Wednesday, February 25, 2015

American History 101: The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, June 28, 1778

On June 18, 1778, the British and Continental armies clashed in what is present day Freehold, New Jersey in the Battle of Monmouth, or Monmouth Courthouse.  The build up for this battle began at Valley Forge where General George Washington felt that the British army would be vulnerable as it traveled across New Jersey with its baggage train.  The heat was blistering, and General Charles Lee felt that the circumstances were not optimal for an offensive.  However, Washington insisted on attacking but could not decide on when and where to do so, so he convened a council of war.

The council of war was the group of generals, which consisted of Washington, Lee, Wayne, Greene and Knox.  Lee and Wayne urged Washington to attack in small numbers, being more of a harassing force and not an attacking force.  Washington disagreed and decided on his own to attack the rear flank of the British troops as they departed Monmouth Courthouse, and sent 4,000 troops on June 26th to meet the British.

The battle could have been an impressive victory for the Americans if the offensive was handled properly.  General Charles Lee met with his subordinates and gave them incomplete and unclear orders.  This lead to an offensive that was both disorganized and poorly timed.   Before Lee could react and reinforce in the right spots, General Cornwallis and his army retaliated and seized control of the battle.  Cornwallis kept the pressure on, and had General Lee's forces in full retreat.  With General Cornwallis in pursuit, General Washington and his army reinforced General Lee's army to stop the retreat.  Washington coming in from the rear flank held the British at bay and turned the tide in the battle.  After Washington confronted Lee on his enormous blunder, he took control of the armies and the American forces positioned behind Monmouth Courthouse Freehold Meetinghouse Road.  When the British came at the Americans, the Americans were well positioned and fought hard.  The British came from the left flank, and the Americans retaliated with an attack on the right flank successfully driving the British forces back and holding their ground.  The battle continued on like this until nightfall forced an end to hostilities, with the British attacking, and the Americans pushing them back. 

During the night, General Clinton moved his army out to continue its march to New York.  The next day General Cornwallis and Washington continued the battle to a stalemate.  The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse was significant because it was the first time that Washington had stood toe-to-toe with the British and his army held its own.  It wasn't because of a sneak attack or an significant advantage, it was simply two armies fighting each other on even terms to an even end.  The significance of this was that it illustrated the growing skill and effectiveness of the Continental Army.  The Battle of Monmouth represented a boost in moral and reputation for the Continental Army, and General Washington in particular. 

This battle was also significant because of the heat that pushed upwards of one hundred degrees at times, and while the American forces lost around 400 soldiers to the British losses of around 300, it is thought that many died of heat stroke.  The Battle of Monmouth was one of the battles in which the Molly Pitcher origin story is thought to come from.  There were stories that the wife of an American soldier, Mary Hays, was seen bringing water out to the battlefield to quench the thirst of the Continental Army. 

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment