December 14, 1777

George Washington and his men

In his General Orders, George Washington makes the preparationsfor the upcoming trip to Valley Forge for the winter:  “The officers are without delay to examine the arms andaccoutrements of their men, and see that they are put in good order.

Provisions are to be drawn,and cooked for to morrow & next day—A gill of Whiskey is to be issued immediately to each officer, Soldier, and waggoner.

The weather being likely tobe fair, the tents are not to be pitched: But the axes in the waggons are to besent for, without delay, that the men may make fires & hut themselves for the ensuing night in the most comfortable manner.  The army is to be ready to march precisely atfour o’clock to morrow morning.  Anofficer from each regiment is to be sent forthwith to the encampment on theother side Schuylkill, to search that and the houses for all stragglers, andbring them up to their corps—All the waggons not yet over are also to be sentfor and got over as soon as possible.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For Civil Warbuffs, come see Gettysburg

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December 13, 1777

General Conway

In a direct rebuff of General Washington, Congressestablishes the Inspector General Department of the Continental Army, andpromotes General Thomas Conway to Major General above other senior Generals andin a position that, from the civil side, is equal to that of Washington.  This indicates a move by several in congressto replace Washington with General Horatio Gates, who has had more success oflate.  Thomas Conway had been involved inwhat historians call the “Conway cabal,” which was a loose attempt by severalin the army and out of the army to replace Washington with Gates.  As a younger man Washington would haveresponded to this action with an angry letter of resignation, but this olderand wiser Washington will bide his time.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours forPhiladelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to IndependenceHall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us forour Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see Gettysburg

December 11, 1777

General Cornwallis

In Norristown, the Continental army, while crossing theSchuylkill River at Matson’s Ford, engages with troops under General CornwallisGeorge Washington orders thebridge destroyed, and both sides face each other across the river.  The battle is a draw, although Cornwallis isable to capture 2,000 sheep and cattle.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours forPhiladelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.   For those interested in the Civil War’s seminal battle, come see Gettysburg. 

December 10, 1777

Samuel B. Webb

An American raid by Colonel Samuel B. Webb and his regimenton Long Island is foiled by British ships. Webb and his regiment are captured.

In the Continental Congress, George Rogers Clark presents hisplan to capture Detroit.

Nathan Rice writes a congratulatory letter to John Adams for his return to Braintree, perhaps unaware that already Adams has beeninformed that he is to leave his family once again, this time to go toFrance.  Rice also writes about theupcoming Massachusetts Constitution, which is being formed:  “Permit me to congratulateyou on your return to your family and frends, of which I am advertised by the weekly Gazette.  It must afford not less satisfaction to the state in general to have your presence and council at this critical period, on the transactions of which depend its future happiness andtranquility—than it does to your family and private connections, to imbraceafter a tedious absence, the tender companion kind parent, and generous Friend.

When I hold up to view the welfare, and prosperity of the continent in general, to those of a single state or family—I’m at a loss whether most to rejoice at your return to Massachusetts or regret your absence from Congress.

It will ever remain asingular mark of honor to you, and a convincing proof of your Patriotism and attachment to the liberty and happiness of Mankind that no sinister views orprivate concerns, could call your attention from Congress untill you had notonly effected the union of the Colonies, but formed a plan which will both confirm that union and render it indissoluble—that being now sent forth for the acceptance of the states. God grant it may meet their speedy and hearty approbation.

The public (of whose gratitude however I do not entertain the most exalted idea) must ever acknowledge the great services you have rendered them; and however you may not think convenient to contribute further to their happiness in that exalted station you have ever held since the commencment of the dispute, yet the samevirtuous principle and generous sentiments, which have heitherto stimulated you to further the cause of mankind in general will still induce you to serve that state with which you are particularly connected, and which now in an important manner calls for the exertion of your abilities.

A Constitution is now forming—a supreme Majistrate is to be appointed—a post of the greatest honorand importance to be confered on an individual. The popular manner in which this is to be done is perhaps the best which at this crisis could have been adopted: Caprices and trifleing accidents too often actuate and govern the populace. Alarmed at this truth, I felt the most sencible pleasure on the news of  your arrival in Boston persuaded that your prudence and advice would prevent the many dangerous extravagancies of so popular a measure. Happy must it be for the good people of Massachusetts should they make chose of  [left blank] the gentleman to whom they are so greatly indebted, and who without pomp or pageantry, superiour to the wiles of a courtier or the applause of individuals would study to promote the happiniss and gain the approbation of his countrymen by a steady adhearance to the principles of vir[tue and] justice.”

Meanwhile,George Washington, having suffered yet another defeat, this time at Whitemarsh,must now make plans to gather his troops and march them to winterquarters.  He sends out the followingGeneral Order:  “The army to march at four o’clock in the morning from the right—ASubaltern from each regiment and a Captain from each brigade, under the commandof a Field Officer from the line, are to assemble at General Knox’s quarters in the morning and remain ’till the Army moves off the ground, and then see that all stragglers in the camp, and its environs, are collected and marched after it—They are also to see that no baggage, entrenching tools or other articlesare left, or that they are, secured under proper guards taken from the Pennsylvania Militia, by application to the commanding officer thereof.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For Civil Warbuffs, come see Gettysburg. 

