British drawing of the Battle of Whitemarsh
December was a busy time for General George Washington and the Continental Army in 1777. On November 2, Washington moved the Continental Army into a camp in Whitemarsh, PA. Yet, he thought that the area, about 16 miles northwest of Philadelphia along the hills between Old York Road and Bethlehem Pike, not far down the road from where there was a British occupation in Germantown and even moreencamped in Philadelphia, was vulnerable to attack by the redcoats. He was right.
I wrote a bit about these few days of skirmishes with the redcoats, known as the Battle of Whitemarsh, in my ebook, SIX DAYS IN DECEMBER: General George Washington’s and the Continental Army’s Encampment on Rebel Hill December 13 – 19, 1777. Here is the excerpt:
“The army was cold, tired, and barely clothed when they got to Rebel Hill. British General Howe had moved most of his army out of Philadelphia on Dec. 4 for one final battle before both armies went into winter quarters. Several divisions of Washington’s Continental Army skirmished with the British at the Battle of Whitemarsh on December 5 – 7. Yet, the entire Continental Army was on full alert on December 7 for an attack by Howe’s British army. On that day, General Washington “rode through every brigade of his army, delivering in person his orders respecting the manner of receiving the enemy, exhorting his troops to rely principally on the bayonet, and encouraging them by the steady firmness of his countenance, as well as by his words, to a vigorous performance of their duty.”3 Gen. Howe decided not to attack after he couldn’t draw out the Continental Army, and he ordered their retreat back to Philadelphia on Dec. 8. Gen. Washington decided that, for the winter, his army had to move farther away from Philadelphia than their current headquarters in Whitemarsh.”
3The Camp by the Old Gulph Mill, William Spohn Baker, 10-11, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (1893).”
You can read more about the Battle of Whitemarsh at the World History Project or at one of the many Revolutionary War websites here.
I write about the Battle of Whitemarsh in my novel, Becoming Valley Forge, because it was part of the Philadelphia Campaign of 177-1778. The characters in Becoming Valley Forge answer the question of what happens when the war comes to your backyard, in this case, the backyards of those who live in Whitemarsh, Germantown, and Chestnut Hill. I hope you’ll read about this battle in the book and let me know what you think about it. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.