During the early morning hours of September 11, 1777, British General William Howe split his army in a daring maneuver. American General George Washingtons troops united behind the Brandywine River preparing for the army of King George III. In a dense fog, Howe and General Charles Cornwallis led a portion of the British army on a 17-mile march, crossing the Brandywine at two fords, and surprising the American army near the Birmingham Meeting House. The second portion of the British army under Hessian General Wilhelm Knyphausen pushed the American new light infantry under General William Maxwell back to the Brandywine and then held Washingtons forces in check until Howe completed his flanking march. An American patriot, Squire Thomas Cheyney, heroically alerted Washington to the danger of Howes flanking movement. The Battle of Brandywine was the largest land battle of the American Revolution and the major conflict of the Philadelphia campaign that ended with Washingtons army spending a hard winter at Valley Forge. Brandywine was also the first battle for a young French volunteer, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette suffered a leg wound during the conflict. British Captain Patrick Fergusons new invention, a breech-loading rifle, was also used for the first time at Brandywine. Ferguson had a chance to alter history that day as he had Washington in the sights of his weapon but declined to fire upon the brave Washington.
Howes victory allowed him to capture Philadelphia, but he failed to destroy Washingtons army and failed to rally the residents, including a large Quaker community, to the British cause.