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Battle of Monmouth
Part of the American Revolutionary War
BattleofMonmouth.jpg
Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth
by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze
Date June 28, 1778
Location Monmouth Court House, New Jersey
Coordinates: 40°15′32″N 74°16′31″W / 40.25889°N 74.27528°W / 40.25889; -74.27528
Result Strategic American victory; Tactical British victory[1]
Belligerents
 United States United Kingdom Great Britain
Commanders
George Washington Sir Henry Clinton
Strength
11,000[2] 14,000-15,000[2]
Casualties and losses
362-500 killed, wounded or captured[3] 65-304 Killed
170-770 Wounded
60 Captured[4]

The Battle of Monmouth (pronounced /ˈmɒnməθ/) was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on June 28, 1778 in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The main Continental Army under George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army column commanded by Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court House (modern Freehold Borough).

Unsteady handling of lead Continental elements under Charles Lee allowed British rear guard commander Charles Cornwallis to seize the initiative, but Washington's timely arrival on the battlefield rallied the Americans along a hilltop hedgerow. Sensing the opportunity to smash the Continentals, Cornwallis pressed his attack and captured the hedgerow in stifling heat. Washington consolidated his troops in a new line on heights behind marshy ground, used his artillery to fix the British in their positions, then brought up a four gun battery under Nathanael Greene on nearby Combs Hill to enfilade the British line, requiring Cornwallis to withdraw. Finally, Washington tried to hit the exhausted British rear guard on both flanks, but darkness forced the end of the engagement. Both armies held the field, but the British commanding General Clinton slipped away undetected at midnight to resume his army's march to New York City.

While Cornwallis successfully protected the main British column from any further American attack, Washington had fought his opponent to a standstill after a pitched and prolonged engagement, the first time Washington's army had achieved such a result. The battle demonstrated the growing effectiveness of the Continental Army after its six month encampment at Valley Forge, where constant drilling under officers like Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette greatly improved army discipline and morale. The battle improved the military reputations of Washington, Lafayette and Anthony Wayne, but ended the career of Charles Lee; he would face court martial at Englishtown for his failures on the day. According to accounts, an American soldier's wife, Mary Hays, brought water to thirsty soldiers in the June heat, and became one of several women associated with the legend of Molly Pitcher.

Contents

Prelude

In May 1778 the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton, was under orders to evacuate Philadelphia and concentrate his troops at the main British base in New York City, as France had entered the war on the side of the Americans. On June 18, the British began to evacuate Philadelphia, and began their approximately 100-mile march to the northeast across New Jersey to New York City. The British force comprised 11,000 British regulars, a thousand Loyalists from Philadelphia, and a baggage train 12 miles (19 km) long. As the British advanced, the Americans slowed their advance by burning bridges, muddying wells and building abatis across the roads. With a high of over 100 degrees F. both sides lost almost as many men to heat stroke as to the enemy. Major General Charles Lee, Washington's second-in-command, advised awaiting developments as he did not wish to commit the American force, newly-trained by Baron von Steuben, against the British regulars. However, Washington determined that the British column was vulnerable to attack as it traveled across New Jersey with its baggage train, and moved from Valley Forge in pursuit.

Washington was still undecided how to attack the British column, and held a council of war. The council, however, was divided on the issue; with a small group of officers including Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, the boldest of the staff, urging a partial attack on the British column while it was strung out on the road. Lee was still cautious, advising only harassing attacks with light forces. On June 26, 1778, Washington chose to send 4,000 men as an advance force to strike at the British rear guard as they departed Monmouth Courthouse, in order to delay the British withdrawal until the main American force could give battle.

The battle

Map of the battle of Monmouth

Lee, as Washington's senior subordinate, was initially appointed commander of the advance force, but turned it down because of his doubts about the plan. However, when the force was increased to 5,000 men and the command offered to the Marquis de Lafayette, Lee changed his mind and insisted on the command.

Lee met with his subordinates but failed to give them proper orders, resulting in a piecemeal and disorganized attack on June 28 against the British rear guard under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. After several hours of fighting in the hot weather, several American Brigades executed a tactical retreat, which grew into a general withdrawal. The British rear guard, the cream of the British army, counterattacked and Lee ordered a retreat, which rapidly became a rout.

Washington, advancing with the main force along the Monmouth road, encountered Lee's fleeing troops, and finally Lee himself, with the British in hot pursuit. After a very heated exchange with Lee, Washington relieved him of command and sent him to the rear. He then rallied Lee's troops, who delayed the British pursuit until the main force could take up positions further to the west.

The remnants of Lee's forces then withdrew to the main American force, where the newly-trained Continental Army troops were positioned behind the West Ravine on the Monmouth Courthouse - Freehold Meeting House Road. Washington drew up his Army with Greene's division on the right, Stirling's division on the left, and most of Lee's former force, now under Lafayette, in reserve. In front of his lines, Wayne commanded various elements of Lee's force. Artillery was placed on both wings, with the right wing in position to enfilade the advancing British.

The British came on and attacked Stirling's left wing with their Light infantry and the 42nd Black Watch Highland regiment in the van. They were met by a storm of fire from Stirling's Continentals. The battle raged back and forth for an hour until three American regiments were sent though woods to enfilade the attacking British right flank. The attack was successful and sent the British reeling back to reform.

