Book Review: Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777


by Michael Harris

El Dorado Hills: Savas Beatie, 2014. Pp. xliv, 482. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 161121162X

Brandywine, "An Oft Over-Looked Battle"

Rightly reminding us that Brandywine is a very neglected fight, independent scholar and battlefield tour guide Harris notes that it was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War in both numbers engaged and area fought-over. Moreover, it was a battle with important consequences; although a lost fight, Brandywine prevented the British from capturing the Continental Congress and proved the mettle of the Continental Army. 

Harris is critical of nearly all earlier accounts of the battle, pointing out that they are often full of myths, ignorant of the geographic setting , inaccurate as to the events, and frequently make little or no use of primary source material, of which there is a considerable volume.  Having said this, he then begins a detailed account of the campaign and battle of Brandywine, which covered most of the first eight months of 1777

So Harris uses five chapters to discuss the strategic situation, British plans, and their movement to the Chesapeake in a bid to outflank Philadelphia from the south , covering from January through August of 1777.   He then uses five more chapters to cover preliminary operations from August 25th through September 10th , discus sing the organization and condition of the two armies, and set ting the stage for the battle. 

Harris then devotes six chapters to the battle itself, covering the events of September 11, 1777 in fine detail, often on a   minute-by-minute basis.  A final chapter looks at the aftermath of the battle, and an epilogue discusses its overall importance within the framework of the Revolutionary War.  

Along the way, Harris gives us some details about the personalities involved, on both sides, often noting individual deeds of generalship or valor.  He also rebuts myth after myth, including the alleged role of the “Hessians” in the fight, the supposed poor state of Washington’s army, and the supposed deeds of several local heroes, mostly invented after the fact

The first serious, detailed scholarly book on interesting battle, Harris’s account will serve as the standard work for a long time.


Note:  Brandywine is also available as an eBook, ISBN978-1-61121-163-4

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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