Following the British capture of Philadelphia after the Battle of Brandywine, Howe’s troops encamped in Germantown to the North of the city. Germantown was a hamlet of stone houses spreading from Mount Airy on the north to Market Square in the south. Extending southwest from Market Square was Schoolhouse Lane, running 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the point where Wissahickon Creek emptied from a steep gorge into the Schuylkill River. Gen. William Howe had established a base camp along the high ground of Schoolhouse and Church lanes.
Washington determined to surprise the British army in camp. His plan required a strong column under Major General Nathaniel Greene to attack the right wing of the British army, the second column which he commanded (with Stirling and Sullivan) to advance down the main Philadelphia road and launch an assault on the British centre, while forces of militia attacked each wing of the British force. Washington’s plan required the four attacks to be launched “precisely at 5 o’clock with charged bayonets and without firing”. The intention was to surprise the whole British army in much the way the Hessians had been surprised at Trenton.
The American columns started along their respective approach roads on the evening of 3rd October 1777. Dawn found the American forces well short of their start line for the attack and there was an encounter with the first British picquet which fired its guns to warn of the attack. The outpost was supported by a battalion of light infantry and the 40th Foot under Colonel Musgrave. It took a substantial part of Sullivan’s division to drive back the British contingent.
General Howe rode forward, initially thinking the advanced force was being attacked by a raiding party, his view impeded by a thickening fog that clouded the field for the rest of the day.
Now cut off from the main British and Hessian force, British Col. Musgrave ordered his troops from the 40th Regiment to fortify the stone house of Chief Justice Chew, called Cliveden.
The game starts at this point……
Outline of Scenario
The forces in this scenario have been adjusted to agree with the units we have a available but the proportions between the 2 sides are correct. Approx 750 figures are shown in the order of battle below these numbers can be adjusted to what you have available.
The British have 3 infantry brigades deployed on the table at the beginning of the game. Of these the Piquet brigade is formed up with the 40th Foot occupying the formidable mansion of Cliveden. The other 2 brigades are encamped in Germantown and these units have to be woken and ordered to form up individually. They have a further 2 infantry brigades and a small cavalry brigade in distant reserve of table to the south. The Patriots start with elements of 2 large Continental brigades on table with the rest of these brigades attempting to march on from in turn 1. They have a central reserve of table of a Continental brigade and a small cavalry brigade plus a militia brigade on each flank who are attempting a wide turning double envelopment.
We used the normal AWI troop ratings but with the following changes.
Continentals and Loyalist infantry are vanilla troops.
Hessian line infantry have FIRST FIRE.
British line infantry have CRACK and FIRST FIRE.
British guard and grenadier infantry have stamina of 4 and morale of 3+ and are STOIC, CRACK and have FIRST FIRE.
Militia infantry have morale of 5+ and have 5 hand to hand dice, are POOR SHOTS so get -1 to shooting, and are Levy 4+ so need to roll 4+ at end of their turn to remove disorder.
Highlanders, cavalry, skirmishers are all small units.
The off table units of the 2 Continental brigades which start partly on and off table can move onto the table in any formation.
The other reinforcements should arrive in march columns coming down the entry roads (battalion by battalion) so it will take a couple of moves for a complete command to come on.
Attack columns are not permitted - this is the AWI….
This battle was seriously effected by fog. Here are simple rules for this.
Visibility at the start of the game is 24”. D6 from the 2nd turn onwards.
Score 1,2 - result is visibility falls by 6”.
Score 5,6 - result is visibility increases by 6”.
Worse visibility is 6”, best is 30”.
Troops cannot fire at any target outwith the visibility level. Charges can only be ordered if the target is visible at the start of the chargers turn.
Command rating of all commanders is 8.
However orders to wake/form up the British units encamped on the table start at command level 5 on turn 1 and increase by 1 each turn until it gets to 8. Individual unit orders have to be given to form up these units - not brigade orders.
