Today, Germantown is a busy neighborhood in Philadelphia. On October 4, 1777, it was a small village on the outskirts of the colonial capital that hosted one of the largest battles of the American Revolution. George Washington’s attempt to recapture Philadelphia has been misunderstood and long overshadowed by the battles of Brandywine, Saratoga, and the difficult winter that followed at Valley Forge. Michael C. Harris, the award-winning author of Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 (2014), has produced the first full-length book on the Battle of Germantown, lifting the pivotal engagement out of its undeserved obscurity.
General Sir William Howe launched his campaign to capture Philadelphia in late July 1777. His army sailed aboard a 265-ship armada from New York and six difficult weeks later landed near Elkton, Maryland, moved north into Pennsylvania, and defeated Washington’s American army at Brandywine on September 11. Philadelphia fell soon thereafter.
When he spotted an opportunity to defeat part of Howe’s army, Washington devised and launched a complex four-column attack, marching his men most of the night to strike the British early on the morning of October 4. Obscured by ground fog, the attack caught the British garrison at Germantown by surprise. With the enemy collapsing and his reserves yet to fire a shot, Philadelphia seemed within Washington’s grasp—until a series of poor decisions by the American high command around the Chew House brought about a stunning reversal of fortune that swept the Americans from the field. Although a tactical defeat, Germantown proved Continental soldiers could stand toe-to-toe with British and Hessian Regulars.
Germantown is the first complete study to merge the strategic, tactical, political, and naval history of this complex regional operation and set-piece battle into a single compelling account. Harris’s sweeping prose, which begins where his award-winning Brandywine left off, relies extensively on original archival research and (to the extent possible today) personal knowledge of the terrain. Germantown is no mere retelling, but a major reinterpretation of the battle, troop movements, and decision-making (including the fascinating chess match for control of the forts along the Schuylkill River) that nearly drove the British out of Philadelphia. Twenty-seven original maps, together with illustrations and modern photos, extensive explanatory footnotes, appendices, and an order of battle support the text and provide contextual understanding of the movement of the armies and the strategic and tactical implications of this grand matching of wills.
Michael Harris’s Germantown, now in paperback, sets the standard for Revolutionary War battle studies and will please the most discriminating reader.
“…the first complete study to merge the strategic, political, and tactical history of this complex operation and important set-piece battle into a single compelling account. Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of original maps, numerous illustrations, and modern photos… draws largely through the words of those who fought there. The result is one of the most informative and 'reader friendly' military studies of its kind.” ~Midwest Book Review
“Germantown—one of the few major actions of the Revolution lacking an in-depth study. Until now. From the flashing bayonets at Paoli to the smoke and fog at Cliveden, Michael Harris’s Germantown takes us through the second half of the Philadelphia Campaign. This follow-up to his award-winning Brandywine (2015 winner of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond Book Award), is deeply researched, heavily sourced, and compellingly written. Huzza!” ~Bill Welsch, President of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond and Co-Founder of the Congress of American Revolution Round Tables
“Michael Harris’s new book picks up where his last book left off, with the troops marching off to fight the little-known Battle of the Clouds, the often overlooked Battle of Paoli, and the major engagement of Germantown. His new book sheds new light as to why some men who participated in the Paoli bloodshed may have turned Germantown into a massacre.” ~Jim Christ, President of the Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund
“First, Michael Harris wrote an excellent study of the largest set-piece battle of the Revolutionary War at Brandywine. Now, he has delivered an equally outstanding study of the follow-on actions that made up the balance of the Philadelphia Campaign, including a major reinterpretation of the strategically significant Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. Washington’s defeat (at what may have been the second largest set-piece battle of the war) ensured that Philadelphia would remain in British hands while his army suffered the brutal winter at Valley Forge, but also helped convince the French to recognize the nascent American Government and intervene on its behalf. Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777 deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the Revolutionary War’s most important northern campaign.” ~Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning author and historian
"Harris has once again triumphed in establishing a definitive military history of a lone Revolutionary War battle." ~The Colonial Review
"The book will provide a useful and readable study for the military historian seeking to walk the ground with Washington and his forces. I especially appreciated the in-depth discussions of the various armament, forces, personalities, and political considerations involved. Coupled with Harris’s prior volume, Brandywine (Savas Beatie, 2014), this book makes a thorough study of the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign and would be a worthy addition to any library." ~Parameters