The Enemy were left Masters of the Field, but by all Accounts the Advantage was on our side. [Gen. William] Howe and his Army remain near the Field of Battle. They have had much to do in dressing their wounded and burying their dead. General Washington retreated over the Schuilkil to Germantown a few Miles above this City, where he recruited his Soldiers.Adams was far too optimistic. The Continental troops had been beaten badly, their commanders outmaneuvered, and their casualties more than twice as high as the British. On 26 September, the Crown forces under Howe marched into Philadelphia, meeting no resistance. Adams and his colleagues in the Continental Congress had fled from the city.
He has since recrossed the River and is posted on the Lancaster Road about 12 Miles distant from the Enemy. His Troops are in high Spirits and eager for Action. We soon expect another Battle. May Heaven favor our righteous Cause and grant us compleat Victory! Both the Armies are about 26 Miles from this Place. A Wish for the New England Militia would be fruitless. I hope we shall do the Business without them.
Despite his tough talk, Adams had apparently prepared for such close calls by regularly burning his sensitive correspondence. His cousin John Adams wrote, in a letter to William Tudor, Jr., dated 5 June 1817:
I have seen him, at Mrs. Yard’s [boardinghouse] in Philadelphia, when he was about to leave Congress, cut up with his scissors whole bundles of letters into atoms that could never be reunited, and throw them out of the window, to be scattered by the winds. This was in summer, when he had no fire; in winter he threw whole handfuls into the fire. As we were on terms of perfect intimacy, I have joked him, perhaps rudely, upon his anxious caution. His answer was, “Whatever becomes of me, my friends shall never suffer by my negligence.”The Congress regrouped in Lancaster and then York, Pennsylvania. Washington found a winter encampment at Valley Forge. After word of the American victory at Saratoga, Samuel Adams began to think that perhaps Gen. Horatio Gates would do a better job as commander-in-chief. I think it’s interesting how as late as 17 September he still expressed confidence in Washington.