The folks at Brandywine Battlefield weren’t able to locate this file during our recent visit at the 2014 Reunion. But they found the file and have passed it on. It speaks to Thomas Babb’s service as it relates to the Battlefield. This is the Thomas whose DAR marker we dedicated earlier in the day.
So, without further delay, here it is:
Regiment: Delaware Militia, New Castle Co. Regiment
Date of Birth/Death: 1729 – 1788
Description of Service at Brandywine: Thomas Babb served in the New Castle County militia. Prior to the Battle of the Brandywine, his unit was combined with other militia units to form the Special Corps, under the command of Brigadier General William Maxwell, which was tasked with scouting the area and harrying General Howe’s troops as they marched from Head of Elk Maryland towards Philadelphia. Maxwell’s Special Corps was considered the “new” Light Infantry Brigade to take the place of Washington’s highly valued Light Infantry Corps, commanded by Daniel Morgan who was preoccupied in New York. Maxwell’s men were the first to encounter the British column under General Wilhelm von Knyphausen and took the first shots from behind a wall at the Kennett Friends Meeting house, which still stands today on Route 1. From here, Maxwell’s men performed a “shoot and scoot” maneuver, retreating to strategic fall back points, to harass the enemy as they approached Washington’s defenses at the Brandywine River, nearly 5 miles away. This harassment lasted nearly two hours before Maxwell’s men were forced to cross the creek to join the rest of the Continental army on the east bank. During his harassment William Maxwell showed how unconventional of a tactician he was. In 18th century warfare, honor played a huge role in the mindset of the leaders. Maxwell was an early advocate of guerilla warfare, tactics that were highly frowned upon. During his harassment, Maxwell ordered his men to load their muskets and lay them down in order to throw up a false white flag. When the British column came within about 20-30 yards of Maxwell’s men, a range in which a musket was highly effective, Maxwell gave the order to fire. This resulted in massive casualties for the head of the British column consisting of mainly loyalist troops under the Queen’s Rangers. From here Maxwell continued with his strategic fall back points until he was forced across the creek. Thomas Babb was with Maxwell during these engagements, and he continued to fight on the east bank of the river with Washington’s main defenses.
This morning phase of the battle is known as the “mid-morning lull” because no real troop movements took place, only a large cannonade from both armies. The goal of the British was to keep Washington occupied and distracted. The main portion of the British army, under Howe and Cornwallis, completed a 17 mile outflanking maneuver to cross the two northernmost fords that Washington had left undefended, and to maneuver around Washington’s right flank. When General Howe opened up on Washington’s three main divisions, which he was forced to move north after getting word that Howe had crossed those two fords, Knyphausen crossed at Chad’s Ford. The battle was now on two fronts and Maxwell’s men along with the main American artillery and other regiments were forced to retreat with an overwhelming crossing by Knyphausen. During this time, the fighting was fierce on both fronts and the New Castle county militia suffered tremendous casualties. This would be one of the last major engagements of the New Castle County militia, as they were effectively disbanded due to the high casualties. The majority of the New Castle County militia returned home and would not pick up arms again. Thomas Babb saw very heavy fighting and a fierce pursuit by the British as the Continental army was retreating. Although the unit suffered heavy losses that prevented it from fighting again, Thomas Babb and the rest of the New Castle County militia played a pivotal role throughout the day at the Battle of Brandywine.