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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from George Washington to John Hancock
Washington, George, 1732-1799
October 05, 1777
Volume 11, Pages 642-644

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Camp at Pennibaker Mill 5th October 1777.


Having received intelligence thro' two intercepted letters, that Genl Howe had detached a part of his force for the purpose of

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reducing Billing's Fort, and the Forts on Delaware. I communicated the accounts to my General officers, who were unanimously of the opinion that a favorable opportunity offered to make an attack upon the Troops, which were at or 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 Chesnut Hill, while Genl Armstrong with the Pennsylvania Militia should fall down by the Manatawny road by Vandaring's Mill, and get upon the Enemy's left and rear. The divisions of Green and Stephens flanked by McDougalls 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 Genls Smallwood and Foreman were to march by the old York road and fall upon the rear of their right. Lord Sterling with Nash and Maxwell's Brigade was to form a Corps-de-Reserve. We marched about 7 o'clock the preceding evening, and Genj Sullivan's advance party drawn from Conway's Brigade attacked the Picket at Mount Airy on Mrs. 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 in 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 Gen. Green began about ¾ of an hour after that upon our 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 informed of them with sufficient certainty & precision. The morning was extremely foggy, which prevented our improving the advantage we gained as 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 others movements, and hindered their

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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 which 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 better for the event, and our Troops, who are not in the least dispirited by it, have gained what all young Troops gain by being in action.

We have had, however several valuable officers killed and wounded, particularly the latter. Gen. Nash was among the latter, 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 Gen. 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 with the greatest respect, &c.

P. S.—As I have observed, I have not received a return of our loss but from what Gen. Green informs me, I fear it is more considerable than I at first apprehended it to be. The Cannon mentioned above is said to have been brought off in a wagon

To Hon. John Hancock, Esq.