Battle of Monmouth

Battle of Monmouth

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The Battle of Monmouth was an American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 (or American War of Independence) battle fought on June 28, 1778 in Monmouth County, New Jersey
Monmouth County, New Jersey
Monmouth County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Jersey, within the New York metropolitan area. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 630,380, up from 615,301 at the 2000 census. Its county seat is Freehold Borough. The most populous municipality is Middletown Township with...

. The Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 under General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 attacked the rear of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 column commanded by Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court House (modern Freehold Borough
Freehold Borough, New Jersey
Freehold is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 12,052. It is the county seat of Monmouth County....

). It is sometimes known as the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse.

Unsteady handling of lead Continental elements by Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Charles Lee
Charles Lee (general)
Charles Lee was a British soldier who later served as a General of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence. Lee served in the British army during the Seven Years War. After the war he sold his commission and served for a time in the Polish army of King Stanislaus II...

 had allowed British rearguard commander Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG , styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army officer and colonial administrator...

 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 Major General Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

 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 withdrew undetected at midnight to resume his army's march to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.

While Cornwallis 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 that 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
Valley Forge
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

, where constant drilling under officers such as Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben , also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian-born military officer who served as inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War...

 and Major General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette greatly improved army discipline and morale. The battle improved the military reputations of Washington, Lafayette and Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne was a United States Army general and statesman. Wayne adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general and the sobriquet of Mad Anthony.-Early...

 but ended the career of Charles Lee, who would face court martial at Englishtown
Englishtown, New Jersey
Englishtown is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 1,847....

 for his failures on the day. According to some 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
Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the American Revolutionary War, who is generally believed to have been Mary Ludwig Hays...

.

Background



British forces had captured Philadelphia
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

 in 1777. In May 1778, the British commander-in-chief in North America, Sir Henry Clinton, was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia and concentrate his troops at the main British base in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 as France
France in the American Revolutionary War
France entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain ....

 had entered the war on the side of the Americans. Clinton was ordered to dispatch units to West Florida
West Florida
West Florida was a region on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico, which underwent several boundary and sovereignty changes during its history. West Florida was first established in 1763 by the British government; as its name suggests it largely consisted of the western portion of the region...

 and the West Indies which left him too few troops to continue occupying Philadelphia. Clinton was also ordered to abandon New York and withdraw to Quebec
Province of Quebec (1763-1791)
The Province of Quebec was a colony in North America created by Great Britain after the Seven Years' War. Great Britain acquired Canada by the Treaty of Paris when King Louis XV of France and his advisors chose to keep the territory of Guadeloupe for its valuable sugar crops instead of New France...

 if he felt his position there was untenable. A French fleet under d'Estaing
Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing
Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector, comte d'Estaing was a French general, and admiral. He began his service as a soldier in the War of the Austrian Succession, briefly spending time as a prisoner of war of the British during the Seven Years' War...

 had sailed from Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

 in April 1778 and intended to make a rendezvous with rebel forces which could threaten Clinton's army before it reached the safety of New York.

It was originally intended that the withdrawing British army would travel directly to New York via the sea, escorted by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. A lack of transports forced Clinton to change his plans. While the stores, heavy equipment and Loyalist Americans
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

 civilians fleeing revenge attacks would be shipped by sea, the main army would march overland across New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

.

On June 18, the British began to evacuate Philadelphia, and began their approximately 100 miles (160.9 km) march to the northeast across New Jersey to New York City. The British force comprised 11,000 British and German regulars
Regular Army
The Regular Army of the United States was and is the successor to the Continental Army as the country's permanent, professional military establishment. Even in modern times the professional core of the United States Army continues to be called the Regular Army...

, a thousand Loyalists
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

 from Philadelphia, and a baggage train 12 miles (19.3 km) long. As the British advanced, the Americans slowed their advance by burning bridges, muddying wells and building abatis
Abatis
Abatis, abattis, or abbattis is a term in field fortification for an obstacle formed of the branches of trees laid in a row, with the sharpened tops directed outwards, towards the enemy. The trees are usually interlaced or tied with wire...

 across the roads.

Prelude


With a high of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 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 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
Valley Forge
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

 in pursuit.

Washington was still undecided how to attack the British column, and held a council of war
Council of war
A council of war is a term in military science that describes a meeting held to decide on a course of action, usually in the midst of a battle. Under normal circumstances, decisions are made by a commanding officer, optionally communicated and coordinated by staff officers, and then implemented by...

. The council, however, was divided on the issue; with a small group of officers including General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne was a United States Army general and statesman. Wayne adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general and the sobriquet of Mad Anthony.-Early...

 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
Rear guard
A rear guard or rearguard is that part of a military force that protects it from attack from the rear, either during an advance or withdrawal...

 as they departed Monmouth Courthouse, in order to delay the British withdrawal until the main American force could give battle.

Battle




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 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 General Charles Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG , styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army officer and colonial administrator...

