The Battle of Brandywine occurred on September 11, 1777, near Chadds Ford Pennsylvania. The battle occurred between the American forces under George Washington and the British forces under General William Howe. More troops were involved in this battle than any other battle in the revolutionary war, and was the longest single day battle over the course of the war, lasting for 11 hours. The result of the battle was an American defeat, forcing them to retreat towards Philadelphia. This led to the British capturing Philadelphia on September 26 of the same year.
From the brief overview of the battle of Brandywine we can see that it was a fairly significant battle, although it was downplayed in many American newspapers. The Pennsylvania Evening Post gave a brief report on the events of the battle, but quickly turned the story around into a rallying cry for Americans stating “I close this paper with a short address to General Howe. You, Sir, are only lingering out the period that shall bring with it your defeat. You have yet scarce begun upon the war, and the farther you enter, the taller will your troubles thicken. What you now enjoy is only a respite from ruin; an invitation to destruction; something that will lead on to our deliverance at your expense” (Pennsylvania Evening Post, September 13, 1777). The loyalist papers did the complete opposite. They reported on the battle and went on to talk about the demise of the rebels; we see this especially evident in the Pennsylvania ledger, it says “two hours more light would have greatly contributed to terminate the rebellion” (Pennsylvania Ledger, December 3, 1777). The way the battle was reported in the colonial papers was greatly determined by the side to which their loyalties laid. Both accounts reported a British victory, but that was pretty much the only aspect that was the same between the two different viewpoints.
This event was accurately reported as early as September 13 1777 (Pennsylvania Evening Post, September 13, 1777), and the latest being December 3, 1777 (Pennsylvania Ledger, December 3, 1777). There were mentions of the event in papers later than December 3, but they did not contain much substance. Through these newspapers we can see that “breaking news” was typically heard days after the event occurred. For example, the Boston Gazette did not break the story until September 22, 1777 (Boston Gazette, September 22, 1777), 11 days after the battle occurred. The geographical differences between the Pennsylvania and Boston papers helps show this difference, and help us understand why it took so long for news to travel, especially when it’s across the country (for that time period). The layout and style of newspapers in this time period are also worth noting. In each of the articles that I read about the battle of Brandywine, there were typically other mentions of significant events during the American Revolution. These include reporting on battles, enemy movements, as well as military personnel commenting on events. In the Independent Chronicle from Boston MA (Independent Chronicle, October 16, 1777), we see an entire section of the paper broken up into different segments of day by day military news. We know that papers at this time were not daily, but usually weekly, so having information broken down by the day make sense for organizational purposes. If there was a huge event that usually broke the headlines, but even the smallest of information was reported, and used as a morale boost if possible.
From reading different colonial articles about the Battle of Brandywine, I was able to see how that one event was reported differently around the colonies, and why they were reported differently. It also gave insight as to why there was so much importance placed on a newspaper in this time period, and the techniques that were used by them to display the news. Newspapers in colonial America were far more essential than the newspapers we are used to today.