Philadelphia Campaign > Battle of Monmouth

Battle of Monmouth

Background

The Battle of Monmouth was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on June 28, 1778, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Continental Army under General George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army column commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court House (modern Freehold Borough). It is also known as the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. Unsteady handling of lead Continental elements by Major General Charles Lee had allowed British rearguard commander Lieutenant General 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 Major General 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 withdrew undetected at midnight to resume his army's march to New York City.[4] 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, where constant drilling under officers such as Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and Major General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette greatly improved discipline and morale. The battle improved the military reputations of Washington, Lafayette and Anthony Wayne but ended the career of Charles Lee, who would face court martial at Englishtown 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. By the second phase of the battle the temperature remained almost consistently above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and heat stroke was said to have claimed more lives than musket fire throughout the battle.[5]

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