Each turn is 20 minutes. Game ends after 12 turns or exhaustion.....
We used our usual House Rules but in addition we counted Cliveden as a Built Up Area as per the BP rules. The other houses on the table were symbolic and it was their boundary fences which had an effect, counting as an obstacle to moevemtn and giving a +1 Morale Save to units behind them.
We also tried a version of the Broken Brigade rule from Pike and Shotte simplified to the following:
A brigade is deemed broken if at the start of a turn more than half of its units (ignoring guns) are lost.
A unit is lost if:
a) it has been destroyed
b) it is shaken
Effect on units in broken brigades:
1) Units that have already left the table cannot return.
2) Shaken units within 12” of the enemy must retire except if occupying buildings, defences or in square.
3) Shaken units are allowed to make a free single retire move even if disordered. Guns that do so are abandoned.
4) Unshaken units in a broken brigade can be given normal orders but heir morale is reduced to 6+.
The British start with the picquets on the table - deployed with the jaegers and lights on the flanks and the 40th Foot defending Cliveden.
The brigades of Mathew and Grant are on table in camp along the line of the main road thru Germantown. General Howe having just returned from Cliveden to alert them to the situation. They have to be ordered to form up individually by unit.
Off table to the south is the Hessian brigade of MG Stirn - which can be ordered onto the table only from turn 5 as they are still cooking their bratwursts. A long process. Decide on turn 2 which road from the south they will take to arrive.
Further south is the reserve of LG Cornwallis and the cavalry detachment. They can be ordered onto the table from turn 7. Decide on turn 4 which road from the south they will take to arrive.
British Army order of battle
General Sir William Howe (9,000)
Picket Col Musgrave
40th Foot 24 figures
1st Light Infantry Btn 12 figures
Queens Rangers Skirmishers 12 figures
1st Brigade BG Edward Mathew
1st Guards Battalion 24 figures
4th Foot 24 figures
28th Foot 24 figures
2nd Brigade MG Grant
5th Foot 24 figures
42nd Foot 18 figures
71st Foot 18 figures
Hessian Brigade MG Johann Daniel Stirn
Erbprinz Infantry Btn 24 figures
Donop Infantry Btn 24 figures
Grenadier Btn Minningerode 24 figures
Hessian Jaegers 12 figures
Reinforcement Brigade LG Charles, Earl Cornwallis
1st Grenadier Battalion 24 figures
Grenadier Battalion Linsing 24 figures
Queens Rangers 24 figures
2nd Light Infantry Btn 12 figures
Light Dragoon Sqd 6 figures
Light Dragoon Sqd 6 figures
The first 2 regiments of Sullivan’s Brigade starts on the table astride the Philadelphia Turnpike having driven in the piquets on Mt Airy.
The other 3 regiments are deployed of table and can enter deployed in line or column as wished.
The first regiment of Greene’s Brigade is deployed on table on the Patriot left flank. The other 3 regiments are deployed of table and can enter deployed in line or column.
The cavalry under McLane can dice to arrive the turn after the last unit of Sullivan’s Brigade has arrived. They are appearing down the Philadelphia Turnpike.
The reserve under Lord Stirling can only be ordered onto the table by General Washington once the cavalry have arrived and no earlier than turn 4.
The arrival of the distant flanking militia columns is controlled by fate and the umpire.
Patriot Army order of battle
General George Washington (8,000 regulars, 3,000 militia, 200 cavalry)
Right Wing Militia BG John Armstrong, Sr.
