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Germantown Essay

944 words - 4 pages

The Battle of Germantown
After the American defeat at Brandywine, George Washington was determined to win a battle. Major General William Howe had set up camp at Germantown, Pennsylvania, with Major General Lord Cornwallis not far behind in Philadelphia. Washington and his staff created a rather skillful and thorough plan that was challenging to carry out with an untrained army. The plan was this: to surround the British camp in a double envelopment, which is a military tactic, where the flanks of the opposing army are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion. After the opposing army has moved forward, two more units move in to stop any attempts of reinforcements reaching the targeted unit. Unfortunately, this battle was doomed from the start. There was an extreme blanket of fog on the morning of October 4th, 1777, and gun smoke in the air did not make it any easier. The battle of Germantown was one that was ill-fated from the beginning and continued to be so until the end (Purcell 1) (Lancaster 1).
William Howe rejected General John Burgoyne’s offer to join forces with him in upstate New York, because his focus was on taking Philadelphia. Howe prevailed at the Battle of Brandywine, which led him to successfully take Philadelphia afterward. Due to this, it appeared that Howe was in control due to his constant wins. His main forces which contained around nine thousand men went into camp at Germantown, and Lord Cornwallis had three thousand more troops camping in Philadelphia (Axelrod 1) (Purcell 1).
Washington was not going to accept reprehensible defeat, so he had decided on a counterattack where Charles Cornwallis was residing with his troops – in Germantown. Though the American army had lost at Brandywine, it soon after gained strength from considerable amounts of Maryland and New Jersey militia. Washington and his staff had constructed an intricate plan, which was often hard to execute successfully with the poorly trained “regulars” (Axelrod 1) (Purcell 1).
The American plan seemed simple: divide the army into four divisions, and attack the British camp at Germantown with a double envelopment. As stated, a double envelopment is a military tactic where the flanks of the opposing army are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion. Major General Nathanael Greene was to attack the British right flank. Major General John Sullivan was to attack British left flank, which was rumored to be weaker. Two smaller divisions, which were composed entirely of militia, were to move in wide flanking movements around each side of the British lines. Every unit was to march through the night, over rough terrain were expected to arrive at 2 A.M. – even though there was no form of communication whatsoever – and to attack at 4 A.M (Purcell 1).
Even with all of their planning, the Americans were doomed from the start. General...

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