Foiled on the left, Cornwallis sent forward a heavy attack against Greene's right wing. The British attack consisted of British and Hessian grenadiers, light infantry, the Coldstream Guards and another Guards battalion, and the 44th and 37th regiments. Cornwallis led the attack in person. The attack was met by the enfilading fire from the American artillery on Combs Hill, as well as deadly accurate volleys from Greene's Continental regiments. The British persisted up the ravine slope, but within minutes five high ranking officers and many men were down from heavy fire. The attackers recoiled down the slope.

During Cornwallis' abortive attack on Greene, another British force made up of Grenadiers, Light infantry and Light Dragoons hit Wayne's forward force, who were protected behind a long hedge. Three times the British were thrown back by Wayne's grapeshot and bullets, but a overwhelming fourth attack overlapped Wayne's position and forced his units to fall back into the main American line.

The British made no further attempts on the main American line, although cannonading from both sides continued until 6 p.m. At this point, the British fell back to a strong position east of the Ravine. Washington wanted to take the offensive to the British and attack both flanks, but darkness brought an end to the battle.

The British rested, and then resumed their march to the northeast during the night. Washington wanted to resume the battle the next day, but in the morning found that the the British had slipped away during the night, continuing their march without incident to Sandy Hook, arriving there on June 30. The British force was then transported by the Royal Navy across Lower New York Bay to the safety of Manhattan.

The battle was a tactical British victory, as the rearguard successfully covered the British withdrawal. However, strategically it was an American victory, as they were ultimately left in possession of the field, and had, for the first time, demonstrated that the Continental Army regiments could stand against the British regulars.[5]

The British official casualty return reported 65 killed, 59 dead of "fatigue", 170 wounded and 64 missing[6]. The American official return stated 69 killed, 161 wounded and 132 missing (37 of whom were found to have died of heat-stroke)[3]. Other estimates increase the losses to 1,134 British and 500 American casualties[3].

Aftermath

Monmouth was the last major battle in the northern theater, and the largest one-day battle of the war when measured in terms of participants. Lee was later court-martialed at the Village Inn located in the center of Englishtown[7], where he was found guilty and relieved of command for one year. The verdict was approved by Congress by a close vote. Many months later Lee wrote a strongly worded letter to Congress in protest, and Congress closed the affair by informing him that it had no more need for his services.

The legend of "Molly Pitcher" is usually associated with this battle. According to one story, she was the wife of an American artilleryman who came to battle with her husband, bringing water for swabbing the cannons and for the thirsty crews, and took her husband's place at the cannon after he fell. The story is based on a true incident, but has become embellished over the years. Two places on the battlefield are marked as sites of the "Molly Pitcher Spring".[8]

Although never accorded formal preservation, Monmouth Battlefield is one of the best preserved of the Revolutionary War battlefields.[8] Each year during the last weekend in June, the Battle of Monmouth is reenacted at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in modern Freehold Township and Manalapan.

Archive

The Monmouth County Historical Association at 70 Court Street in Freehold Borough, New Jersey houses a collection of documents which includes personal accounts, journals, pension applications, letters, and miscellaneous printed material. It is a subject collection acquired through various donors.

See also

References

  1. ^ Martin p.234
  2. ^ a b Martin p.199
  3. ^ a b c Martin p.233
  4. ^ Martin p.232-233
  5. ^ http://www.history.com/pages/h1116.html
  6. ^ Martin p.232
  7. ^ A Short History of the Borough of Englishtown, accessed December 26, 2006
  8. ^ a b Monmouth Battlefield: Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, accessed November 3, 2006

Sources

  • Martin, David G., The Philadelphia Campaign: June 1777–July 1778. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Combined Books, 1993. ISBN 0-938289-19-5. 2003 Da Capo reprint, ISBN 0-306-81258-4.
  • Ward, Christopher, The War of the Revolution. 2 Volumes. New York: MacMillan, 1952.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BATTLE OF MONMOUTH (1778), a battle in. the American War of Independence. The prospect of an alliance between France and America in 1778 induced the British to concentrate their forces. Sir Henry Clinton, who had succeeded Sir W. Howe in command, determined to abandon Philadelphia, captured in the previous year, and move his troops direct to New York through New Jersey. Washington, who had spent the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and had materially recruited his army, immediately marched to intercept the British, and overtook them near Monmouth Court House (now Freehold), New Jersey, on the 28th of June 1778. A strong detachment of Americans under General Charles Lee was sent forward to harass the enemy's rear and if possible cut off a portion of their long baggage train. Clinton strengthened his rearguard, which turned upon the Americans and compelled them to retreat. When Washington, who was well up with his main body, heard of Lee's retreat, he spurred forward and exerted himself in forming a strong line of battle in case the British continued their determined attack. Warm words passed between Washington and Lee, which subsequently led to the latter's court-martial and suspension for a year. The readjusted American line was composed of the divisions of Lafayette, Greene, Alexander and Patterson, while Wayne's brigade, which had been in Lee's advance from the first, was posted in a favourable position. The British attacked this line and a warm, though brief, engagement ensued. Both sides encamped at night on the ground occupied. The British, having accomplished their object in delaying Washington's pursuit, continued their march the next day towards New York. Washington turned to the left, crossed the Hudson above, and encamped for the remainder of the season at White Plains, New York, within striking distance of the city. Each side suffered about the same loss in the battle, that of the British being 400 (60 due to sunstroke), the American somewhat less. In this engagement Lieut.-Colonel Henry Monckton (1740-1778) of the British Grenadiers was killed in leading a charge.


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