Germantown General John Armstrong to General Gates
General John Armstrong to General Gates.
Camp, October 9, 1777
Three days ago I wrote you at greater length than at present I can do, but find thro' hurry in the night I have sent your letter to some other gentleman. On the fourth inst General Washington attacked the enemy, marching his troops by various routes about fifteen miles the preceding night. The British troops were encamped chiefly at German Town, the foreigners principally betwixt the Falls of Scuilkill and John Vandurings mill. We could not take off (as was designed) but beat in the enemies pickquets, so that the surprize was not total but partial.
At the head of German Town the Continental troops attacked with vigor, and drove the British who frequently rallied and were drove again and again about the space of two miles, when some unhappy spirit of in- I formation seized our troops almost universally whereby they began to retreat and fled in wild disorder unknown to the General—that is, without his orders and beyond his power to prevent. So that a victory, a glorious victory | fought for and eight tenths won, was shamefully but mysteriously lost, for ~ to this moment no one man can or at least will give any good reason for the I flight. The conjectures are these: The morning was foggy and so far unfavourable. It's said ours took the maneuvers of part of our own people for 1 large reinforcements of the enemy and thereby took fright at themselves or at one another. Some unhappy officer is said to have called out: "We are~; surrounded, we are surrounded!" -~
The enemy also in their flight—I mean part of them—took into a church,~ and a larger body into Mr Chews Germantown house where on our part out | ill judged delay was made and the troops impeded in their warm pursuit There a flag was sent in, insulted and the bearer wounded, where also a number of our people fell by the wall pieces and musquetry from the house which proved too strong for the metal of our field pieces. .
My destiny was against the foreigners, rather to divert than with the militia fight their superior body; however, we attempted both, until the General, seeing his men retreat, sent for me with the division. [I] follered a slow cannonade several miles but found him not, fell in with the rear of the enemy, still supposing them a vanquished party and that we had victory tho' the firing was then countered. We gave them a brush, but their artillery, so well directed, soon obliged us to file off, near two hours after our troops had left the field. I lost but thirty-nine wounded.
On the other hand every intelligence from town assures us that the Continental troops in the morning gave the enemy a severe drubing: Genl. Agnew killed, Grant and Erskin wounded, with some colonels in the hospital and some churches crowded with their wounded, the triumphing Tories again shook at the center, the drooping spirits of the Whigs a little relieved—thus God supports our otherwise sinking spirits which were also animated by your northern success.