December 8, 1777

George Washington and his men at Battle of White Marxhg

In the morning, British generals and engineers analyzed the American positions tosee if they could exploit any part of their defenses.  To the astonishment of the British, the Americans, and historians ever since, Howe chose to withdraw and return to Philadelphia.  He had been successful in thetwo major skirmishes during the previous two days, but he had not gotten as fararound the American flank as he had hoped and his provisions were running low.  Also, as the now disparaged song goes, “Baby, It’s cold outside.”  The troops had left their tents and gear in Philadelphia.

At 2:00 pm, the British began their withdrawal,lighting numerous campfires—as Washington had done three days earlier—toconceal their movements. An American reconnaissance party, led by Capt. McLane,discovered that Howe was marching back down Old York Road into Philadelphia and communicated this information back to Washington. Morgan’s troops harassedthe enemy’s rear, in particular Grey’s column, which was hindered by the weightof the artillery that it was transporting. A contingent of Hessians formed tooppose them with their fieldpieces and Morgan’s troops retreated. The British arrived in Philadelphia later that day.  Washington would begin thinking about Winter Quarters.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours forPhiladelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see Gettysburg. 

December 7, 1777

At around 1:00 am, Howe marched his army back through Germantown and then to Jenkintown, where they remained until noon.  These British movements were concealed by a ridge on Chestnut Hill, and Washington did not become aware of them until around 8:00 am.  He then moved Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Colonel Mordecai Gist’s Maryland militia eastward to cover his left flank.  A mile to the right, Brigadier General James Potter’s brigade of Pennsylvania militia and Webb’s 2nd Connecticut Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Sherman, went down Limekiln Road toward Edge Hill.  The movement of the British rear guar was being hindered by the burning of the villages at Cresheim and Beggarstown by troops in front.  Howe’s right flank was now situated nearAbington Presbyterian Meeting.  His mainforce moved to Edge Hill, on a ridge that ran parallel to, and a mile in frontof, the American lines.  Grey’s column proceeded up Whitemarsh Church Road toward the center of the American forces.

General Grey had been instructed not to attack until he heard the sound of firing fromHowe’s column,  but after several hours, he became impatient and decided to proceed on his own. He formed his column intothree divisions, with the Queen’s Rangers on the left, the Jägers on each sideof the road, and the light infantry of the Guards on the right,  and headed in the direction of Tyson’s Tavern on Limekiln Road.  As Grey advanced toward the American center,his troops took fire from American militia on Edge Hill.   The militia were quickly routed, with between twenty and thirty killed, and fifteen of them taken as prisoners.   Generals John Cadwalader and Joseph Reed out reconnoitering on horse near Twickenham, thecountry estate of Thomas Wharton Jr. attempted to rally Potter’s fleeing Pennsylvania militia.  Lieutenant Colonel Sherman, the officer incharge of the 2nd Connecticut Continentals, resented Reed’s assumption ofcommand, and later complained to Washington that it put “…Officers and Men into such confusion that it rendered it impossible to keep that necessary when going into Action.” The British soon had them surrounded and outnumbered, and the Pennsylvania militia again panicked and fled. The 2nd Connecticut Continentals made a stand, firing between two and five rounds perman; Sherman only gave the order to retreat when the Jägers were within 15–20yards of his position.  At some point, Cadwalader and Reed became separated from the militia, and Reed’s horse was shot out from under him.  A bodyof Hessians charged at the two officers with bayonets, but Captain McLane rode upwith a few dragoons and ordered a charge that scattered the Hessians.  McLane then took the two officers to safety.

The Pennsylvania militia fled in panic down Edge Hill, across Sandy Run, and toward the main American camp. Right behind them were men of the 2ndConnecticut, also in disorderly retreat. They were pursued to within yards oftheir encampment by the Queen’s Rangers and Jägers, who then fell back and tooka position on Edge Hill, between Grey’s troops and Howe’s main column.  Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Gist’s Marylandmilitia had taken position on Edge Hill, about a mile to the east of Grey’stroops, and higher up on the ridge.  A small group of Americans moved down to attack Col. Twistleton’s Light Infantry of theGuards, but were quickly repulsed by the British. William Augustus West, who was stationed with the light infantry,noted that the4th and 23rd Regiments engaged the Americans with 9 men killed and 19wounded.  British Major John Andre reported that one American was killed.

Meanwhile, the main body of Morgan’s and Gist’s troops engaged Howe’s main column in dense woods, where they fought “Indian style”, from tree to tree. The Maryland militiaattacked Abercromby’s 1st Light Infantry Battalion with unusual vigor: Britishofficers, who were used to encountering militia who would flee at the firstsign of battle, would later express admiration at the skill of Morgan’s andGist’s men.  Morgan’s troops were not reinforced,and wereforced to retreat back to the main camp.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, aswell as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, GraffHouse, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For students of the Civil War, come see Gettysburg. 

December 6, 1777

Emlen House, which was Washington’s Headquarters during Battle of Whitmarsh

The second day of the Battle of Whitemarsh passes with thetwo armies watching each other across the Wissahickon Valley.  General Howe is hoping that Washington willleave his positions to attack the British, but Washington is holding back inorder to see what move the British will make. By the end of the day, Howe decided to go forward on the 7thg with aflanking movement toward Jenkintown and Cheltenham Township, while MajorGeneral Charles Grey’s forces woud create a distraction by attacking theAmerican center.  This is a familiartactic of Howe’s that Washington should be not only used to, but expecting atthis point. 

Meanwhile, in Paris, France, French foreign minister Count Charles de Vergennes responds positively to the American suggestions of amilitary alliance in the wake of the American victory at Saratoga.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s BestHistorical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, aswell as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, GraffHouse, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us forour Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see Gettysburg