Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777

I have been trying to familiarize myself more with the Revolutionary War. I started a few years ago with Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 by Michael C. Harris. I recently read another book by Harris, Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777.

As I stated in my previous review of Brandywine, Harris did a superb job of bringing that battle to life by stating the facts of the battle in a relatable writing style. However, Germantown misses the mark a little. It is a good read, but seems a bit disjointed at times as Harris tries to seamlessly incorporate quotes from various primary sources. At times, the text is a conglomeration of primary source quotes with no flow.

However, Harris does describe the battle and the actions leading up to and after it with great detail. The reader can easily follow along with the events as they unfold (a few well-placed maps help the narrative). Harris also objectively describes the actions of the Americans and British. He particularly puts much blame on Sir William Howe and his conduct of the entire campaign starting before Brandywine. His lackadaisical approach cost the British an opportunity to trap and destroy the American Army.

Harris is equal in praise and criticism of George Washington. Washington expertly kept the American army in one piece while trying to avoid British attempts to bring him to battle. However, this expertise did not translate to the battlefield – particularly with his passive approval of the assault on Cliveden (the British fortification of a stone house). This assault derailed the offensive and left the Americans more vulnerable to the British counterattack.

Although Germantown plods along at times, generally it is a good follow-up on Brandywine.