Rare plan of Howe’s Philadelphia campaign and Battle of Brandywine

Joh[ann] Martin Will excud., Bataille am Brandywyne Fluss d. 11. Sept 1777. / Plan der Landung der Gebrüdere Howe, bey dem Ausfluss des Elk Stroms… Augsburg: Johann Martin Will, [ca. 1778.]
Engraving on laid paper, 8”h x 12”w at neat line plus margins, uncolored. Couple of spots in image in image and some very faint soiling in margins, else excellent.

A very rare German map of General Howe’s 1777 campaign against Philadelphia, highlighting the Battle of Brandywine. Engraved by Augsburg engraver Johann Martin Will, likely from a manuscript provided by a Hessian participant.

In August of 1777 General Howe had sailed from New York Bay with 15,000 men, landing them at the Elk River at the head of Chesapeake Bay on August 25th. His objective was the capture of Philadelphia, at the time the seat of the United States government. Washington sought to defend the city by positioning some 11,000 men at Chad’s Ford along Brandywine Creek, directly in Howe’s line of march. But the Americans were routed on September 11 at the Battle of Brandywine, when Howe sent General Cornwallis on a wide flanking maneuver, taking Washington’s right wing by surprise (By awful coincidence the commander of the American right was John Sullivan, who had been routed by a similar flanking attack at the Battle of Brooklyn.) This disastrous defeat led directly to the British occupation of Philadelphia on September 26th. Howe’s great tactical victory was however a strategic catastrophe for the British: His commitment to Philadelphia left him unable to support Burgoyne’s advance down the Hudson River, making possible the great American victory at Saratoga and, ultimately, the entrance of the French into the war.

The map focuses on the area of Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania between the Delaware River in the east and the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River to the west. Little detail is given beyond major waterways, towns and roads, and the geography is somewhat haphazard, with for example the Brandywine battle site far to the west of its actual location. However the essential events are depicted: Howe’s landing at the Elk River on August 25, the march of his army north with the Continental Army retreating before it, Howe’s crossing of the Brandywine and the great battle of September 11, and the American retreat toward Chester. All this is summarized by extensive text, numerically keyed to the plan, concluding with a summary of American and British losses. An inset at lower left depicts the Brandywine battle at a larger scale, but, oddly, adds no information not given on the main plan; and neither depicts the turning movement around Washington’s right flank that ultimately decided the battle.

Johann Martin Will (1727-1806)
The map was published and possibly engraved by Johann Martin Will of Augsburg. Will seems to have had a productive half-century career as an engraver and publisher, issuing among other things portraits; battle plans and views; and engravings of architecture, furniture and other decorative objects. A portrait of Will drawn from life may be viewed here. His daughter married Johann Walch in 1786, and after the acquisition in 1789 of the inventory of Matthäus Seutter and Tobias Conrad Lotter, the firm turned increasingly to map publication. Walch continued the firm after his father-in-law’s death in 1806.

Will seems to have made a much hay out of the American Revolution, presumably with an eye toward the German market, which surely would have been eager for information about events in which thousands of German mercenaries were involved. The Library of Congress holds a set of maps and views attributed to him, bearing the title Zehn Karten und Ansichten den Schlachtfelden des amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskreiges in den Staaten Pennsylvanien und New York. The images depict events of Burgoyne’s Hudson River campaign and Howe’s Philadelphia campaign, both in the Fall of 1777 and both involving large contingents of German soldiers. The views are largely fanciful; that of Fort Constitution, for example, depicts a European-style fortress. The maps, while lacking the remarkable detail of those published by William Faden, do bear some relationship to events on the ground. It seems reasonable that these were based on manuscripts supplied by one or more German officers present at the events. Will also issued a number of portraits of Revolutionary War leaders in mezzotint, based on originals published in London (See for example this portrait of Robert Rogers.)

Will’s Revolutionary War maps and views are extremely rare; indeed none are recorded in Nebenzahl’s Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution. I am unaware of any examples held in Delaware, Maryland or Pennsylvania institutions, and find examples only at the Boston Public Library, Library of Congress and the Society of the Cincinnati.

OCLC 967776443 (Society of Cincinnati only, as of Jan. 2020). Not in Nebenzahl, Bibliography of Printed Plans of the American Revolution, #126; Nebenzahl, Atlas of the American Revolution, #24; Phillips, Maps of America.