Thursday, April 2, 2015

American Journals: Sgt. Major John Hawkins describes the Battle of Brandywine

A modern artist's reimagining of the 2nd Canadian Regiment

Dear Reader,

Today, we are going to look at some choice remarks by Sgt. Major John Hawkins, who served in the Second Canadian Regiment of the Continental army at the Battle of Brandywine. I thought this particular entry might please the reenactors among our readership, as a result of the detailed description of what Sgt. Hawkins had in his knapsack. This source appeared in the 1896 issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography:

      "September 11, 1777. — About one o'clock the enemy appeared in motion advancing towards us. Our regiment was posted on the right of the Army, and was the first attacked and among the last to leave the field. A heavy fire of artillery and musketry was carried on by both sides the whole afternoon with scarcely any intermission. The enemy were much superior to us in numbers, as but a small part of our army were engaged, the greater part being awav on the left. In justice to the brave officers and men of our regiment, Col. Hazen thought himself obliged to affirm, that no troops behaved better, nor any troops left the field in greater order. Four officers, and seventy-three non-commissioned officers and rank and file of the regiment were killed, wounded and taken prisoners. " In the engagement, I lost my knapsack, which contained the following articles, viz. 1 uniform Coat — brown faced with white; 1 shirt; 1 pr. Stockings ; 1 sergeants sash ; 1 pr. knee buckles ; } lb Soap ; 1 Orderly Book ; 1 Mem° Book, of Journal and state of my company ; 1 quire paper ; 2 vials ink ; 1 brass Ink horn ; 40 Morning returns, printed blanks ; 1 tin gill cup ; A letter and a book entitled Rutherford's Letters. I likewise lost my hat, but recovered it again.
       The weather was very warm, and tho my knapsack was very light, was very cumbersome, as it swung about when walking or running, and in crossing fences was in the way so I cast it away from me, and had I not done so would have been grabbed by one of the ill-looking Highlanders, a number of whom were fireing and advancing very brisk towards our rear. The smoke was so very thick that about the close of the day I lost sight of our regiment, and just at dark I fell in with the North Carolina troops, and about two o'clock in the morning (Sept. 12), arrived at Chester just as the whole of the baggage wagons were leaving. I saw several regiments which had been halted for a rest. I searched around for tidings of my regiment, but could only find one officer and three or four men. I rested oy one of the camp fires until day, when I heard that my regiment was coming. About 8 o clock it reached Chester, when the whole body of troops that was there marched towards Darby. On a hill, just beyond Darby, we halted and rested for two hours, and then marched until we came to the Lancaster road. near Gardner's Place, where we halted and at the edge of a woods rested for the night."
       " September 13. — The different regiments marched down to the Middle Ferry on Schuylkill, crossed on the Floating Bridge, and proceeded through the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia to Germantown, just back of which we halted and pitched our tents. 
       "September 14. — Tents struck, baggage sent off to Bethlehem, and marched to Swede's Ford, crossed, the water up to our middle, thence to Merion meeting-house, when we turned into the Lancaster road and kept on until we came near the eleven mile stone, when we halted in the woods and rested for the night. Here a number of our men joined us, whom we thought had been captured.''[1] 

I hope you've enjoyed this series, feel free to share as you like.  If you have a particular army or war within the Kabinettskriege era you would like to see represented, let me know in the comments! 

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

[1] Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography,  Vol XX, pg 420-421. 


  1. Hello Alex. I've just discovered your interesting blog. The AWI/Revolutionary War is not something I know a lot about and it was enlightening to hear of a non-Loyalist Canadian unit (I kind of assumed there might be Francophone Canadians amongst the Rebels/Patriots but not many 'English' ones).

    I have to admit the extract did amuse me. Either Sarn't Major Hawkins was extremely self-delusional or the American forces were so utterly routed if "no troops behaved better, nor any troops left the field in greater order" yet somehow lost most of his equipment and his whole unit until well into the next day.

    1. There were a number of "English" that settled in Quebec after 1763. Some were British veterans granted land but many were New Englanders such as Hazen. Hazen was more than a bit of a con man and was always seeking to make his fortunes with other people's money. He finagled ownership of a seignurie (sort of a feudal demesne) near St Jean Sur Richilieu. On the outbreak of war he offered his services to Governor Carlton who saw him for what he was. On the arrival of General Montgomery's forces he quickly switched sides, if only to make sure his house wasn't burned. With Montgomery reinforced by Arnold at Quebec Hazen figured it was time to commit and proceeded to raise a regiment which had some Canadiens but was primarily other New England settlers.

      After the retreat from Montreal Hazen was always after his superiors to march back. One of his schemes included building a military road up to St. Jean (passing through property he and his partner Baylen owned and thus increasing its value). Washington let him start as a means of drawing British attention and pinning a sizeable number of troops in the Montreal-Quebec corridor. The road was never finished. Hazen lost his seignurie but did settle his veterans at the top end of Lake Champlain, selling them the land he and Baylen had acquired.