Peter Muhlenberg: The Pastor Turned Soldier


November 9, 2015
by Joshua Horn Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

America has many heroes from its War for Independence, but one who is rarely remembered is Virginia’s Maj. Gen. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. If he is ever mentioned, it is usually as part of a legend in which he removed his robes after preaching a sermon to reveal a Continental uniform underneath, then proceeded to raise an entire regiment from his congregation.[1] Muhlenberg’s career went far beyond this. He served in the military throughout the war, participating in many of the most important battles, from Charleston in 1776 to Yorktown in 1781, and rose to the rank of major-general.

Sullivan’s Island

Muhlenberg got his first taste of military life as a young man in the British 60th Regiment of Foot, in which he served a short time after running away from the  school in Germany to which his father had sent him.[2] He soon returned home to America and followed his father into the ministry. When Virginia raised its troops in 1775, he was appointed colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment, very likely due to his influence in the German-American community. Of the eight colonels in the Virginia militia, Muhlenberg was the youngest at 29 and only Patrick Henry had less military experience.[3]

Muhlenberg first saw combat on June 28, 1776 during the British attack on Sullivan’s Island off Charleston, South Carolina. His regiment’s exact role in the fighting is unclear. He was with the troops of Col. William Thompson, who defended the northern part of the island from the British infantry.[4] Muhlenberg took no part in the battle until 5 p.m., when his troops reinforced Thompson, who was holding off British infantry attempting to land on the island.[5] The fighting on that portion of the field may have already been over, but the entire battle was not finished until 9 p. m. Muhlenberg’s men must have seen some action, as Charles Lee, the American commander, mentioned in his report that the Virginia troops were “brave to the last degree,” and in another report said, “I know not which corps I have the greatest reason to be pleased with Muhlenberg’s Virginians, or the North Carolina troops—they are both equally alert, zealous, and spirited.”[6] Although this praise was given specifically to the soldiers, some credit is certainly due to their commander for their good conduct. Whatever part Muhlenberg played, it was enough to impress his commander.

With Washington

On February 1, 1777, Peter Muhlenberg was promoted to brigadier general by the Continental Congress and ordered to join the army of George Washington around Philadelphia. He had done well as commander of the 8th Virginia Regiment. He had learned much about the art of soldiering and it was reported that his men were very well disciplined. One of his last acts before being promoted was to request muskets for his men instead of rifles, as the rifles were “of little use” after exposure to the elements on campaign.[7] Washington was convinced by his arguments and “determined to have as few [rifles] used as possible.”[8] The general respected the opinion of his young subordinate, who was quickly learning the art of war.

Muhlenberg took command of his new brigade in Nathanael Greene’s division on May 26, 1777.[9] The Continental units under Muhlenberg’s command held a reputation as being some of the best trained men in the army. Charles Lee had written that the 8th Virginia Regiment was “the most complete .. [on] the whole continent.”[10] When Muhlenberg first joined George Washington, he spent time reviewing the position of the army. This earned him a mild rebuke from Washington,[11] but Muhlenberg was quick to get his men into shape. In August, when the army marched through Philadelphia to meet Howe’s invasion force, Washington chose Peter Muhlenberg’s two thousand man brigade to lead the way through the town.[12] Washington wanted to make the best impression possible on the citizens of Philadelphia, and it may be presumed that Muhlenberg was selected to lead the column because of the high state of discipline in his command.[13]


Not long thereafter, on September 11, 1777, Washington was attacked by Howe in the Battle of Brandywine. Greene’s division formed the American left flank and when the right flank was struck by Cornwallis’s column, Washington ordered Greene’s men to aid it. He sent Greene’s first brigade, under George Weedon, to move at once to support the threatened point. Muhlenberg’s men were too far away to arrive in time, so they were told to fall back by a different route. Weedon went on to give a signal check to Cornwallis’s attack and served in the army’s rear guard.[14] Some historians, such as nineteenth century writer William Johnson, have asserted that Weedon’s troops were halted and Muhlenberg’s sent in first, and then Weedon fell back in good order to take cover behind the other brigade.[15] This, however, appears to be a mistake.

