George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 7 October 1777

To Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Camp Pawlins Mill [Pa.] 7th Oct. 1777


I have the Honor to transmit you an account of an Action between the American Army and that of the British laying at Germantown upon the morning of the 4th inst. Having obtained information1 of the situation of the Enemy we determined to endeavour to do something by way of surprize2—We accordingly marched all night and reached the Town by break of day. We attacked upon two Quarters, upon both of which we were successful;3 but the morning was so exceedingly foggy that we could not see the Confusion the Enemy were in and the advantage we had gained, and fearing to push too far through a strong Village we retired after an engagement of two hours, bringing off all our Artillery with us. We did not know till after the affair was over, how near we were to gaining a compleat Victory; but we have since learned from Deserters and others that have come out, that preparations were making to retreat to Chester. While the Action lasted it was pretty severe. Our loss will amount, in killed and wounded, to upwards of three hundred. What that of the Enemy is we do not exactly know; but one Deserter tells us, that when he came away the returns amounted to upwards of seven hundred, among which are Genl Agnew killed and Sr William Erskine badly wounded. Other accounts say, that upwards of two hundred Waggons went into Philadelphia loaded with wounded. If this is true their loss is more than the Deserter mentions4—Upon the whole our men are in high Spirits and much pleased with the fortune of the day though not so compleatly lucky as could have been wished. I have the Honor to be Sir your most obedient humble Servant

Go: Washington

LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The day of the month in the dateline of the draft was changed from 7 to 8, and in the dateline of the copy it was changed from 8 to 7. The Varick transcript is dated 7 October.

Although the draft is addressed at the bottom of the page to “Govr Trumbull,” it is docketed on the reverse: “Octr 8th 1777. To M. General Heath.” The text of the Varick transcript of GW’s letter to Heath of 8 Oct. in DLC:GW is nearly identical to the text of his letter to Trumbull of this date. However, the text of GW’s LS to Heath of 8 Oct. that is in the Heath Papers at MHi is quite different (see GW to Heath, that date).

1At this place on the draft manuscript GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman first wrote and then struck out the following text: “by means of an intercepted letter that the Enemy had detatched part of their forces to take possession of Billingsport an unfinished Fort upon the Jersey side of the Delaware which commanded the lower Chevaux de frize. This was judged a favorable opportunity to.”

2At this place on the draft manuscript Tilghman first wrote and then struck out the phrase: “upon the part remaining at Germantown.”

3At this place on the draft manuscript Tilghman first wrote and then struck out the phrase: “as they were compleatly surprized.”

4For a discussion of the American and British casualties at the Battle of Germantown on 4 Oct., see GW to Hancock, 5 Oct., n.9.

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