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Rapid-Fire History: Battle of Germantown


On October 4, 1777, British forces under General William Howe defeated General George Washington’s Continental Army at the Battle of Germantown. Following losses in September at Brandywine, Paoli, and the British capture of Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress, Washington learned that Howe had divided his army and sensed an opportunity to strike. Commanding 11,000 Continentals and Militiamen, Washington attacked Howe’s 9,000 troops encamped at Germantown, Pennsylvania, seven miles northeast of Philadelphia, in a dense fog. Washington divided his army into four columns to assault the British from multiple directions, but the attacks lacked proper coordination. While Washington’s troops showed promise, engaging the British in spirited combat, Howe eventually received reinforcements and launched a counterattack that drove the Americans from the field. The grinding five-hour battle cost Washington around 152 killed, 521 wounded, and 400 captured. Howe suffered about 70 killed and 451 wounded. While the Battle of Germantown was Washington’s second defeat in less than a month, many Europeans, especially the French, were impressed by the relentless determination of the Continental Army. Shortly after the battle, Washington’s army retired to a winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where it would be molded into a superior force.


American Battlefield Trust: Germantown.

George Washington's Mount Vernon: Battle of Germantown. Battle of Germantown.

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