Historical Markers
Whitemarsh Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text


Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
SR 2027 (Pennsylvania Ave.) just E of PA 309, SE of Fort Washington

Dedication Date:
December 22, 1947

Behind the Marker

General George Washington's Continental forces regrouped at Whitemarsh in early November 1777 following their defeat at the markerBattle of Germantown. On December 5, General William Howe ordered 10,000 Royal troops to march towards Whitemarsh in two impressive columns with the intention of destroying the American force. He once more planned to use the strategy that had earned him victories at Long Island in 1776 and at Brandywine a few months earlier. He dispatched one force to occupy the Americans at the center of their lines and attempted to flank them with a larger force.

A black and white photo of The Emlen House, Washington's headquarters before moving to Valley Forge.
The Emlen House, Whitemarsh, PA, circa 1940.

This time, however, Howe lacked the advantage of surprise. Spies, including an unlikely Quaker woman named marker Lydia Darragh, had warned Washington of the Redcoats' approach and the American general had prepared for a possible British flanking maneuver by ordering his troops to fortify their positions with trenches and various obstacles. He also deployed a unit of irregular or guerrilla soldiers to disrupt any British troop movements. After two days and several failed attempts to break the American lines, the Royal forces withdrew, returning to Philadelphia.

In his official report, Howe claimed that Whitemarsh had been "strong Ground" for the Americans and that he found their position "too well secured both by Labor and Nature to make an attack advisable."

Following the British withdrawal, Washington determined that Whitemarsh was too close to the city for a long-term winter encampment. After considering more distant places such as markerReading and Bethlehem, the Continental commander in chief settled upon markerValley Forge. The army began its relocation on December 11, 1777.

A year after the battle, a local resident named George Emlen wrote George Washington complaining about damage done to his farm during the campaign. The commander in chief politely offered his "Compliments to Mrs. Emlen" but firmly declined to get involved, insisting it was a matter for the quartermaster general's office.
Back to Top