Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, near Pennibecker’s Mill,
Having received intelligence through two intercepted letters, that General Howe had detached a part of his force for the purpose of reducing Billingsport and the forts on Delaware, I communicated the accounts to my general officers, who were unanimously of opinion that a favorable opportunity offered to make an attack upon the troops, which were at and near Germantown. It was accordingly agreed that it should take place yesterday morning, and the following dispositions were made.
The divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway’s brigade, were to enter the town by the way of Chestnut Hill, while General Armstrong with the Pennsylvania militia should fall down the Manatawny road1 by Vandeering’s Mill, and get upon the enemy’s left and rear. The divisions of Greene and Stephen, flanked by McDougall’s brigade, were to enter, by taking a circuit by way of the Lime-kiln road, at the Market-house, and to attack their right wing; and the militia of Maryland and Jersey, under Generals Smallwood and Forman, were to march by the old York road, and fall upon the rear of their right. Lord Stirling, with Nash’s and Maxwell’s brigades, was to form a corps de reserve.
We marched about seven o’clock the preceding evening, and General Sullivan’s advanced party, drawn from Conway’s brigade, attacked their picket at Mount Airy, or Mr. Allen’s house, about sunrise the next morning, which presently gave way; and his main body, consisting of the right wing, following soon, engaged the light infantry and other troops encamped near the picket, which they forced from their ground. Leaving their baggage, they retreated a considerable distance, having previously thrown a party into Mr. Chew’s house, who were in a situation not to be easily forced, and had it in their power, from the windows, to give us no small annoyance, and in a great measure to obstruct our advance.
The attack from our left column, under General Greene, began about three quarters of an hour after that from the right, and was for some time equally successful. But I cannot enter upon the particulars of what happened in that quarter, as I am not yet informed of them with sufficient certainty and precision.1 The morning was extremely foggy, which prevented our improving the advantages we gained, so well as we should otherwise have done. This circumstance, by concealing from us the true situation of the enemy, obliged us to act with more caution and less expedition than we could have wished; and gave the enemy time to recover from the effects of our first impression; and, what was still more unfortunate, it served to keep our different parties in ignorance of each other’s movements and hinder their acting in concert. It also occasioned them to mistake one another for the enemy, which I believe more than any thing else contributed to the misfortune that ensued. In the midst of the most promising appearances, when every thing gave the most flattering hopes of victory, the troops began suddenly to retreat, and entirely left the field, in spite of every effort that could be made to rally them.
Upon the whole, it may be said the day was rather unfortunate than injurious. We sustained no material loss of men, and brought off all our artillery, except one piece which was dismounted. The enemy are nothing the better by the event; and our troops, who are not in the least dispirited by it, have gained what all young troops gain by being in actions. We have had however several valuable officers killed and wounded, particularly the latter. General Nash is among the wounded, and his life is despaired of. As soon as it is possible to obtain a return of our loss I will transmit it. In justice to General Sullivan and the whole right wing of the army, whose conduct I had an opportunity of observing, as they acted immediately under my eye, I have the pleasure to inform you, that both officers and men behaved with a degree of gallantry that did them the highest honor. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. As I have observed, I have not received a return of our loss; but, from what I have just now learned from General Greene, I fear it is more considerable than I at first apprehended, in men. The cannon, mentioned above, is said to have been brought off in a wagon.
[1 ]Pickering says “the old Egypt or Schuylkill road.”
[1 ]Washington himself was with the right wing.