. After several hours of fighting in the hot weather, several American brigades executed a tactical retreat, which developed into a general withdrawal. The British rear guard counterattacked and Lee ordered a retreat
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

, which rapidly became a rout
Rout
A rout is commonly defined as a chaotic and disorderly retreat or withdrawal of troops from a battlefield, resulting in the victory of the opposing party, or following defeat, a collapse of discipline, or poor morale. A routed army often degenerates into a sense of "every man for himself" as the...

.

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 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 Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 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, Major General 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
42nd Regiment of Foot
The 42nd Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army. Originally the 43rd Highlanders they were renumbered the 42nd in 1748.- Early history :...

) 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 back to reform.

Foiled on the left, Cornwallis personally led a heavy attack against Greene's right wing, with a force comprising British and Hessian grenadiers, light infantry, the Coldstream Guards
Coldstream Guards
Her Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, also known officially as the Coldstream Guards , is a regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division or Household Division....

 and another Guards battalion, and the 37th and 44th Regiments. The attack was met by enfilading fire from the American artillery on Combs Hill, as well as 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 driven back by Wayne's grapeshot and bullets: but an overwhelming fourth attack overlapped Wayne's position and forced his units to fall back to 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 British had withdrawn during the night, continuing their march without incident to Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Sandy Hook is a barrier spit, approximately 6.0 miles in length and varying between 0.10 and 1 miles wide in Middletown Township in Monmouth County, along the Atlantic Ocean coast of eastern New Jersey in the United States. The barrier spit encloses the southern entrance of Lower New York Bay...

 and arriving there on June 30. The British force was then transported by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 across Lower New York Bay
Lower New York Bay
Lower New York Bay is that section of New York Bay south of the Narrows, the relatively narrow strait between the shores of Staten Island and Brooklyn. The southern end of the bay opens directly to the Atlantic Ocean between two spits of land, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Rockaway, Queens, on Long...

 to Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

.

The battle was a tactical British victory, as the rearguard successfully covered the British withdrawal. However, strategically it was a draw, as the Americans were ultimately left in possession of the field, and had, for the first time, demonstrated that the Continental Army regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s could stand against British regulars.

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

Aftermath



After the battle the British continued their march eastwards until they reached Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook is a barrier spit along the Atlantic coast of New JerseySandy Hook may also refer to:-Places:United States* Sandy Hook , a village in the town of Newtown, Connecticut* Sandy Hook, Kentucky, a city in Elliott County...

. From there they were taken by boat to New York City where they began preparing the city's defences in expectation of an attack. D'Estaing's fleet arrived just too late, narrowly missing a chance to trap Clinton's army at Sandy Hook. Plans to attack New York were abandoned, and it remained the principal base for British forces until 1783. Instead D'Estaing sailed north to participate in a Franco-American assault
Battle of Rhode Island
The Battle of Rhode Island, also known as the Battle of Quaker Hill and the Siege of Newport, took place on August 29, 1778. Continental Army and militia forces under the command of General John Sullivan were withdrawing to the northern part of Aquidneck Island after abandoning their siege of...

 on the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

, which ended in failure.

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-martial
Court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

ed at the Village Inn located in the center of Englishtown
Englishtown, New Jersey
Englishtown is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 1,847....

, where he was found guilty and relieved of command for one year. The verdict was approved by the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 by a close vote. Many months later, Lee wrote a strongly worded letter to Congress in protest but Congress closed the affair by informing him that it had no more need of his services. Lee never held another military command and died in 1782.

Legacy


The legend of "Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the American Revolutionary War, who is generally believed to have been Mary Ludwig Hays...

" is usually associated with this battle. According to one story, she was the wife of an American artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

man who came to battle with her husband, bringing water for swabbing the cannons and for the thirsty crews, and took a soldier's place after he fell, and fought beside her husband. There is a common misconception that her husband was the soldier that fell, but research by the society that preserves the battlefield has proven this to be incorrect. 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".

Although never accorded formal preservation, the Monmouth Battlefield is one of the best preserved of the Revolutionary War battlefields. Each year, during the last weekend in June, the Battle of Monmouth is reenacted at Monmouth Battlefield State Park
Monmouth Battlefield State Park
Monmouth Battlefield State Park is a 2,928-acre New Jersey state park located on the border of Manalapan and Freehold Township. This park preserves the historical battlefield on which the American Revolutionary War's Battle of Monmouth was waged....

 in modern Freehold Township
Freehold Township, New Jersey
Freehold Township is a Township in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 36,184. Freehold Township was first formed on October 31, 1693, and was incorporated as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 21,...

 and Manalapan.

The Monmouth County Historical Association
Monmouth County Historical Association
The Monmouth County Historical Association was established in 1898 by a group of county residents headed by professional educator Caroline Gallup Reed. They soon incorporated in order “to discover, procure, preserve and perpetuate whatever relates to the history of Monmouth County.” In 1931, the...

 at 70 Court Street in Freehold Borough, New Jersey
Freehold Borough, New Jersey
Freehold is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 12,052. It is the county seat of Monmouth County....

houses a collection of documents which includes personal accounts, journals, pension applications, letters, and miscellaneous printed material.

External links