Adam Stephen Gets Blamed For Germantown

Adam Stephen Gets Blamed For Germantown

Adam Stephen was a Major General in the Continental Army.

Although he was a decorated soldier who fought bravely, he was found to be intoxicated during the Battle of Germantown and his military career ended soon thereafter.

Adam Stephen

Adam Stephen had long been an associate of George Washington.

After sailing from Great Britain to Virginia and establishing a medical practice, Stephen joined the Virginia Militia. As a Lieutenant Colonel, Stephen was under Washington’s command when the shots were fired at Fort Necessity which began the French and Indian War.

Adam sustained serious wounds during the Braddock Expedition but carried on and served through the duration of the war.

When Washington resigned his commission, Stephen took over as leader of the Virginia Militia. He served in Pontiac’s Rebellion and was second in command of Dunmore’s War.


When the Revolutionary War began, Adam Stephen signed up for service. Looking at his long history as a soldier, he was an easy choice for Major General in the Continental Army.

Although Stephen performed his duties honorably in the first few years, everything would change during the Battle of Germantown.

During this engagement, a heavy fog (coupled with smoke from the muskets and cannons) made it extremely hard to see.

Stephen failed to rendezvous with General Nathaniel Greene and instead found himself turned around in the fog. When he came upon a group of soldiers, he believed them to be the British and ordered his men to fire.

As it turns out, the ‘enemy’ was General Anthony Wayne and his men. They two sides exchanged friendly fire briefly before both retreated.

Court Martial

The Continental Army was extremely disappointed at the loss of Germantown. Soon thereafter, evidence came out that Stephen had been drunk during the battle.

As everyone was upset and looking for someone to blame, Adam was court martialed and released from service.

While I am hesitant to defend Stephen’s actions, it should be remembered that the Founders always had strong drink around, as it was still generally considered safer to than water. Although a grown man should have been aware of the amount he consumed, he may have just had ‘one too many’ by mistake.


Adam Stephen decided to relocate to modern West Virginia where he founded the town of Martinsburg.

Here, he established a new medical practice as well as laying the groundwork for a small town which would later attract the likes of other Major Generals (who both happen to have irked certain people during the war) Horatio Gates and Charles Lee.

A decade later, Stephen was elected to attend the Virginia Ratifying Convention where he supported the new Constitution. He passed away just two years later at the age of 73.

Would you like to read about other Founders at Germantown?

Great! Check out these articles:

John Armstrong, Sr and the Pennsylvania Militia

Benjamin Contee

John Bubenheim Bayard and the Pennsylvania Board of War

John Laurens joins Washington’s Family

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Want to learn more about the Battle of Germantown?

‘The Surprise of Germantown’ is an excellent book which covers all the details of this dissapointing endeavor.

Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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