In 1788, historian William Gordon wrote that Muhlenberg was sent on another route by Washington himself and Weedon’s was the only one of Greene’s brigades involved in the fighting.[16] Nathaniel Greene wrote of events the next year, recounting how he covered the American retreat with only Weedon’s brigade.[17] It seems that later historians based their account of the fighting by Greene’s men on this letter, but confused which units were involved. Greene clearly said that only Weedon’s brigade participated and there was no reason for him to rob Muhlenberg of any credit, as their friendship continued for many years.[18] Several modern historians have followed the faulty account of Muhlenberg’s role at Brandywine, but there is no reason to believe that he took part in any serious fighting.


After the defeat at Brandywine, Washington quickly turned to the offensive. With the agreement of his generals, including Muhlenberg, he attacked a force numbering less than ten thousand in Germantown, five miles north of Philadelphia, on October 3. Muhlenberg’s brigade was among the front lines of one of the columns that converged on Germantown. It was the general’s most important position of the war up to that point and was likely his first experience of the chaos of a pitched battle. Eyewitnesses recorded that his men performed their duty ably, with one American General remembering them “advancing with Spirit…”[19] A Continental captain recorded, “Muhlenberg and Scott, pressing forward with eagerness, encountered and broke a part of the British right wing, entered the village, and made a considerable number of prisoners.”[20]

This success did not continue for long. In the foggy morning the American attacks became confused and many units were pulled from the main effort to attack the fortified Chew house.[21] Muhlenberg’s vigorous push was brought to a standstill and heavy musketry continued for hours. One soldier recalled that “the crackling of thorns under a pot, and the incessant peals of thunder only can convey the idea of their cannon and musketry.”[22] The Americans tried to attack, but they were uncoordinated. Some units ran out of ammunition and the Continentals began to withdraw.

One of the furthest advances made that day was by Muhlenberg’s 9th Virginia. It left a good record of itself, in contrast to another one of Muhlenberg’s regiments, the 13th Virginia. Neighboring troops complained that the 13th‘s cowardly conduct allowed the British to attack their flank.[23] Muhlenberg had advanced further than most other units, but he extended his men too far. Many had to fight their way back to their lines. Four hundred men of the 9th Virginia were captured by encircling British troops.[24] As the Americans retreated from the field, Greene’s division fell in line last and formed the rearguard for the army.[25]

Peter Muhlenberg demonstrated great personal bravery in the attack and led his troops in their charges. William Johnson, biographer of Nathanael Greene, wrote, undoubtedly with some hyperbole:

Never did a body of men perform their duty with more firmness and zeal than the American left. It is a truth which defies contradiction, that it was the only part of the American army that had the good fortune to effect the service allotted it that day. For they broke the enemy’s right, drove them at the point of the bayonet through their encampment into the village, and made a large number of prisoners.[26]

During the retreat Muhlenberg was with the brigade’s rearguard and was among the last to leave the field. In his book, Henry Muhlenberg recounts an anecdote from the retreat. The General, after many hours of action, fell asleep on horseback while some of his men pulled down a fence that his steed was too tired to jump. He was awakened by the whistle of a musket ball. He saw a British officer directing the redcoats to aim for him, the mounted officer. He drew his pistol and fired, hitting the British officer and then rode to rejoin his men.[27] No primary source can be found for this account, but if true it shows that Muhlenberg kept a good head and a steady hand in danger.

Muhlenberg cannot be exonerated of all blame for the defeat. His fast advance became disorganized and many of his soldiers were captured. It is hard enough to keep track of troops in normal battle conditions, but the confusion created by the fog rendered this even more difficult. It was a common mistake that day, but if Muhlenberg had been able to keep his brigade together he may have been able to push forward with a more forceful attack and prevent hundreds of his men from falling into enemy hands.


The next fight Muhlenberg took part in was political, not military. When he was promoted to brigadier general he was the senior Virginian of that rank in the army, but on March 2, 1778 a board of his fellow generals voted to recognize William Woodford as his senior. Woodford had been senior to Muhlenberg when they were both colonels in the service of Virginia, but he had resigned and lost his seniority and then later rejoined the service.[28] Muhlenberg announced that he would resign if Woodford was put over him. In a respectful and deferential letter to Washington he said he had not joined the army for “Honor or Ambition,” but “whenever an Officer degrades himself in the Opinion of his Brother Officers of inferior Rank his Influence & Authority become despicable….”[29] Washington replied that he did not think submission was dishonorable, although he seems to imply that in a private conversation he had said Muhlenberg was in the right.[30] Muhlenberg agreed to remain in the army after Congress said the change in seniority was not intended to reflect upon “the personal characters or comparative merits of those officers.”[31] In this altercation Muhlenberg put the preservation of his own honor above service to his country, a vice that was all too common in the Continental high command.

