A Plan of the Progres of the Royal Army from their Landing at Elk Ferry to Philadelphia 1777 ...yCharles Blaskowitz, Capt of the Corps Guides

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BLASKOWITZ, Charles, A Plan of the Progres of the Royal Army from their Landing at Elk Ferry to Philadelphia 1777 Under the Command of His Excellency, Sir William Howe Knight of the most Honorable Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief &ca &ca &ca Surveyed and Drawn by Order of Major General Sir William Erskine By Charles Blaskowitz Capt of the Corps Guides [Philadelphia, c. 1778].

12-sheet manuscript map on paper mounted on linen, measuring 51 3/8 x 53 1/8 inches (1305 x 1350 mm) from the outer borders. On a scale of two miles to one inch. Framed to full museum specifications.

Repairs in the upper right and along the edges, some soiling.

 

 

Early in the Revolutionary War, the Commander-in-Chief of the British land forces, General William Howe, believed that “a decisive action” was the best way to bring the war to a close quickly, and in particular that “getting possession of Philadelphia,” the young nation’s capital, would persuade the American rebels to give up their arms. It was with high hopes for victory in the war, then, that British forces under Howe landed at Elk Ferry (now Elkton, Maryland), south of Philadelphia, on August 25, 1777, with the goal of taking the capital and crushing the Continental Army commanded by George Washington.

 

This manuscript map by Charles Blaskowitz (c.1743-1823), the preeminent surveyor of the British campaign, shows the movements of the British forces as they marched and fought their way from Elk Ferry towards Philadelphia, indicating with red lines the routes of the British troops under Howe, the British and Hessian troops under Charles Cornwallis, and the Hessian auxiliaries under Wilhelm von Knyphausen. Blaskowitz marks the location of each stopping point, skirmish, and battle, including the British victories in the Battle of Brandywine (September 11) and the Battle of Paoli (September 20), and indicates the British taking of Philadelphia on September 26. He also shows the locations of later actions: the Battle of Germantown on October 4, another loss for the Continental Army, and foraging by the British troops southwest of Philadelphia on December 22—after Washington had led his army to Valley Forge to winter.

 

In addition to indicating the locations of battles and skirmishes and the routes of the different parts of the British army as they approached Philadelphia, Blaskowitz includes many other details of the military situation. For example, he indicates the placements of regiments with red dots, shows the location of the “Rebel camp” in the north, from which Washington had attacked Germantown, and marks the location of the cheveux de fries obstacles that the American forces had set up in the Delaware River to prevent British ships from approaching Philadelphia. Other maps show some of these same things – for example, William Faden made a manuscript map in 1777 “exhibiting the several works erected by the rebels” in the river – but Blaskowitz’s map is of signal historical importance for being one of just three surviving large format “Campaign Headquarters Maps” from the Philadelphia Campaign, depicting the whole progress of the British army in the theater. It is a unique first-hand cartographic depiction of what the British hoped would be the decisive campaign of the war.

 

The map includes southeastern Pennsylvania and adjoining parts of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Blaskowitz’s map shows more detail, particularly of the road network, taverns, and meeting houses, than the two maps that he probably used as sources: Nicholas Scull and George Heap’s map of Philadelphia and its surroundings, first published in 1752, and Scull’s map of southeastern Pennsylvania of 1759. Blaskowitz’s map includes a much larger area than that of the campaign proper, and on a related note, the description of the map’s contents in the title cartouche fill less than half of the rectangular frame. It seems that Blaskowitz made the map anticipating the possibility of a wider theater of action. In particular, the map includes Lancaster, PA, in the west, which was the breadbasket of the Continental Army, and Reading, PA, in the northwest, which was home to one of the army’s important munitions producers. Both the wide geographical scope of the map and the ample unused space in the title cartouche would have allowed for the inclusion of additional actions by the British army.

 

This aspect of Blaskowitz’s map – that is includes much more territory than would be necessary were it merely to depict the advance of the British Army towards Philadelphia – is particularly salient when it is compared with a less detailed manuscript map made by John André, the aide-de-camp to Charles Grey, titled Progress of the British Army from the landing in Elk River to the taking possession of Philadelphia, anno 1777 (Huntington Library HM 3086r). André’s map includes no more territory than necessary to show the route of the army to Philadelphia.

 

Blaskowitz made his map for General Sir William Erskine (1728-1795), who participated in the Philadelphia Campaign, and for whom Blaskowitz has previously made a map of the New York Campaign in 1776. That map is in the Richard H. Brown Revolutionary War Map Collection at Mount Vernon.

 

Usually in the eighteenth century the taking of an enemy’s capital entailed the end of the war, but this was not the case after the British took Philadelphia. The Continental Congress had left the city for Lancaster before the British arrived, and in any case, the British capture of Philadelphia did not bring any important strategic advantages. In fact, Washington used the winter of 1777-78 to train the Continental Army into a much more expert fighting force. The high hopes that the British had for the Philadelphia Campaign when Blaskowitz began depicting it on his map were not achieved, and the war continued for another six years.

 

Provenance: Christie’s sale 2607, December 7, 2012, New York; property of Mrs. M. Sharpe Erskine’s Trust.

 

 

 

References

 

 

André, John, Progress of the British Army from the landing in Elk River to the taking possession of Philadelphia, anno 1777, manuscript map, Huntington Library HM 3086r

 

Cumming, William P., British Maps of Colonial America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974) (“The New Jersey-Pennsylvania Campaign,” pp. 68-70)

 

Faden, William, [The course of Delaware River from Philadelphia to Chester, exhibiting the several works erected by the rebels to defend its passage, with the attacks made upon them by His Majesty's land & sea forces], manuscript map, 1777, Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

 

 

Harley, J. B., “The Contemporary Mapping of the American Revolutionary War,” in J. B. Harley, Barbara Bartz Petchenik, and Lawrence W. Towner, Mapping the American Revolutionary War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 1-44

 

Johnson, Alexander, “Charting the Imperial Will: Colonial Administration and the General Survey of British North America 1764-1775,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Exeter, 2011 (pp. 122-123 and 450-453 on Blaskowitz)

 

Marshall, Douglas W., and Howard H. Peckham, Campaigns of the American Revolution: An Atlas of Manuscript Maps (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1976)

 

McGready, Blake, “Contested Grounds: An Environmental History of the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 85.1 (2018), pp. 32-57

 

McGuire, Thomas J., The Philadelphia Campaign (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006-2007)

 

Paine, Thomas, “Military Operations near Philadelphia in the Campaign of 1777-8,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 2.3 (1878), pp. 283-296

 

Pedley, Mary Spoonberg, The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-Century France and England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005) (pp. 123-127 on Blaskowitz)

 

Roach, Hannah Benner, “The Pennsylvania Militia in 1777,” Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 23.3 (1964), pp. 161-229

 

Sullivan, Thomas, “Before and After the Battle of Brandywine, Extracts from the Journal of Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of the H. M. Forty-Ninth Regiment of Foot,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 31.4 (1907), pp. 406-418

 

Taaffe, Stephen R., The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003)

 

The Parliamentary Register; Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons, vol. 11 (London, 1779) (pp. 312 and 371, quotations from letters from William Howe)

 

Townsend, Joseph, Some Account of the British Army, Under the Command of General Howe, and the Battle of Brandywine, on the Memorable September 11th, 1777 (Philadelphia: Townsend Ward, 1846)

 

 

 

 

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