The Ambush of Captain Allan McLane

On June 16, 1778 Captain Allan McLane and his cavalry were spying on the British to learn if they were going to evacuate Philadelphia.  A young girl, his informant, told McLane to meet her father at the “Horse House” in Germantown for important information.  Knowing this may be a British trap, he ordered his troops to conceal themselves behind the tavern while he and two men proceeded.  As soon as McLane arrived a patrol of thirteen British light horsemen came at full gallop.  Writing in the tird person, McLane described his experience:

At the instant the Captain fired his pistol the [American] horsemen appeared in the Enemy’s rear, fired and advanced upon them.  They became alarmed and ran in Grate Confusion down the roade and through the fields toward the British picket near the Globe Mill.  They reported (a lie, British-like) they had been ambuscaded by a body of horse and infantry and cut their way through them without a loss but one dragoon wounded slightly (

What had actually happened was that as the British were riding quickly toward him, McLane leapt onto his horse in time for a British trooper to dismount and open the gate for the rest of his cavalry.  McLane fired his pistol, killing the soldier and escaped.  Even though parts of his story were fabricated, the narrative and painting offer an emotional tale of brave patriotism and McLane’s boldness on and off the battlefield.  He was so respected that his commander George Washington would remark, “I would not do without him in the light corps – no, not for a thousand pound” (


Cook, Fred J. “Allan McLane: Unknown Hero of the Revolution.”

   American Heritage Magazine. Web 26 May 2010.



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