Peter Muhlenberg and his brigade saw no action in the campaigns of 1778 and 1779. He spent his time organizing and disciplining the brigade. They were present at the attack on Stony Point and probably the Battle of Monmouth, but there is no record that they engaged in combat.[32] Nonetheless, Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne wrote that he was certain Muhlenberg would have performed effectually if his services had been required.[33] The young Virginian won the good opinion of many of his fellow officers, becoming friends with men such as Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and they wrote kindly of him after the war.[34] These leaders were impressed with his military talents.

Another important factor in Muhlenberg’s generalship was his good relationship with George Washington. Muhlenberg was a young officer, only thirty-one when he was made a brigadier-general. He looked up to Washington, who had fought in the French and Indian War while Muhlenberg was still a boy, and thought very highly of him. Muhlenberg used very respectful and deferential language in his letters to Washington, even more than the custom of the times required. He was sorry to “trouble Your Excellency” and would “allways think myself happy in Obeying Your Excellencys Commands.”[35] When he received some compliments from his commander for service performed in the Yorktown campaign, Muhlenberg was jubilant, saying that Washington had “flattered my ambition.”[36] This relationship surely proved useful during the trying campaigns.

Washington had a custom from time to time of requesting the opinion of his officers on important questions of strategy. Muhlenberg’s opinions, although not necessarily adopted, were always well reasoned. He also recognized how inexperienced he was and told Washington that
“any part entrusted to me shall be executed with the greatest Chearfullness.”[37] Muhlenberg’s lack of pretensions to military greatness made him a more useful officer. He did not think he knew the answer to every question, but he was not afraid to express his opinion.

Command in Virginia

The focus of the war turned south and Muhlenberg was ordered there in the winter of 1780. He assumed command of all the forces in the state of Virginia, but there were virtually no troops raised and the state treasury was empty. It was his duty to raise and prepare troops to reinforce other armies and resist British incursions into Virginia. In October, 1780, Muhlenberg went to meet a British landing with only eight hundred raw troops. However, his advance was enough that the British fell back to Portsmouth and dug entrenchments.[38] Muhlenberg’s army was reinforced to five thousand men and he surrounded the British positions. He did not have heavy artillery and his soldiers were inexperienced, so an attack was not practicable. However, his movements were enough to foil the British plans and they reembarked at the end of the month.

Washington wrote him frequently, giving him detailed instructions and urging him to the diligent and energetic performance of his duties. There are no records of mistakes made to warrant this; it seems that Washington was making certain that his young subordinate understood his duties. As the British increased their focus on Virginia, Maj. Gen. Baron von Steuben assumed command of the American forces in the state on December 1, 1780 and became Muhlenberg’s superior. The men worked well together and continued their correspondence and friendship after the war.[39]

In Virginia, Muhlenberg was not able to keep up the high standard of discipline he had maintained in his brigade of Continentals. The government’s resources were far too scanty. Often his men were badly paid, fed and clothed. At one point a regular regiment refused to march until their grievances were addressed, but Muhlenberg, with the aid of several other officers, was able to convince the men to withdraw their declaration and obey orders. Many of the troops under Muhlenberg’s command were militia, notoriously undisciplined and unreliable. There was not enough time in their short terms of service for the officers to turn them into disciplined soldiers. These were difficult conditions for Muhlenberg to turn such recruits into an effective force and it is to his credit that they performed as well as they did. When von Steuben assumed command in Virginia he did not complain of Muhlenberg’s conduct, but instead asked the government for more supplies.[40] He blamed problems on the conditions, not the commander.

Only one month after von Steuben assumed the command, Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold, then of the British army, landed at Portsmouth with two thousand men and began marching inland. When Muhlenberg heard of these developments he was at home, but he took initiative and rallied a force of militia to resist the British raids. After further maneuvers, Muhlenberg again cornered the British in Portsmouth. He knew his undisciplined troops could not hope to capture the works built by Arnold’s regulars, but he planned to “coop up Arnold so close that he will be obliged to make an attempt to dislodge us.”[41] Muhlenberg was wise to not attempt an attack when he had only a slim chance of success, but he was diligent to keep up pressure on the British through constant skirmishing.

