Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolutionary War

The Philadelphia Campaign: 1777

American colonies represented as pieces of a snake with the caption "join or die"

The March to Germantown: — Part 3 of 4

September, 1777:
Howe Sends 3,000 to Philadelphia;
Keeps 9,000 in Germantown

Howe was looking forward to the pomp and circumstance of occupying an enemy's capital city.

After resting in Norristown on the 24th, Howe moved his 12,000 troops into Germantown on the 25th and ordered Lord Cornwallis and 3,000 men to primp themselves for their triumphal entry into the capital city the following day.

Howe would keep 9,000 troops with him in Germantown and establish this defensible position as his buffer between Washington's troops and Philadelphia.

A 12-year-old resident of the village left his impressions of the British army moving into Germantown.

Like a vast machine in perfect order, the army moved in silence, there was no display of colours, not a sound of music. There was no violence and no offense. Men occasionally dropped out of line, and asked for milk or cider.

Philadelphia's Tories Prepare

The Tories who remained in Philadelphia were worried and concerned. How would the British treat their loyal Colonial cousins? Would they burn houses? Would they quarter in houses? How long would they stay?

In Philadelphia, Joseph Galloway, influential Tory and friend of Howe, tried his best to make the city pretty. Streets were cleaned. Sentinels were ordered to be on the lookout for Whigs who might try to burn houses. Indeed, two men were arrested after confessing incendiary intentions.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton
Charles Willson Peale, 1791,
Portrait Gallery (Second Bank)

Galloway tried to calm a city that was in turmoil. He ordered Thomas Willing "to inform the inhabitant to remain quietly and peaceably in their own dwellings, and they should not be molested in their persons and property.

But those who remained in Philadelphia had good reason to be scared. Congress had long ago departed for York. The beloved State House Bell (Liberty Bell) was packed off to Allentown (the Americans didn't want the British melting it down to make bullets). Many had seen lifelong friends leave.

On the 24th, they had been confronted by a band of American soldiers led by Alexander Hamilton, seeking to remove all items of value. He requisitioned, "with force if necessary, blankets, horses, shoes and every other article" of use that could be carried away.

The inhabitants of this place were threatened with great inconvenience and distress, thro want of provision and necessaries, for the country; of which the rebel army had left it very bare and destitute, having at their departure, a few days before the British forces arrived not only carried off almost every thing of that nature, except only what was immediately wanted for the present use of the inhabitants, taken every boat and vessel in the harbour, under pretence that if they were left, they might be serviceable to their enemies.
-Robert Morton