During the summer of 1777, the British army began an initiative to capture the colonial capitol of Philadelphia. British General Howe approached Philadelphia from the Chesapeake River. In the
meantime, General Washington set up defensive positions along the Brandywine River in order to guard the route between Baltimore and Philadelphia. However, General Howe tricked and outmaneuvered
Washington. First, General Howe sent part of his army to face the Continental Army at Chadds Ford, a heavily fortified defensive position along the Brandywine River at which General Washington
was hoping to force an encounter with the British army. At the same time, most of Howe's army marched through a ford south of the colonial army's positions in order to flank Washington's army.
This brilliant tactic by General Howe proved to be successful as the Continental Army was forced to retreat. In addition to Howe's maneuver, Washington's men were also ambushed due to conflicting
reports sent to General Washington about whether the British army was attacking as one unit or two separate units. Regardless, the defeat at the Battle of Brandywine led to the eventual capture
of the continental capitol at Philadelphia by the British army on September 26, 1777. Following the capture of Philadelphia, Washington engaged in several skirmishes with the British army.
The Continental Army unsuccessfully attacked the British garrison at Germantown (located several miles outside of Philadelphia), several colonial forts were lost along the Delaware River,
and Washington resisted several aggressive moves by General Howe at the Battle of White Marsh. Nonetheless, the Continental capitol had been captured and occupied. Although this major British
victory did not commence the end of the colonial rebellion, as hoped for by the British generals, it did sow some seeds of doubt concerning the military ability of George Washington within the
minds of the members of the Continental Congress. Soon, a group of members of the Continental Congress along with several military officers began what is known as the Conway Cabal. This was an
initiative by these men to remove George Washington from his position as the commander in chief of the Continental Army and to replace him with General Horatio Gates. The name for this
initiative was inspired by the "ring leader" Brigadier General Thomas Conway. Conway's motives in proposing such a bold move are questionable. After the loss at the Battle of Brandywine,
General Conway asked for a military promotion from Congress because of his self-described exemplary military skill, while simultaneously criticizing Washington's blunders at the Battle of
Brandywine and referring to him as a "weak general." Upon hearing about Conway's criticism of him, Washington obviously criticized Conway for his inflammatory comments, imploring Congress not
to give Conway a promotion for fear of disunity within the army. Conway tried to resign from his military position at the end of 1777 but instead was promoted by Congress to the position of
Inspector General. Conway later served alongside George Washington in future battles during the Revolutionary War. Additionally, several members of Congress created a Board of War to oversee the
actions of Washington for the remainder of the conflict. Therefore, it can be argued that although Conway was the most vocal in his criticism of General Washington, that other colonial leaders
also had their doubts regarding his military prowess following the capture of Philadelphia. Despite all of this, the British abandoned Philadelphia the next summer, on June 18, 1778.
This was due in part to the work of colonial rebels within Philadelphia sabotaging supplies within the city as well as the entrance of the French into the war as allies with the colonies.