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Battle of Monmouth

June 28, 1778

American and British forces clashed under the direction of Continental Army General George Washington and British General Sir Henry Clinton. On June 24, Washington had called a council of war to establish a strategy of battle against Clinton; the council agreed to avoid a major confrontation with General Clinton, and instead to send a small number of Patriot troops to harass the enemy's right and left flanks.

When Washington arrived at nearby Englishtown on that morning of June 28, he ordered his generals to attack the British. General Charles Lee, who had been opposed to an all-out engagement with the British, was reluctant to attack, but he and his advance force were drawn into battle by British forces. In the confusion of battle, Lee ordered his troops to retreat. Angered, General Washington, directed Lee and "Mad" Anthony Wayne to fight a delaying action, while he took command of the Continental troops and organized them in a defensive position. For the rest of the day, the two armies clashed in the oppressive heat, finally withdrawing after 5 o' clock from exhaustion. Washington planned to resume the battle on the next day, but General Clinton and his men slipped away, undetected by Washington's army, shortly after midnight. Neither side emerged a clear winner of the battle, but the American forces had proved themselves as a professional fighting force.

Other American heroes also were present at Monmouth. LaFayette and "Mad" Anthony Wayne took part in the battle. Molly Hayes, known today as Molly Pitcher, was at Freehold that unbearably hot day bringing water to her husband and his fellow gunners as they fired their cannon. When she returned from fetching water, she discovered that her husband had fallen in battle. She immediately took his place, serving as a gunner for the remainder of the battle. Legend says that she was presented to General Washington after the battle.

Text Courtesy of: Monmouth Battlefield

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American Account of the late Engagement From the New Jersey Gazette, July 4, 1779 

Trenton, July 1.  His exelency General Washington, having early intelligence of the intended movement of the enemy from Philadelphia, detached a considerable body of troops, under the command of Major General Lee, in order to support General Maxwell’s brigade of continental troops, already in this state, and the militia under Generals Dickenson and Herd.  These troops were intended to harass the enemy on their march through this state to amboy, and retard them them till General Washington, with the main body, could get up.  In the meantime, several small skirmishes having between the enemy and  General Maxwell’s troops, joined by the militia, but without any considerable execution on either side. 

 

The march of the enemy being by this means impeded, and the main army having crossed the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry, on the 20th and 21st ult. Proceeded by the way of Hopewell, Rockyhill, Kingston, and Cranberry, and on the 27th overtook the enemy at Monmouth Courthouse, wither they retired from Allentown on the approach of our troops, leaving their intended route to Amboy. 

 

It having been previously been determined to attack the enemy on their  march, a suitable disposition was made the same evening. General Lee, with a detachment of picked men, consisting of about 1,500, and reinforced by a strong body of Jersey militia, advance to English Town, (about six miles from Monmouth Courthouse) the militia then proceeded to the meeting house; the main army under General Washington being about four miles in the rear of English Town.  In that position the whole halted, until advice could be received of the enemy’s motion.  At 3:00 on Sunday morning, their first division under General Knythaufen, began their march, of which we had intelligence in about two hours, when General Lee received orders to advance and begin the attack, the main army at the same time advancing to support him.   About a half mile beyond the courthouse, General Lee began his attack, and drove the enemy for some time; when they being reinforced, he was obliged to retreat and in turn, till met by General Washington with the main army, which formed on the first advantageous ground.  In the meantime, two field pieces, covered by two regiments of detachments, and commanded by Colonels Livingston and Stewart, were advanced to check the enemy’s approach, which they performed with great spirit and with considerable loss on both sides.  This service being performed, they retired, with the pieces to the front line, then completely formed, when the several severst cannonade began, that it is thought ever happened in America.  In the meantime, strong detachments marched and attacked the enemy with small arms with various success.  The enemy were finally obliged to give way, and we took possession of the field covered with dead and wounded.  The intense heat of the weather, and the proceeding fatigue of the troops, made it necessary to halt them to rest for some time.   The enemy in the meantime presenting a front about one mile advanced beyond the seat of action.  As soon as the troops had recovered breath, General Washington ordered two brigades to advance upon each of their flanks, intending to move on in front, at a proper time to support them, but before they could reach the destination, night came on, and made any further movements impractical. 