Washington saw an opportunity in Arnold’s position at Portsmouth and sent Marquis de Lafayette with 1,200 men to reinforce Muhlenberg and attack from the land, while the French fleet cut off a British escape by sea. The plan was foiled when the French fleet was defeated by the British. Muhlenberg planned to attack Portsmouth from the land, but before he moved, more ships arrived from New York bearing enough British reinforcements to make the plan impracticable.[42]


At the end of March, Muhlenberg retreated under pressure from the British forces, acting in accordance with von Steuben’s orders. On April 24 he fought the advancing British troops outside of Petersburg. He had 1,000 militia against 2,500 British troops. Von Steuben was in overall command of the battle, but it was Muhlenberg who made the dispositions. Americans recorded that the militia held bravely for about twenty-five minutes and retreated “in perfect good Order.”[43] Muhlenberg himself wrote that the ground was contested inch by inch and that “the militia behaved with a spirit and resolution which would have done honour to veterans. I am convinced that the enemy have suffered severely.”[44] The Americans lost sixty to seventy men, the British light infantry only eleven.[45]

Not all reports spoke so highly of the American arms. Lt. Col. Simcoe of the British army wrote, “The disposition of the enemy was not such as marked any ability in those who made it…. [There were] many positions which might have been taken by the enemy to better effect….”[46] What Simcoe may not have realized was that Americans recognized their inferiority, and their goal was not to stop the British forces. They just wanted to delay the British so they would not roam freely through the countryside. Von Steuben said in his report, “General Muhlenberg merits my particular acknowledgments for the good disposition which he made and the great gallantry with which he executed it.”[47] Although the British did not appreciate Muhlenberg’s position, he did just what his commander wanted.

Muhlenberg’s task to defend Virginia from invasion was made very difficult by the lack of troops. Even when he had men available they were usually militia, untrained and inexperienced in combat. Nonetheless, he responded with alacrity to British incursions. He did his best to contain the British forces in their entrenchments and tempt them into battle on equal

or favorable ground.[48] He was willing to advance boldly, yet not rashly. His prudence never allowed him to make a frontal assault and he did not have the equipment necessary for a regular siege.[49]


As the campaign of 1781 moved forward, the united French and American armies under Washington and Rochambeau marched to Virginia to attack Cornwallis. Muhlenberg assumed command of a brigade of Continentals.[50] On September 29, the united allied armies arrived at Yorktown to begin a siege. General Muhlenberg’s brigade led the American column and the general made an impression on one soldier as “tall, strikingly handsome, and courtly.”[51] The Allied troops soon dug in and Muhlenberg’s men were part of the rotation of “mounting the trenches.”[52]

The climactic moment of the siege was the assault on Redoubts Number 9 and 10 on the night of October 14. The Americans’ role was to assault No. 10 with several battalions, including one from Muhlenberg, all under the command of Maj. Alexander Hamilton.[53] The allied attack went off perfectly. The troops moved out, undaunted by British fire, climbed over the obstructions set up by the British, and captured the redoubts.[54]

After the battle there was some debate as to whether Hamilton or Muhlenberg deserved the glory of the attack. Henry Muhlenberg, in his biography of the general, stated that it was Peter Muhlenberg who was responsible for the assault and that Hamilton only wrote the report of the attack because Muhlenberg was wounded as he came over the redoubt’s parapet.[55] However, nowhere in the firsthand accounts of the battle is it hinted that Muhlenberg had command of the attack. He remained in reserve with Lafayette, the division commander, and Moses Hazen, another brigade commander, waiting to see the outcome of the assault.[56] If a brigadier was in command of the attack it was Hazen, who had two battalions in the assault column instead of Muhlenberg’s one.

There is also no record of Muhlenberg being wounded. On October 23, four days after the British surrender, he wrote to Washington to request leave from the army on account of “a Constant & violent fever I have had for Ten days past” which he said had “reduced me very much….”[57] It is possible that he received a wound which caused the fever, but he made no mention of it to Washington. The most likely explanation is that any wound he received was very minor and the fever was an unconnected ailment. Thus Hamilton wrote the report of the assault because he was the officer responsible for the attack, not as second in command because Muhlenberg was wounded.

