The Battle of the Clouds Part 3

5) Site of the Boot Tavern

    The same market forces which brought colonials the Boot Tavern have now brought us a modern replacement, where at the time of my visit you could buy an Ogre-Approved Sierra Mist Shrek-A-Licious Slurpee.  Donop's column took a left off the Old Phoenixville Pike onto Cart Road, now Ship Road, even further toward the extreme American right.

6) Ship Road

Donop headed this way past the strip mall and met up with Knyphausen's column.

7) Ridge Between Ship Road and Old Phoenixville Pike

    The extreme American right composed of Armstrong's Pennsylvania militia was on the ridge somewhere in this general vicinity, shown here on garbage day.  The Hessians clashed with the militiamen, and predictably the part time soldiers fell back.  Knyphausen continued the advance, threatening to turn the American flank while their line wasn't yet properly formed.  Although Washington tried to maneuver himself out of trouble, it was clear that the fight, as small as it had been up to that point, was going in favor of the British.  Both flanks were threatened, and had they remained, any reasonable person could envision the American army being encircled and destroyed.  Washington wisely withdrew while he still could.

    So why is this fight called the Battle of the Clouds?  Because just as events were coming to a climax, the sky opened up and drenched both armies.  The remains of a hurricane or tropical storm may have been the cause, but the result was clear.  Because of flaws in American cartridge boxes, virtually all of the American ammunition got wet and was useless.  The enemy may have had some similar problems, but British superiority with bayonet fighting only strengthened the argument for retreat.        

    After skirmishing at "The Battle of the Clouds", Washington once again withdrew behind the Schuylkill on September 19th to cover both the capital and his supply area, but he left behind Anthony Wayne's Pennsylvania division of 1,500 men and four guns with orders to harass the British rear.  Wayne was to be joined by militia, and together they would strike the enemy baggage train as the British advanced on Washington's main army.  Instead, they would be attacked themselves at Paoli.

Sources:  There has been little written on this small but potentially disastrous fight.  Much of the information presented here is based on a bicentennial era pamphlet which in turn is based on a unpublished paper by Phillip and Marianne Schmitt entitled "The Battle of the Clouds".  We can only hope that some modern scholar will turn his attention to this battle.

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