 

They left on the field the Honorable Colonel Monckton, with several other officers, and a great number of privates, which cannot yet be ascertained with precision.  About 12:00 on Sunday night, they moved off with great precipitation towards Middletown, leaving at the courthouse five wounded officers, and about 40 privates.  They began the attack with their veteran grenadiers and light infantry, which renders their loss still more important.  On our side, Lieutenant Colonel Bonner, of Pennsylvania, and Major Dickinson, of Virginia, are slain.  Colonel Bather of this state is wounded by a musket ball, which passed through the right of his body, but is hoped will not prove mortal.  Our troops behaved with the greatest bravery, and opposed the flower of the British Army.  Our artillery was well served and did amazing execution.  Before, during, and after the action, deserters came over in great numbers, and still continue so to do.  Of the enemy’s dead, many have been found without any wound, but being heavily clothed, they have sunk under the heat and fatigue.

 

We are well assured, that the Hessians absolutely refused to engage, declaring it was too hot.  Their line of march from the courthouse was strewn with dead, with arms, knapsacks, and accoutrements, which they dropped on their retreat.  They had the day before taken 15 prisoners, whom in their battle they left behind.  Had we possessed of a powerful body of calvary on the field, there is no doubt the success would have been much more complete; but they had been so much employed in harassing the enemy during the march from Philadelphia, and were detached, as to give the enemy its great superiority in number, much to their advantage. 

 

Our success under Heaven, is wholly to be ascribed to the good disposition made by his Excellency, supported by the firmness and bravery of both officers and men, who were emulous to distinguish themselves on this occasion.  The great advance of the enemy on their way before us; the possession of the strong grounds at Middletown, added to the exhausted state of our troops, from the intense heat, made an immediate pursuit ineligible; and our army now remains about one mile advanced from the fields of battle, having been since employed collecting the dead and wounded, and burying the former.  Yesterday morning, the Honorable Major General Arnold took possession of this city, with Colonel Jackson’s Massachusetts regiment. 

MOLLY, Captain, born about 1756; died near West Point, New York, about 1789. She was the wife of a cannonier, and was at ]Port Clinton when it was captured by the British in October, 1777. As the enemy sealed the parapet, her husband dropped his port-fire and fled, but Molly caught it up and discharged the last gun fired by the Americans on that occasion. She was also conspicuous at the battle of Monmouth, 28 June, 1778, where she carried water from a neighboring spring to her husband while he was serving a gun. A shot killed him at his post, and Molly seized the rammer and filled his place at the gun. After the battle, covered with dirt and blood, she was presented by General Nathanael Greene to Washington, who commended her bravery and made her a sergeant. On his recommendation, her name was placed upon the list of half-pay officers for life. 

She continued with the army, and after the war resided at Buttermilk Falls, New York Mrs. Alexander Hamilton describes her as "a stout, red-haired, freckle-faced young Irish woman, with a handsome, piercing eye." She was a favorite with the army, and generally wore an artilleryman's coat over her dress, and a cocked hat. She has been erroneously called Molly Pitcher.


Student Paper

Molly Pitcher (1754-1832) was born near Philadelphia and later moved to Carlisle Pennsylvania. Later on she married William Hays, who was a young barber. William Hays was also a Gunner in the first Pennsylvania Artillery in 1775.

In 1822 the Pennsylvania legislature passed on an act "for the relief of Molly McKolly, for her services during the Revolutionary War. "She was awarded $40 annually for the rest of her life. But she died in Carlisle Pennsylvania on January 22, 1832.

Her husband William Hays Fought in the battle of Monmouth in the Revolutionary War. During the battle her husband fell from heat stroke, she took his place and helped his crew fire the cannon. After his death in 1789 she later married George McCauley.
By  Anyia S. - Gotha Middle School, Windermere, Florida.


Sources:
Encyclopedia Americana
World Book Encyclopedia
The New Book of Knowledge
New Standard Encyclopedia

Battle Accounts and Biographies of the Participants


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