to their Captain Kirkwood, "Ha! Your soldiers are singular fellows! You fight all day and dance all night!" At the Battle of Long Island, they had fought with the Marylanders as the did King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, and helped to save Washington's Army from destruction. Commanded by Hazen, the Sons of the Blue Hen were in Stirling's Division, which sought to defend the northern slope of a hill near the Birmingham Court House, across from Osborne's Hill. Three British Columns, numbering 6,000 men, with the Guards on the right, Grenadiers in the center, and light infantry, including Hessian and Anspach Jagers, formed the left. Ample reserves formed additional support.
A little past 4 PM, the British advance began in style, with muskets and bayonets, "shining like silver," the fifes and drums playing, "The British Grenadiers." The brick red clad British Redcoats and regal blue clad Hessians swept downhill across the vale, with the steady, unstoppable "arrogant assurance" of some of the best disciplined troops in the world.
Historian Patrick K. O'Donnell, in his book, "Washington's Immortals," describes how many Hessians would file down their teeth into fangs. Sporting shocking mustaches (with them painted on if unable to grow a convincing one) in a world of mainly clean shaven men, they march into battle aware that, if they refused to follow orders, their officers could put them to death on the spot without question, and their families back at home, be tortured. This brutal discipline helped ensure instant execution of battlefield orders. As an overwhelming and relentless wave, the light infantry swept around the American right, while the Guards and Grenadiers charged with the cold steel, not even halting to fire! De Borre's three Maryland regiments broke and ran for their lives, whirling through Sullivan's Division, causing them to scatter like leaves. Shorn of its wings, the American Center of Stirling and Stephen's Divisions, including Hazen's Fightin' Blue Hens, alone held the field. As Greene and Washington spurred on reinforcements, which covered four miles in 45 minutes, the 3,000 Americans stood firm against ferocious assaults by two to three times their number. For an hour and 40 minutes, under the withering fire of British machine like platoon fire and four 12 Pound British Cannon, the Americans fought desperately for the hill. For 50 minutes of that time, they fought as Captain Anderson of the Delawares described, "almost Muzzle to Muzzle, in such a manner that General Conway, who had Seen much Service says he never Saw So Close & Severe a fire... Cannon balls flew thick and many and small arms roared like the rolling of drum." Five times the Americans were driven back and five times they surged forward to regain their blood-soaked ground. At last, the Americans fell back to superior numbers. A British offensive further along the Brandywine River hurled back the other part of the American Army, sending the American Army in retreat. General Greene's Division of reinforcements made two stands, the second of which produced such blazing musketry that it halted the British and German bayonets. The falling darkness allowed the shattered American Army to fall back to Chester, largely in disarray.
Yet, as Historian Christopher Ward notes a remarkable sentiment in his book, "The Delaware Continentals." Though they had been beaten as badly as an army can be without being completely destroyed, there had been no panic, or even suggestion of despair. Captain Anderson told of the feeling that prevailed, "Through all these trying times, I saw not a despairing look, nor did I hear a despairing word. We had our solacing words for each other - 'Come boys, we shall do better another time' - sounded through our little army. Had any man suggested, merely hinted at the idea of giving up, he would have been knocked down, and if killed it would have been no murder! Such was the spirit of the times - such as the idea of us 'poor ragamuffins' (as the British called us)." That this was true of the army in general was proven by their ready reorganization the next day and the spirit in which the campaign was so soon and courageously pursued. May we be inspired by the resilience of our ancestors and fellow Americans as we observe this Patriot Day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7S_07E-9CA is a magnificent rendition of the Anthem of Washington's Army. May God save these United States!
The painting of Delaware Continental is from a fantastic article at https://kabinettskriege.blogspot.com/2017/07/they-fight-all-day-and-dance-all-night.html All other images were taken by the Author, Aaron Bradford. He is shown depicting a Delaware Continental of Captain Robert Kirkwood's Company from later in the War, when the split shirts and distinctive yellow cocked hats replaced the blue regimental coats and leather mitre caps.
The final image is of Aaron Bradford portraying a Georgia Militia Man next to the Monument and resting place of General Nathanael Greene. Immerse yourself in Colonial Savannah to learn of the stories behind the marble monuments in American History!