The British defeat at Saratoga…in October of 1777 was clearly the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The surrender of an entire British army finally brought the French recognition and aid the Americans desperately needed. The defeat also put tremendous pressure on the administration of Lord North and its failing war policies. What is often overlooked is how close the war came to ending following Burgoyne’s surrender. Just days before Saratoga, Washington’s army had launched a surprise attack on Sir William Howe’s army near the sleepy village of Germantown, Penna. Two crushing defeats, nearly on top of one another, would have surely spelled the end of the North ministry. His replacement would have pursued resolution.
The British forces and Germantown never expected… Washington’s bold stroke. Just three weeks earlier, the redcoats routed the Americans at Brandywine, the largest battle of the war. British commander Sir William Howe was not expecting an attack as his forces rested on the outskirts of Germantown. The battle that occurred on October 4, 1777 could have helped end the Revolution…..The British survived:
- Fog blanketed much of the field that morning, obscuring vital marching routes and confusing commanders on both sides.
- Washington’s plans were complex, too complex for his poorly trained army. His forces had to advance 16 miles on a night march in four separate columns. Orders were confused, troops became lost, and the attacks were not coordinated.
- At a pivotal moment early in the fighting, General Howe personally rallied his retreating troops, and was nearly killed by American artillery.
- Significant confusion led to a destructive round of friendly fire, which forced Washington’s men to disengage at the British center.
- British reinforcements were able to exploit the American disorder and drive the Continentals from the field.
Washington’s audacity at Germantown… attacking a numerically superior foe, just weeks after suffering a serious defeat, did not go unnoticed in Europe. The French were every bit as impressed by Washington’s near victory in Pennsylvania, as they were by the British surrender in New York.