A fellow historian recently shared with me some 18th century newspaper images that had a couple of Brandywine accounts in them I want to share with you. They are both from the October 4, 1777 issue of New Hampshire Gazette.
This first one is from an anonymous civilian in Philadelphia.
“Extract of a letter from a Gentleman in Philadelphia, dated 17th September 1777
…Thursday. 11th. At 8 or 9 A.M. Gen. Howe attempted to force his passage at Chad’s Ford, which bro’t on a severe engagement, of both cannon and musketry, the cannonade was extremely heavy, and lasted with little intermission ‘till night; it was diffinetly heard from our common at a quarter past Ten A.M. I counted 61 in 3 minutes. In the musketry, Gen. Maxwell’s light troops were principally engaged, and with great success; the enemy’s loss in the forenoon at that place was 4 or 500—They retired to the heights and sent off a large detachment of much more than half their army (6 or 7000) up the Brandywine, 6 miles to Jone’s ford, which being told to Gen. Washington, tho’ late, and with great uncertainty, he detached Gen. Sullivan’s and Stirling’s divisions (about 3000) to the right who met the enemy at 5 o’clock P.M., at or near Birmingham, 3 or 4 miles northerly of Chad’s Ford where an obstinate engagement began, which lasted 45 minutes, in a most severe and close manner, the fronts push’d bayonets, at last our people being greatly outnumbered gave way, and fought on the retreat ‘till night. At the same time the enemy forced the passage at Chad’s ford, after a most severe fire from our troops, and our army march’d to Chester that same night. Our loss was at first computed 800, but is since found to be not much more than half that number. The enemy’s loss is vastly greater; they attacked in heavy solid columns which is sure to break and beat an enemy, but does not admit of much fireing ‘till the pursuit, which was not made with any great eagerness or execution. By every account, their loss is from 11 to 1300 killed, and about 1800 wounded. They are in possession of Wilmington, where they have 80 wounded officers, and above 100 wagon loads of wounded soldiers…”
This second one is by Henry Knox. This same letter was reproduced in Noah Brooks. Henry Knox: A Soldier of the Revolution. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900. However, the version in the New Hampshire Gazette is longer and contains more details.
“Camp near Schuylkill, 13th Sept., 1777
I do myself the honour to transmit to you an account of an action which happened between the American and the British troops, the 11th instant, on the heights of Brandywine.
Brandywine is a creek which empties itself into the Delaware, near Wilmington, about thirty miles from Philadelphia. On the 9th instant our army took post about eleven miles up this creek, having it in front at a place called Chad’s Ford, that being the most probable route by which the enemy would endeavour to pass to Philadelphia. The enemy on the 10th advanced to Kennet Square, within three miles of our advanced parties, and at eight o’clock in the morning of the 11th a considerable body of their army appeared opposite to us. Immediately a heavy cannonade commenced, and lasted with spirit for above two hours, and more or less the whole day. Our advanced light corps, under General Maxwell, engaged the advanced parties of the enemy on the other side of the creek with success, having twice repulsed them, and entirely dispersed a body of three  hundred Hessians. This light corps was engaged with their advanced parties almost through the day.
At the same time this body advanced opposite to our army, another large column, consisting of the British and Hessian grenadiers, light infantry, and some brigades, took a circuitous route of six miles to our right, and crossed the creeks at the forks of Brandywine. His Excellency, General Washington, notwithstanding his utmost exertions to obtain intelligence, had very contradictory accounts of the numbers and destination of this column until it had crossed the creek six miles to our right. He immediately ordered General Sullivan’s, Lord Stirling’s, and General Stephen’s divisions to advance and attack them. This was about three o’clock P.M. These divisions, having advanced about three miles, fell in with the enemy, who were also advancing. Both sides pushed for a hill situated in the middle. The contest became exceedingly severe, and lasted without intermission for an hour and a half, when our troops began to give way, having, many of them, expended all their cartridges. His Excellency, who in the beginning of this action galloped to the right, ordered Greene’s division and Nash’s brigade from the left; but, the distance being so great, the other divisions had retreated before they arrived. However, they formed and were of the utmost service in covering the retreat of the other divisions, particularly Weedon’s brigade of Greene’s division, which behaved to admiration in an excessive hot fire, checked the British grenadiers, and finally, after dark, came off in great order.
While this scene was acting on the right, the enemy opened a battery on the left of seven pieces of cannon opposite to one of ours of the same number. General Wayne, with a division of the Pennsylvania troops, having Maxwell’s light corps on his left, and Nash’s brigade (which was afterward drawn off to support the right wing) on his right, formed the left wing. The enemy’s batteries and ours kept up an incessant cannonade, and formed such a column of smoke that the British troops passed the creek unperceived on the right of the battery, on the ground which was left unoccupied by the withdrawl of Nash’s brigade. A very severe action immediately commenced between General Wayne and the enemy, who had now got possession of a height opposite him. They made several efforts to pass the low grounds between them, and were as frequently repulsed. Night coming on, his Excellency, the General, gave orders for a retreat, which was regularly effected without the least attempt of the enemy to pursue. Our troops that night retired to Chester, and will now take post in such a manner as best to cover Philadelphia.
Our army is now refreshed—and, if the enemy advance, will meet with that intrepid spirit which becomes men contending for liberty, and the great cause of their country. It is difficult at present to ascertain our loss; but, from the most particular inquiry I have been able to make, It will not exceed seven hundred or eight hundred killed, wounded, and missing, and ten field-pieces.
It is a common practice in war to diminish our own loss, and magnify that of our enemies, but from my own observation and the opinion of others, their loss must be much greater than ours. Time and their future operations will, I trust, prove the assertion. This is the most capital and general action of the present war. And when we consider the precarious circumstances of the enemy, and the views they had to take possession of Philadelphia by a single action, the loss they sustained without obtaining their end—it may be fairly concluded, from a comparison of circumstances, that if the advantage is not on our side, yet they will have but little to boast of.
My Captains distinguished themselves;–they fought like men and died like hero’s. Poor Captain Bryant was killed.”