At the end of August, General Howe brought his army south by sea, threatening Philadelphia. On September 11th, Howe's forces attacked the American troops blocking his way to Philadelphia at Brandywine. In a day long battle, the British vanquished the American forces. The Americans, however, were able to extract their army.
General Howe was intent on capturing Philadelphia in 1777. By doing so, Howe hoped to bring the rebellion to an end. Howe wavered between an overland approach, which had failed in 1776, and going by sea. Some British commanders opposed any move on Philadelphia. Instead, they preferred to link up with Burgoye’s troops that were heading down from Canada. Howe ignored that advice. On July 23, 1777, in a fleet made up of 267 ships with 16,000 men aboard General Howe set off for the Chesapeake Bay.
Washington was forced to guess at where Howe might land his fleet. He was forced to wait longer than he and Howe expected, since what should have been a short voyage was plagued with poor winds and storms. As a result, the voyage took 32 days. This was much longer than an overland march would have taken. 27 British soldiers died during the voyage. Most of the British horses either died aboard ships or were so weak on arrival that they had to be put down by the British.
Eventually, Washington learned of the destination of the British landing-Chesapeake Bay. Washington quickly marched his troops through Philadelphia to put his army between the British and the American capital of Philadelphia. It took Howe three weeks to organize his army after their arrival, and allow them a little time to recoup from their long voyage. When Howe finally moved, he was facing an American army of 14,000 men. They were a formidable force, nearly as large as his own forces.
As Howe advanced on Philadelphia Washington decided to face the British forces in a major battle. Washington chose Brandywine Creek as the site of the battle.
The creek was crossable only at a number of fords. Unfortunately for Washington, Loyalist supporters had given Howe significant intelligence on the terrain and Washington's disposition of forces. Howe knew there was an unguarded Ford of the Creek. At 4:00 AM on the 11th, while part of his army was engaged in a diversionary attack against Chad's Ford, Howe took the bulk of his army on a long march through back roads to cross at Trimble and Jeffries Ford. This was at the end of Washington's unanchored lines.
Howe successfully crossed the fords and brought his troops to Osborne Hill. General Howe successfully outflanked Washington's troops. The American troops redeployed to try to block the British. At 4:00 PM, the British troops set off down the hill to the music of the British Grenadier. They marched through a hole in the American lines. That was the moment the American defenses could have collapsed. The Americans were outnumbered more than two to one in in the sector. However, although General Washington had failed to predict Howe's earlier actions, he was now fully aware of the dangers his army faced. Washington ordered Greene's Division to try to plug the whole in the lines. Greene's forces, together with Washington’s personal appearance, to direct troops in the battle were able to stem the tide.
The battle continued for a few hours. Hand to hand desperate fighting ensued. The Continentals gave as well as they got. However, by nightfall, Washington was forced to withdraw. The British had won the day. Yet, Washington's army, while bruised, was still intact. It had not collapsed, and it had equipped itself well. The way was now open for Howe to occupy Philadelphia. Occupying Philadelphia, without destroying Washington army was a pyrrhic victory..