Lafayette clearly stated Muhlenberg’s role in his report. He wrote, “The rest of the column under Gen. Muhlenberg and Hazen—advanced with admirable firmness and discipline.” Lafayette also mentioned that the first unit to advance to support Hamilton’s column was Barber’s battalion, part of Muhlenberg’s brigade. He said they “arrived at the moment they were getting over the works,” and “the colonel was slightly wounded.”[58] Henry Muhlenberg maintains this as proof that Peter Muhlenberg was in charge of the attack. He said he was told by Maj. Isaac Hite, an aide to Peter Muhlenberg, that the general advanced at the head of this regiment to Hamilton’s support.[59] While this may be true, just because Muhlenberg reinforced Hamilton does not mean that he had command of the assault column. Lafayette clearly gave the credit for that to Hamilton. While Muhlenberg did not command this attack, perhaps the most famous of the war, he was given credit by Lafayette for his performance in a less glorious role.

The Siege of Yorktown was the last time that Peter Muhlenberg saw combat. He remained in Virginia, recruiting and organizing troops to send to other armies. On September 30, 1783, Congress promoted him to major-general and the army was disbanded that November.[60]


Peter Muhlenberg was an able officer both on and off the battlefield and a valuable asset to the American high command. He performed well whether he was training troops, dispelling mutinies, leading soldiers under fire, or relating with fellow officers. In combat he was brave, daring and ambitious, looking for any weakness in the enemy to exploit, but not foolish enough to risk his men in a foolhardy attack. He did have his faults, as at the Battle of Germantown, where he allowed his troops to press forward too quickly and become disorganized.

In camp, he oversaw the training for his men that made them some of the best disciplined in the service. He did not achieve such good results when he led the militia, but he did his best with the limited supplies and time available. As a young officer he recognized what he did not know, joyfully submitted to Washington’s decisions and developed a close relationship with him. He worked well with other officers and formed many lasting friendships. However, in one instance he demonstrated too great a concern for his own honor and rank and was too reluctant to abandon his ambition for the good of the country.

Although Muhlenberg was of great service to the American cause and achieved some manner of fame in his own day (a county in Kentucky was named after him in 1798), few Americans today know of this great soldier. He has been largely neglected by historians. No biography has been written of him for over seventy five years and he is hardly mentioned even in books on the battles in which he fought. He was a steady, faithful officer, but he never had the chance at a glorious feat of arms to go down to posterity. As one historian wrote, “Outside his home state, he is not well known, but Muhlenberg was one of the many steady unsung heroes of the war.”[61] He was one of a legion of firm, steady commanders who were indispensable in winning the fight for American independence.


[1]     While the barest outlines of this story are true, (Muhlenberg was a pastor, probably preached political sermons and raised a regiment in his community), most of the details are likely invented. See Chris Rodda, “PBS Show Gets it Right with the Story of Peter Muhlenberg’s Robe,” Talk to Action, August 3, 2007, (accessed October 9, 2015).

[2]     William German, “The Crisis in the Early Life of General Peter Mühlenberg,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 37, no. 3 (1913): 298-329, 450-470.

[3]     Edward Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution: A Biography of General Peter Muhlenberg Lutheran Clergyman, Military Chieftain and Political Leader (Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1939), 60; Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 49.

[4]     Henry Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg of the Revolutionary Army (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1849), 60-61.

[5]     Morgan Brown, “Sketches and Anecdotes of the Family of Brown and Some Others with whom They are Connected, or from whom They are Descended.” The American Historical Magazine 7 no. 2-4 (1901), 370.

[6]     Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 70.

[7]     Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 74.

[8]     George Johnston to Peter Muhlenberg, March 9, 1777. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[9]     Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 75.

[10]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 65-66.

[11]   George Johnston to Peter Muhlenberg, April 14, 1777. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[12]   George Washington, “General Orders, 23 August 1777,” From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[13]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 82.

[14]   Thomas McGuire. The Philadelphia Campaign: Volume 1, Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia. (Mechanisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006), 269.

