A Rare 1777 Battle of Germantown Campaign Medal
A Rare 1777 Battle of Germantown Campaign Medal; in silver, obverse inscribed "GERMAN TOWN OCTr. 4. 1777" inside an open-ended victory wreath of laurel leaves, reverse illustrates the Battle of Germantown and engraver marked "I. MILTON. F.", 44.5 mm, holed at the top for wearing as a decoration, light contact marks and edge nicks, bruised, very fine. Footnote: Silver German Town (now Germantown) medals were awarded to officers in the 40th Regiment of British Infantry, and were struck in bronze for the men. The medals were worn on parade and other formal occasions when full uniform was required. During the American War of Independence, the Royal Army was, in October 1777, encamped at German Town, a large village a few miles from Philadelphia. The enemy, under the direction of General George Washington, was at Skippach Creek, about six miles from German Town. They had received some reinforcements, and were aware that the Royal Army was weakened by having detachments at Chester and Philadelphia. These circumstances induced the Americans to attempt a surprise night attack, and on the evening of the October 3rd, they marched in silence towards German Town. Their approach was discovered at 3 a.m. by the outlying pickets. A battalion of Light Infantry and the 40th Regiment were the first to oppose them, but these being overpowered by numbers, were obliged to fall back upon the village. In this emergency Lieutenant-Colonel Musgrave, commanding the 40th, threw himself with six companies of the regiment into a strong storehouse in the possession of Mr Chews, which lay in front of the approaching Americans. This measure checked the enemy in their advance, and gave the Royal Army time to recover their position. Musgrave and his brave 40th, attacked on every side, defended the house with determined resolution. The reverse shows the turning point in the battle, when elements of the 40th Regiment (later the Queen's Lancashire Regiment), holed up in a stone house in the middle of the battlefield, held off repeated ground assaults by superior forces and so inspired their fellow infantrymen to hold their line. Soldiers can be seen firing from the windows on the upper floor of the Chew House (as it is still known, today) and its outbuilding on skirmishers approaching their position from the left and front. Bodies of fallen attackers litter the drive in front. A battery of artillery can be seen in the foreground discharging its cannon at the house. A reinforcing regiment is shown marching onto the field at the lower left. Over all in the background hangs the smoke of battle. The Battle of Germantown would have been an important early victory for General George Washington and his embattled patriots and might have changed the course of the whole Revolutionary War. The defense of Chew House by elements of the 40th Regiment deprived Washington of the successful outcome to his skillful maneuvering and was a shock to the Continental Army. The fight in and around the stone house was as terrible as any recorded from any war. Fighting was hand to hand, anyone approaching the house was likely to be shot, those who made it across the fields and through the front door faced a barricade of tables and chairs from behind which a scything fire shot attackers to pieces. Observers later described the interior of the house as resembling a slaughterhouse. After the battle and when the regiment returned to its overseas base, its Colonel, Thomas Musgrave, commanded that medals be struck honouring the regiment's defense in Pennsylvania and be worn by those who took part in the action. The medal became so popular with the troops that the regiment adopted it as an official award for distinction and it was awarded to officers and enlisted men for decades afterwards.