Middle of the Rev War
Greene opened his ranks to let the retreating Americans pass through and then re-formed his lines. Fierce fighting now took place in the area known as Sandy Hill. Charges and countercharges followed.
While the Americans were fighting the British near Dilworth, they could hear cannon fire from the vicinity of Chadd's Ford. Knyphausen was attacking Wayne. If Wayne gave way, the British under Knyphausen would have a clear path to Greene's troops fighting the northern attackers.
Knyphausen had begun bombarding the Americans across the creek with heavy artillery. The Prussian general was supposed to hold his attack until he heard the sound of Howe firing two cannon shots which was the signal that the the northern troops had forded the river successfully. Regardless, at 4:00 P.M., Knyphausen began a frontal attack without the signal. Fortunately for Knyphausen, American brigades under Generals Green and Nash had just been sent north to reinforce the American lines at Birmingham. Knyphausen sent his men across the Brandywine at several different fording spots, with four regiments alone crossing at Brinton's Ford. Knyphausen's main column pushed through at Chadd's Ford in the face of heavy American resistance. A smaller British force moved south, and crossed the creek probably at Gibson's Ford, which threatened the American militia posted farther south at Pyle's Ford.
The Americans fought with verve -- despite being outnumbered. They might have been able to endure the attack had not another British regiment -- who had gotten lost earlier in the day at Birmingham Hill -- entered the fray. These British Guards and Grenadier Brigades were supposed have part of the British force that attacked Sullivan's second line of defense at Battle Hill. Instead, they became tangled and lost in the thickets of Wistar's Woods, which allowed Sullivan's men to hold their ground longer than they might have. After a couple hours, these lost troops emerged serendipitously to the rear of Wayne's artillery position. Now, Wayne had to shift some of his men to defend against this new menace. The British pushed the outflanked Americans back to the Chad House where the Widow Chads remained -- and staunchly defended her property. Ultimately, the British got the best of Wayne's men in a spirited duel. Besieged by the bayonets of the British 71st Battalion and the Queens Rangers, the Americans turned tail toward Chester, leaving their artillery behind. Eleven guns were abandoned by the Americans including two cannon which had been captured from the Hessians during Washington's surprise attack of Trenton after crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Day 1776. Among those besieging the British was Patrick Ferguson of Ferguson's Rifleman. It was near the Chadd House that the inventor of the breech-loading rifle was wounded, which may have an effect on the war. Edward Hector, a Negro private in the 3rd Pennsylvania Artillery, valiantly saved a few wagon loads of ammunition and arms in the tumult. But most of the equipment was left behind. Fortunately, Washington had ordered the baggage removed to Chester the day before, so at least that was safe. Wayne posted a small brigade armed with four cannon, at Painter's Crossroads to cover the troops retreating toward Chester. They kept the main road to Chester open not only for Wayne's retreating men, but Nash's North Carolinians, and the rear guard of Sullivan's troops who were falling back from Dilworth.
Greene's men held the Sandy Hollow area. Fighting under Greene was brigadier General, Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister who had once served in the Prussian army. As he rode along the defensive line rallying the Virginia troops, he was recognized by some Hessians who called him by his nickname, "Devil Pete." Though the Americans fought well they were forced back. An aide-de-camp to General Howe wrote, "By six o'clock our left wing still had not been able to advance. Here the rebels fought very bravely and did not retreat until they heard in their rear General Knyphausen's fire coming nearer....The Rebels found themselves between two fires. This probably caused them to leave their strong post and retreat from their right wing on the Road to Chester. After warring for nearly two hours the outnumbered Americans began to give way.
At about 7:30, some of General Weedon's men and North Carolina troops under Brigadier General Nash surprised Howe's troops and put a damper on the British victory party. They had come on in the rear and drew up in a semicircle just north and west o the Dilworth Crossroads. Here they surprised Howe's victorious troops who had just taken the field from Greene: "The heat of the Action fell chiefly on the 64th Regt who suffered considerably, enduring with the utmost steadiness a very heavy fire, which lasted till Dark, when the Rebels retreated in great Panick taking the road to Chester." Many of the Tories (colonists that made an allegiance to the crown) in New York were also switching to the patriot "cause". The cleansing oath of New Jersey and New York was not just to their individual states, but also to "The United States". As many French officers were traveling to America to receive a commission, Washington was slow at receiving them at face value. He needed to know if they were impostors or truly trained officers of France. One of them was Thomas Conway who was an Irishman, but also a French Officer. He was a problem from the start.
Marquis de Lafayette was a different story. He did not have any military experience but was honored throughout Europe. He was only 20 and was given the title of honorary lieutenant general. He was eager to learn English and was almost like a son to Washington.
In June of 1777 the British in New York received reinforcements from England. On June 17, 1777 they were on their way to Philadelphia. Howe was moving his troops with his ships and occasionally marched in New Jersey trying to draw out Washington to fight on the plains. Washington didn't take the bate and stayed near Morristown.
As the British began the march on Philadelphia the Continental Army made a stand behind the Brandywine River. This didn't work very well and eventually Philadelphia fell to the British. Prior to this attack the Congress moved the government to York, Pennsylvania.
In September of 1777 the Continental Congress, under threat of the advancing British, moved the location of the colonies' central government from Philadelphia to Lancaster. Since the State of Pennsylvania's Government was also located in Lancaster, officials decided that a move across the Susquehanna would separate the two sufficiently and the Continental Congress set up shop in the Town of York.
It was in York that the Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving, and signed the French Treaty of Alliance. All of these events occurred in the nine months York remained Capital of the United States - until June 27, 1778.
Washington's reputation was again tarnished by another loss. General Gates reputation was very high at this point. The battle in the north was perfect for the irregular army since the fighting was in a forest setting. The British were not well equipped in this environment. And when the woods became extremely dense their caravan of canon and supplies were being cut off. As he fought on it was obvious that the British troops could not make it to Albany before the winter hit and it was too difficult to turn and go back to Canada. The elements were agains them and Gates had a victory due to good leadership and the right elements.
Washington was at a disadvantage of trying to fight the British in open fields. The Colonists were not trained for European warfare. But that would change after their training at York Town in the coming winter.
General Gates had received reinforcements that Washington had sent him while fighting in the north. While all the criticisms were being broadcast the noble acts of Washington by supporting Gates army with reinforcements showed another side of the debate. This also was difficult for Washington's forces since they had fewer soldiers on the field of battle.
These criticisms took awhile to develop but when Washington was hinting at stepping down his true followers came forward and ended these challenges. George Washington was the icon of "heroism" for the American people. The war was difficult and Washington was criticized but the people still believed in him and the cause for liberty and freedom.
Washington tried a complicated surprise attack in Germantown that started out fine but ended in a confusing fashion as dense fog created a difficult situation for both armies. The Continental Army was making a great stand when communications and mis-information caused a retreat. General Greene was making the best of the attack until everything changed. Some of the soldiers also ran out of gun power and had to retreat. This ended as another defeat. But the northern army, led by General Gates, was successful against Burgoyne at Saratoga. The win at Saratoga would encourage the French to join the fight against their nemeses, the British.
Even though Valley Forge was a difficult location for the winter it served the army well. The congress was supporting them badly. The men were starving and were half naked, even in the middle of a harsh winter. Congress seemed to be doing nothing.
A soldier, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, from Germany applied to join the Continental Army claiming that he had a high rank and social status (a baron). As Washington researched his background he was neither, but he did well enough to drill his soldiers so they could face the British on the open battlefield.