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.

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