Skippack Historical Society

Mehling, Toni. "Historians Continue to Try and Crack The Case of Two Headquarters", Valley Item, Oct. 12, 2000: 5.

- - -. "Washington's Army Camped Along Perkiomen in Fall of 1777", Valley Item, Oct. 5, 2000: 1,5.

Kennedy, Joseph S. "Washington's Aim: Germantown", Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/28/97.

Editors of Acanthus Group. "Structures Report- Gerhard Indenhofen Farmstead" for the Skippack Historical Society,1996, 11. Quoting Douglas South Freeman. "George Washington." NY: Chas. Scribner's Sons, 1951. Vol. IV: 502

- - -. Watson, John F. "Annals of Philadelphia." Philadelphia: J.M. Stoddart & Company, 1877. Vol. II, 59-60. Acanthus 12.

- - -. Quoting the "Sullivan Papers." Washington Crossing, Pa: David Library of the American Revolution. 547. Acanthus 12.

"Skippack Pike Glorified By Washington's Marching Hereos" article in column Up and Down Montgomery County from unknown paper, circa 1940.

Revolutionary War


Researched and written by Mike Dickey
Member of Skippack Historical Society

In early September of 1777, before the Battle of Germantown, there was the Battle of Brandywine in Chester County, Pa. At the Battle of Brandywine, Sir William Howe of the British Army was able to take the upper-hand and defeat General Washington's army. Due to Sir Howe's maneuvers, the British then took control of Philadelphia. Washington was criticized for his command capabilities in the field. The General began to plan his next assault on the British, to attack their front line in Germantown, a settlement near Philadelphia. 'In 1777, Germantown was but a single street extending along 2 miles of the Germantown Road', writes Edward S. Gifford, Jr. in "The American Revolution in the Delaware Valley". (qtd in Kennedy) Washington's army included 8,000 regular Continental soldiers who were recently joined by 3,000 state militia. Conferring with his Generals, they were against an immediate attack, preferring to move the army closer to Germantown and wait for opportune events. (Kennedy)

The army's move into Montgomery County took them through Trappe, after crossing the Schuylkill River at Parker's Ford. The army marched by the Augustus Lutheran church where the Reverend Henry Muhlenberg wrote that the men appeared in 'wretched condition', noting that the hungry soldiers were short of supplies, "their uniforms worn, and over 1,000 men were barefooted." (qtd in Mehling, Washington's) After an encampment in the Collegeville area and another at Pottsgrove, the army made their next encampment near Schwenksville at Pennypacker's Mill.

On September 28, 1777, seventeen days after the Battle of Brandywine, Washington wrote to Congress from his headquarters at Pennypacker's Mill, telling them he was ready to move against Howe. (Kennedy) The army camped here from September 26th to the 29th.

The General's correspondence tells us that 'Commander-in-Chief (Washington) moved the army on September 29 from Pennypacker's Mill to the crossing of "Shippack Creek" on the road of the same name', states Douglas South Freeman, author of "George Washington". (qtd in Acanthus Group, George, 11) At Skippack, he made his headquarters at the Joseph Smith farm, September 29 to October 2, 1777. After the encampment at Skippack, the army moved to the Methacton Hills area in Worcester Twp., on October 2. There, Washington learned from his spies that the British reduced forces at Germantown to protect a supply column coming up from the south. British forces at Germantown numbered 9,000 approximately. (Kennedy)

Washington's staff agreed it was time to attack. His strategy was a form of "double envelopment attack" which Hannibal of Carthage used to destroy the Roman legions at the Battle of Cannae, wrote Robert Leckie in "George Washington's War". (qtd in Kennedy) It involves a night march of four columns of troops spread over 14 miles, ending in a coordinated attack. Their object was to push the British back, towards the east, to then be surrounded by the flanking militias. The army left Worcester on the night of October 3rd to march to Germantown.

His staff included: Gen. Armstrong who led the Pa. Militia down Ridge Pike, Gens. Forman and William Smallwood leading the New Jersey and Maryland Militias down York Rd., Gens. Thomas Conway, John Sullivan, Anthony Wayne leading divisions down Germantown Pike, and Gens. Nathaniel Greene and Adam Stephen leading divisions down Morris Rd. (Kennedy)

It was about 7pm that Washington's four columns marched into Germantown. At dawn the next day the army come upon British pickets. Shots were fired, but that morning there was a heavy fog making it hard to recognize enemy or friend. (Kennedy)

The ensuing battle saw Washington's forces push back the British, past the Chew mansion, except for a British unit of 120 infantry that barricaded themselves in the house and continued firing. However, Washington made the unfortunate decision to allow only the divisions of Gens. Sullivan and Wayne to continue pushing the British farther down the road, while he stopped the remainder of the column to take out the British unit in the Chew mansion. This was a turning point that gave the British a chance to take the upper-hand. They received reinforcements from the east and the battle began to turn as they started to push back Gens. Sullivan and Wayne, who then retreated, running low on ammunition. The unit barricaded in the Chew house was then saved by the advancing British. (Kennedy)

Washington then ordered a retreat that took the entire army back to Pennypacker's Mill, as noted in the Sullivan Papers. (qtd in Acanthus Group, Sullivan, 11) They were pursued as far as Blue Bell by the British cavalry. The author Robert Leckie reports British casualties at 70 killed, 420 wounded. Washington's army had a loss of 152 killed, 521 wounded and 400 captured. (qtd in Kennedy)

Grave markers of soldiers can still be seen at Pennypacker's Mill and at St. James cemetery in Evansburg. St. James, Augustus Lutheran in Trappe, St. John's Lutheran church near Center Square, founded 1769, and further west, the Bethel Methodist church, built 1770, "served as military hospitals (for the retreating soldiers) when the army was in the neighborhood and at each place men died from wounds received in the Battle of Germantown, according to tradition." (Skippack Pike Glorified By Washington's Marching Hereos)

According to author John Watson, 'General Nash, of North Carolina, Col. Boyd, Major White, of Philadelphia, aid to Sullivan, and another officer, who were among the wounded, were carried onward (from Germantown) so far as that when they died they were all buried side by side, at the Mennonite burying ground and church in Towamencin', along Forty Foot Rd. (qtd in Acanthus Group, Annals, 12)

The army then camped at Pennypacker's Mill from October 4th to the 8th. Apparently the troops retreated to the east bank of the Perkiomen Creek, as lieutenant James McMichael wrote in his journal October 5th that, 'today we changed our encampment to the west bank of the Perkiomen.' (qtd in Mehling, Historians) This tactical move may have seen Washington stay at the Henry Keeley farm, on the hill to the west of Pennypacker's, which was also a headquarters location according to the History of Montgomery County, published 1884. Then, on October 8th the army marched to Towamencin Twp. and encamped there. The army returned to Worcester on October 16th , with the headquarters at the Peter Wentz farm, until moving to Whitpain on October 21st.

In the vicinity of Broad Axe, Whitpain Twp., the army was encamped from October 21 to November 2, 1777, on both sides of the Skippack road. The headquarters here was about a mile north at a home on Lewis Lane, called Dawesfield. Father east, in November and December 1777, for six weeks, the Pennsylvania Militia was camped at Militia Hill, in Whitemarsh, while the Continental army was camped in the area to the north of Skippack Road. (Skippack Pike Glorified By Washington's Marching Hereos) Later, in December, the army made its way to Valley Forge, camping there until June 1778. The Revolutionary War went on for 5 more years, ending on September 3, 1783.

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