Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

10
“WE RALLIED AND BROKE”:
THE CAMPAIGN FOR PHILADELPHIA,
SEPTEMBER–DECEMBER 1777

WHEN WASHINGTON learned in June that Burgoyne's army was advancing on Ticonderoga, he thought “there can be little room to doubt” that Howe would “cooperate with “Burgoyne's” Northern army.” But he could not be certain, and for a spell Washington even suspected that Burgoyne's expedition up Lake Champlain was “a feint—calculated to amuse … distract.” Word of the loss of Ticonderoga disabused him of that notion. Convinced now that Burgoyne and Howe would seek “to form a Junction up” the Hudson, Washington immediately moved his Continentals northward, well above Manhattan.1

But Howe never intended to link up with Burgoyne. For months his focus had been on Philadelphia. When Washington's Continentals started north in mid-July, Howe told Burgoyne that he would provide relief should Washington proceed toward Albany. Otherwise, he never wavered in hoping to take Philadelphia. In the seven months since he drafted his first plan for campaign 1777, Howe's thinking changed only with regard to how to get to Philadelphia. Initially, he had envisioned an overland march from New York. In April he called for taking his army south by sea, then approaching Philadelphia via the Delaware River. In July he opted to come up the Chesapeake Bay instead, changing his plan once again because intelligence reported that the army could be landed more safely in Maryland than on the Delaware River.2

During much of July, Washington and Howe warily eyed one another. Washington's army was at the Clove, a craggy gorge in the highlands on the west side of the Hudson. Aware that Howe was gathering a huge flotilla, Washington

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