How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Climax in the North

Valley Forge to Monmouth

The surprise attack on the British camp at Germantown initiated a series of maneuvers between Washington and Howe that eventually produced the American withdrawal to the hallowed fields of Valley Forge. When General Howe decided to pull his exposed regiments from Market Square to the more defendable environs of Philadelphia, Washington established a campsite at Whitemarsh about 13 miles from British headquarters. During most of the autumn of 1777, the main American army was largely undisturbed by English sorties as His Majesty's forces were occupied in the dangerous and tedious business of opening up the Delaware River to British shipping. A series of combined army and navy assaults on the rebel bastions of Fort Mercer and Fort Mifflin resulted in the loss of the 64 gun-ship Augusta, a tally of 500 men killed and wounded, and a diversion of much of the British army before both forts were eventually evacuated by the badly outnumbered defenders.

The establishment of a secure supply line from the Atlantic Ocean to the rebel capital city enabled the British commander to turn his attention to Washington's defenses during the last weeks of the 1777 campaign. Howe and his staff officers utilized the home of Quaker housewife Lydia Darragh to discuss a complex plan to surprise the American army in a pre-dawn attack planned for December 5th. However, Mrs. Darragh was hardly a disinterested bystander, as once she overheard the British conversation she quickly determined to transmit the vital information to an American army that included her son. Mrs. Darragh wrote down a detailed summary of the British operational plan and then boldly requested a pass from her cousin, Captain Barrington of Howe's staff, to procure some flour from the mill at Frankford, north of the city. Carrying an empty flour sack to reinforce her ruse, Mrs. Darragh trudged five miles through the snow to Frankford and then quickly headed east toward the outer perimeter of the American lines.

-96-

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