Pennsylvania Militia 24 figures
Pennsylvania Militia 24 figures
Pennsylvania Skirmishers 10 figures
Right Wing Continentals Major General John Sullivan
1st Maryland Regiment 24 figures
2nd Canadian Regiment 24 figures
2nd Pennsylvania Regiment 24 figures
Hartley's Additional Regt 24 figures
4th Pennsylvania Regiment 24 figures
Morgans Rifles Sk 12 figures
Cavalry Captain Allen McLane
Delaware Horse 6 figures
Continental Lt Dragoons 6 figures
Left Wing Continentals Major General Nathanael Greene
2nd Connecticut Regiment 24 figures
4th Connecticut Regiment 24 figures
1st Virginia Regiment 24 figures
5th Virginia Regiment 24 figures
Left Wing Militia BG William Smallwood
Maryland Militia 24 figures
New Jersey Militia 24 figures
Maryland Skirmishers 12 figures
Reserve MG William Alexander, Lord Stirling
North Carolina Regiment 24 figures
New Jersey Regiment 24 figures
A Full History of the Battle
The campaign in Philadelphia had begun quite badly for the American forces. Washington and the Continental Army had suffered successive defeats at the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Paoli that left Philadelphia defenceless. After the seizure of the revolutionary capital by Charles Cornwallis on September 26, 1777, William Howe left 3,462 men to defend it and moved 9,728 men to Germantown, 5 miles north, determined to locate and destroy the American forces. Howe established his headquarters at Stenton, the former country home of James Logan.
With Howe's forces thus divided, Washington saw an opportunity to confront the British. He decided to attack the British garrison in Germantown as the last effort of the year before the onset of winter. His plan was to attack the British at night with four columns from different directions with the goal of creating a double envelopment. Washington hoped to surprise the British and Hessian armies in much the same way he had surprised the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton.
British and Hessian Positions
Germantown was a hamlet of stone houses spreading from what is now known as Mount Airy on the north to what is now Market Square in the south. Extending southwest from Market Square was Schoolhouse Lane, running 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the point where Wissahickon Creek emptied from a steep gorge into the Schuylkill River. Gen. William Howe had established a base camp along the high ground of Schoolhouse and Church lanes. The western wing of the camp, under the command of the Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen, had a picket of two jaeger battalions at its left flank on the high ground above the mouth of the Wissahickon. A Hessian brigade and two British brigades camped along Market Square, and east of there were two British brigades under the command of Gen. James Grant, as well as two squadrons of dragoons, and the 1st Light Infantry battalion. The Queen's Rangers, a New York loyalist unit, covered the right flank.
The Americans March Out
After dusk on October 3, the American army began the 16 miles southward march to Germantown in complete darkness. As the attack was to occur before dawn, the soldiers were instructed to put a piece of white paper on their hat to identify friend from foe. They were not detected by the jaeger pickets, and the British and Hessian forces remained unaware that American troops were advancing on them. For the Americans, it seemed their attempt to repeat their success at the Battle of Trenton was going to succeed. The darkness made communications between the columns very difficult, and progress was slower as expected. At dawn, most of the American forces were well short of their intended attack positions, and they had lost the element of surprise.
One American column, however, consisting of militia, had managed to reach the British camp. These troops halted near the mouth of Wissahickon Creek, firing a few rounds from their cannon at Knyphausen's camp before withdrawing. The three remaining columns continued their advance. The one under the command of General John Sullivan, moved down Germantown Road, the column of New Jersey militia under the command of General William Smallwood moved down Skippack Road to Whitemarsh Church Road and from there to Old York Road to attack the British right flank, and the one under the command of General Nathanael Greene, which consisted of Greene's and General Adam Stephen's divisions and General Alexander McDougall's brigade, moved down Limekiln Road.
A thick fog clouded the battlefield throughout the day. The vanguard of Sullivan's column, on Germantown Road, launched the battle when they opened fire on the British pickets of light infantry at Mount Airy just as the sun was rising at around 5:00 am. The British pickets resisted American advance and fired their guns in alarm. Howe rode forward, thinking that they were being attacked by foraging or skirmishing parties. It took a substantial part of Sullivan's division to finally overwhelm the British pickets and drive them back into Germantown.
