Howe vs. Washington: The Philadelphia Campaign of 1777

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Wednesday, August 22 (7:30pm) to Saturday, August 24, 2012 (5:00pm
Led by Edward Lengel and William Welsch

“Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery.”

These words of Washington on the National Memorial Arch describe the suffering the Continental Army endured at Valley Forge. Our Howe vs. Washington tour will trace the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 from Washington’s defeat at Brandywine through the army’s march out of Valley Forge heading to its success at Monmouth in June, 1778.

In the summer of 1777, British General William Howe launched what he believed would be the decisive campaign of the war. His goal was to capture Philadelphia, capital of the new nation. On our first day we will begin with a visit to Brandywine battlefield, where the British decisively defeated Washington’s army on September 11, 1777. We will start with the beginning action at Kennett Meeting House, tracing the diversionary attack on Washington’s position at Chad’s Ford. Next we’ll visit the British flanking position at Osborne’s Hill; then it’s on to Birmingham Meeting House, where the battle culminated. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the site of Fort Billings, a fortification in New Jersey used to prevent the British navy from communicating with Philadelphia. We’ll also visit Fort Mercer, an excellent site where American troops defeated a Hessian force under Colonel Carl von Donop on October 22.

On our second day we will travel to Fort Mifflin, another of the “Delaware River Forts” which came under attack several times during 1777. Then we’ll visit Germantown, scene of Washington’s October 2 surprise attack on the encamped British forces. Washington’s overly complex attack plan was thwarted by actual fog as well as the fog of war created by a determined British stand in the Chew House – Cliveden – which we’ll visit. We’ll also cover some other key locations of the action, including a stop at the Deshler-Morris House. Our last stop of the day will be at Fort Washington, the Continental encampment after Germantown. Here at Whitemarsh in early December, Washington was unsuccessful in luring Howe into an attack against his strong entrenchments at Fort Hill and Militia Hill.

Our third day will begin with a brief stop to discuss the Battle of the Clouds – the battle that never was. Then we’ll head to the remarkably well interpreted Battle of Paoli site, where General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s Pennsylvania Division was surprised in a night attack by General Charles “No Flint” Grey in the so-called Paoli Massacre on September 21. We’ll ask the question: was it really a massacre?

Our third day will also include Washington’s most famous encampment, where we’ll learn why Valley Forge was chosen as a winter camp, reviewing its strengths and weaknesses. We discuss in depth the hard winter of 1777-1778, with consideration of some of the popular myths. We’ll visit the camp sites of the 16 Continental brigades, the newly refurbished Washington Headquarters complex, the impressive National Memorial Arch, the Memorial Chapel, and the Valley Forge Visitor Center.

Throughout the tour, we’ll review the extensive literature of the campaign and explore some interesting sidelights. At tour’s end, you’ll be able to decide for yourself if Benjamin Franklin was correct when he said that Howe had not captured Philadelphia, but that Philadelphia had captured Howe! Please join us to trace the maneuvers of the campaign and experience the suffering and rebirth of the Continental Army.

What’s included: motor coach transportation, three lunches, beverage and snack breaks, a map and materials package, all admissions and gratuities, and the services of two experienced tour guides-historians. Tour participants are responsible for transportation to the headquarters hotel, and securing a room reservation, if necessary. Dinner is on your own. Tour goes out rain or shine. Please see our policy page for information about cancellations.

Hotel: We have arranged with the headquarters hotel for a group rate of $ per night. Please call the and ask to reserve your room at the America’s History group rate. This rate will be guaranteed up to 30 days prior to the tour, so please make your reservations soon.

Our Tour Guides/Historians

Dr. Edward G. Lengel is editor of the George Washington Papers Project at the University of Virginia. He is the author of three books on Washington including the critically acclaimed General George Washington: A Military Biography. He was a consultant to Mount Vernon’s new interpretive visitor’s center and has lectured widely on Washington and the American Revolution

William M. Welsch is a frequent speaker on the American Revolution and an experienced tour leader of Revolutionary War sites. He is a founding member and president of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, Virginia. His article “Washington’s Indispensable, Yet Unknown Lieutenants” appeared in American Revolution magazine.

Dr. Bruce M. Venter, president of America’s History, LLC is an experienced Revolutionary War tour leader and will accompany this tour.

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