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Battle of Matson's Ford
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Date December 11, 1777
Location Matson's Ford, near present-day Conshohocken and West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
Result British victory
Belligerents
United States Pennsylvania militia United Kingdom Great Britain
Commanders
John Lacey Charles Cornwallis
Strength
Unknown 3,500
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Matson's Ford was a battle in the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War fought on December 11, 1777 in the area surrounding Matson's Ford (present-day Conshohocken and West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania). In this series of minor skirmish actions, advance patrols of Pennsylvania militia encountered a British foraging expedition and were overrun. The British pushed ahead and engaged units of the Continental Army making their way across the Schuylkill River. The Americans retreated, destroying their temporary bridge across the Schuylkill behind them, and were forced to march north to Swede's Ford (present-day Norristown) to make the crossing to the west side of the Schyulkill.

Contents

Prelude

In early December 1777, British commander General William Howe led a sizable contingent of troops out of British-occupied Philadelphia in one last attempt to destroy George Washington and the Continental Army before the onset of winter. At the Battle of White Marsh (December 5-December 8), Washington successfully repelled the British attacks, and Howe returned to Philadelphia without engaging Washington in a decisive conflict. After the battle, Washington and his troops remained encamped at White Marsh.

On December 10, it was determined that the Continental Army would move to winter quarters somewhere west of the Schuylkill River. The army struck camp the morning of December 11, and proceeded to march through Plymouth Meeting, across Ridge Road, and down to the river crossing at Matson's Ford (following the route of present-day Butler Pike).

In preparation for the crossing, Washington ordered the Pennsylvania militia, under the command of General James Potter, to establish three advance pickets west of the river to warn of British troop movements: one at Middle Ferry (where Market Street crosses the Schuylkill River), another at Black Horse Inn at City Line and Old Lancaster Road, and the third at Harriton House (the home of Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress) on Old Gulph Road.

Battle

Early in the morning of December 11, the picket at Middle Ferry fired upon a British foraging expedition leaving Philadelphia. Soon after, the militia stationed at the Black Horse Inn fired on British troops. Reports were delivered to Potter, who was with the contingent located at Harriton House, indicating that the British were "advancing in force" up Gulph Road and towards his location.

Potter stationed five regiments of militia between the British forces and Harriton House. However, the militia were quickly overrun and they hastily retreated back through Gulph Mills to Swede's Ford (present-day Norristown). The retreat was so chaotic that militiamen literally threw away their muskets and ammunition as they ran (an offense for which they would later be fined or publicly whipped). With the militia in retreat, the British discontinued pursuit and took position on the heights overlooking Matson's Ford.

At the river, two Continental Army divisions under the command of General John Sullivan had almost completed crossing using a temporary bridge made from lashed together wagons. Sullivan, determining his position to be untenable, ordered a retreat back across the river, and destroyed the makeshift bridge behind him.

Aftermath

The Continental Army spent December 11–12 in the hills above Swede's Ford. On the evening of December 12, the army crossed the Schuylkill River using makeshift wagon bridges and proceeded down Swedeland Road to Gulph Mills, where they remained from December 13 till December 19. In recognition of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, December 18 was celebrated as day of "Thanksgiving and Praise" (and was, in fact, the first national holiday for the thirteen colonies).[1] On December 19, the army marched 7 miles (11 km) west on Gulph Road to their winter quarters at Valley Forge.

References

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