Book Review: Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 by Michael C. Harris (four stars)
“Their affairs will be growing worse—our’s better: so that delay will ruin them. It will serve to perplex and fret them, and precipitate them into measures, that we can turn to good account. Our business then is to avoid a General engagement and waste the enemy away by constantly goading their sides, in a desultory way.” Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s aide de camp
Drawn heavily from primary sources by those who were there, Harris details the engagement which he thinks set America on the sure road to independence. Detailed to unit commanders and their biographies, weather, and politics. Perhaps too exhaustive for casual readers, but valuable documenting what really transpired.
“[M]y prayers went with the ball that it might finish Washington & the Rebelion together.” For the second time that day, the most important man in America barely escaped severe injury or death.
Harris carefully documents and dismisses many of the popular, but fictious anecdotes concerning the battle. Excellent maps. Several “Betsy Ross Flag” myths are exposed.
“Not just chusing to take the Bull by the horns we disappointed Washington and turned his Right.” [English general] James Grant, October 20, 1777
Lord Howe witnessed the slaughter at Breed’s Hill in 1775 and strove to never repeat it. Washington hoped for repetition and that hope blinded him to what Howe was really doing and Flat Bush, White Plains, and now at the Brandywine River. Howe had only one trick, but Washington never learned it.
Knowledge of the fords and other terrain features could have made the difference. In this regard Washington failed the army; the army did not fail Washington. By contrast, despite operating in hostile territory, Howe’s army succeeded in getting all the information it needed to achieve it main goal of flanking the American army and driving into its rear.