The Battle of Germantown


After winning the Battle of Brandywine, the British were able to easily capture the city of Philadelphia. Being the capitol of the new republic, it was a critical win for the British. Once the city was under British control on September 26, 1777, General Howe set his sights on finishing off the Continental Army. He decided to leave 3,000 troops under his command to occupy and secure Philadelphia and sent 9,000 troops on to Germantown to locate and finish the American forces. With the British army divided, General Washington decided to take advantage of this opportunity and attack.

The Continental Army marched south toward Germantown after nightfall on October 3rd, 1777. They intended to attack before dawn the next morning, giving them the element of surprise. As they approached the British camp, communication was increasingly difficult and troops were no longer moving at the same pace. Only one column of soldiers arrived at the time of the initial attack, causing the Americans to lose the element of surprise.

The Americans were able to push attacking British forces back into Germantown and were met by the rest of the Continental Army. The battle continued on throughout the day and was hard-fought on both sides. The British position in Germantown's stone homes proved to be quite strong as American attacks resulted in heavy casualties. The Continental Army was eventually forced to retreat.

General Washington's army sustained relatively heavy casualties at the Battle of Germantown. 152 of his troops were killed, 521 wounded, and over 400 were captured. Even in the loss, however, General Washington gained stature as a military leader. Had the attack worked as planned, it could have brought a sudden end to the Revolutionary War. It is believed that the brilliant strategy attempted by Washington at Germantown was influential in convincing the French that the Americans would become worthy allies.

Battle of Germantown map