“Pennsylvania History Presents” is an online feature of the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s (PHA) website. Begun in 2019, we offer for free public access one article from the current issue of its quarterly award-winning journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.
For the Autumn issue (88.4) we are making available Panic in Philadelphia, 1777: Civilian Behavior and British Military Failure by Joseph J. Casino. Abstract: : British strategy for ending the American rebellion in 1777 required placing the army in a location where a generally friendly civilian population would provide the supplies, recruits, and intelligence it needed. General Sir William Howe was driven to capture Philadelphia because of the supposed persuasive Loyalism in that area. However, the slow movement of the British Army to that objective from July to September 1777, caused civilians in the region to behave in ways which frustrated General Howe’s plans for distinguishing friend from foe. The already well-known penchant for his soldiers’ indiscriminate plundering of civilian property regardless of their owners’ political persuasion created conditions which caused many civilians to flee the British approach despite Howe’s promises of protection and security for those who remained peaceably at home. The remaining population’s political, economic, and gender composition was ill-designed to satisfy British military requirements.
The article is chosen quarterly by the journal’s editor, and often connects to current events in Pennsylvania and American history. The initiative helps to meet the PHA’s mission of understanding how the past informs the present to help us shape a better future.