Now cut off from the main British and Hessian force, British Col. Musgrave caused his six companies of troops from the 40th Regiment, around 120 men, to fortify the stone house of Chief Justice Chew, called Cliveden. The Americans launched furious assaults against Cliveden, but the greatly outnumbered defenders beat them back, inflicting heavy casualties. Gen. Washington called a council of war to decide how to deal with the distraction. Some of the officers favored bypassing Cliveden and leaving a regiment behind to deal with it. However, Brig. Gen. Henry Knox recommended to Washington that it was unwise to allow a garrison in the rear of a forward advance to remain under enemy control. Washington concurred.
Gen. William Maxwell's brigade, which had been held in the reserve of the American forces, was brought forward to storm Cliveden, while Knox, who was Washington's artillery commander, positioned four three pounders out of musket range and fired shots against the mansion. However, the thick walls of Cliveden withstood the bombardments. Infantry assaults launched against the mansion were cut down, causing heavy casualties. The few Americans who managed to get inside were shot or bayoneted. It was becoming clear that Cliveden was not going to be taken easily.
Meanwhile, Gen. Nathanael Greene's column on Limekiln Road caught up with the American forces at Germantown. Its vanguard engaged the British pickets at Luken's Mill and drove them off after a savage skirmish. Adding to the heavy fog that already obscured the Americans' view of the enemy was the smoke from cannons and muskets, and Greene's column was thrown into disarray and confusion. One of Greene's brigades, under the command of Gen. Stephen, veered off course and began following Meetinghouse Road instead of rendezvousing at Market Square with the rest of Greene's forces. The wayward brigade collided with the rest of American Gen. Wayne's brigade and mistook them for the redcoats. The two American brigades opened heavy fire on each other, became badly disorganized, and fled. The withdrawal of Wayne's reserve New Jersey Brigade, which had suffered heavy casualties attacking the Chew house, left Conway's left flank unsupported.
In the north, an American column led by McDougall came under attack by the Tory Loyalist troops of the Queen's Rangers and the Guards of the British reserve. After a savage battle between the two, McDougall's brigade was forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses. Still convinced, however, that they could win, the Continental 9th Virginia of Greene's column launched a savage attack on the British and Hessian line as planned, managing to break through and capturing a number of prisoners. However, they were soon surrounded by two arriving British brigades, led by Gen. Cornwallis, who launched a devastating countercharge. Cut off completely, the 9th Virginia Regiment was forced to surrender. Greene, upon learning of the main army's defeat and withdrawal, realized that he stood alone against the whole British and Hessian force, so he withdrew as well.
The large, main attacks on the British and Hessian camp had been repulsed with heavy casualties. Washington ordered Armstrong and Smallwood's men to withdraw. Maxwell's brigade, still having failed to capture the Chew House, was forced to fall back. Part of the British army rushed forward and routed retreating Americans, pursuing them for some nine miles before giving up the chase in the face of resistance from Greene's infantry, Wayne's artillery guns and a detachment of dragoons, as well as the nightfall.
Of the 11,000 men Washington led into battle, 152 (30 officers and 122 men) were killed and 521 were wounded (117 officers and 404 men). Over 400 were captured, including Colonel Mathews and the entire 9th Virginia regiment. Gen. Francis Nash, whose North Carolina Brigade covered the American retreat, had his left leg taken off by a cannon ball, and died on October 8 at the home of Adam Gotwals. His body was interred with military honors on October 9 at the Mennonite Meetinghouse in Towamencin. Maj. John White, who was shot at Cliveden, died on October 10. Lt. Col. William Smith, who was wounded carrying the flag of truce to Cliveden, also died from his wounds. In all, 57 Americans were killed attacking the Chew House.
Gen. Stephen was later court-martialed and cashiered from military service when it was discovered he was intoxicated during the battle. Command of his division was given to the Marquis de Lafayette.
British casualties were 70 killed (4 officers and 66 men) and 450 wounded (30 officers and 420 men). British officers killed in action included Gen. James Agnew and Lt. Col. John Bird. Lt. Col. Walcott of the 5th Regiment of Foot was mortally wounded.