[15]   William Johnson. Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, Major General of the Armies of the United States, in the War of the Revolution (Charleston: Published by the Author, 1822), vol. 1, 76.

[16]   William Gordon. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America: Include an Account of the Late War; and of the Thirteen Colonies, from their Origin to that Period. (London: Published by the Author, 1788), vol. 2.

[17]   George Greene. Nathanael Greene: An Examination of some Statements Concerning Major-General Greene, in the Ninth Volume of Bancroft’s History of the United States (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866), 77-78.

[18]   George Greene. The Life of Nathanael Greene: Major General (Bedford: MA, Applewood Books, 1867), 450.

[19]   Thomas McGuire. The Philadelphia Campaign: Volume 1., 78.

[20]   Ibid., 98.

[21]   Ibid., 85-88, 97-98.

[22]   Ibid., 103.

[23]   Ibid., 115.

[24]   Thomas McGuire. The Philadelphia Campaign: Volume 2, Germantown and the Roads to Valley Forge. (Mechanisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 2007), 114-116.

[25]   Gordon, The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America, vol. 2, 233-234.

[26]   Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, vol. 2, 86.

[27]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 113-114.

[28]   Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 97.

[29]   Peter Muhlenberg to George Washington, April 10, 1778. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[30]   George Washington to Peter Muhlenberg, April 10, 1778. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[31]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 139.

[32]   Ibid., 150-158, 174; Brendan Morrissey. Monmouth Courthouse 1778: The last great battle in the North. (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004), 26-75.

[33]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 174.

[34]   Greene, The Life of Nathanael Greene: Major General, 450; Thomas Jefferson to Peter Muhlenberg, January 30, 1783. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[35]   Peter Muhlenberg to George Washington, February 23, 1777. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed January 30, 2014); Peter Muhlenberg to George Washington, April 10, 1778. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[36]   Daniel Morgan, & John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. “Letters of Generals Daniel Morgan and Peter Muhlenberg.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 21, no. 4, (1897), 489.

[37]   Peter Muhlenberg to George Washington, December 4, 1777. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[38]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 208.

[39]   Ibid., 217.

[40]   Baron von Steuben to George Washington, December 17, 1780. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[41]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 229.

[42]   Ibid., 241-242.

[43]   Edmund Pendleton to James Madison, April 30, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of James Madison. (accessed October 9, 2015); Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, May 9, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[44]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 250.

[45]   Ibid., 249; John Simcoe, Simcoe’s Military Journal (New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1844), 198.

[46]   Ibid.

[47]   Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 116.

[48]   Baron von Steuben to George Washington, February 23, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[49]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 228; Peter Muhlenberg to Thomas Jefferson, March 20, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[50]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 255.

[51]   Jerome Greene, The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (New York: Savas Beatie, 2005), 93.

[52]   “General Orders,” October 9, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[53]   Greene, The Guns of Independence, 238.

[54]   Ibid., 245-246.

[55]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 271-273.

[56]   Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 241.

[57]   Peter Muhlenberg to George Washington, October 23, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[58]   Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, October 16, 1781. From Founders Online, National Archives, The Papers of George Washington. (accessed October 9, 2015).

[59]   Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg, 273.

[60]  Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, 122.

[61]   Greene, The Guns of Independence, 331.


  • Certainly an under appreciated officer! Men from Muhelnberg’s Brigade were drafted into the Corps of Light Infantry in June of 1779. The night of Stony Point, Muhlenberg was ordered to take his Brigade and follow Wayne but he did not engage; in fact, considering he had to march 8 miles over rough terrain (he was then at the Forest of Dean), that he and Wayne did not depart at the same time, and how quickly the action was over (about a half hour), it is not clear that Muhlenberg even got there in time.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Michael. I believe Muhlenberg’s brigade did make it up before the actual assault. Wayne wrote in his report:

      “[P]revious to my marching, I had drawn General Muhlenberg into my rear, who, with three hundred men of his brigade, took post on the opposite side of the marsh so as to be in readiness either to support me, or to cover a retreat in case of accident, and I have no doubt of his faithfully and effectually executing either, had there been any occasion for him.”

      His “marching” would be the assault itself. Muhlenberg was formed just behind the morass that covered the British front.

      1. Ah quite correct, I had overlooked that portion of his report! That gives alot of credit to his men- that was a quick march from the Highlands!

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