Monmouth, Battle of

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Monmouth, Battle of (1778).By the spring of 1778, George Washington's ambition to make the Continental army a force proficient in linear European tactics seemed—thanks largely to the efforts of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben—to be near realization. When Henry Clinton, the British commander in chief, abandoned Philadelphia and marched for New York City, Washington decided to force a battle in the open field. On 28 June 1778, he ordered a 5,000‐man advance force under his second in command, Charles Lee, to attack the British rear guard.

Lee found Clinton's force near Monmouth in the hills of northern New Jersey, about twenty miles from Sandy Hook where the Royal Navy waited to transport the army to New York. Clinton's 2,000‐man rear guard initiated a piecemeal engagement into which he eventually fed 6,000 men of his 10,000‐man army. As the clear summer day wore on in heat that may have reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the Americans proved their mettle in open battle. Yet, it was easier to train the soldiers how to fight than to find competent general officers to lead them. In blazing heat and broken terrain, Lee lost touch with the flow of the battle. When Washington arrived with the 6,000‐man main army and found many American soldiers retreating, he severely reprimanded Lee, who was later court‐martialed and removed from the army.

Washington's frustration was understandable. For the first—and what would turn out to be the only—time during the war, he thought he had the enemy at a disadvantage in a fight his army stood a chance of winning. He stabilized the American position, but Clinton won the larger contest. On the night of the 28th, the British army slipped away from the battlefield, and guarding its 1,500–wagon supply train, reached Sandy Hook on the 30th. Monmouth, the longest continuous battle of the war, settled nothing, but displayed the growing ability and professionalism of the Continental army.
[See also Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Christopher Ward , The War of the Revolution, 1952.
Samuel S. Smith , The Battle of Monmouth, 1964.

Harold E. Selesky

Monmouth, Battle of

views updated Jun 27 2018


MONMOUTH, BATTLE OF. The British army, en route from Philadelphia to New York, arrived at Monmouth Courthouse (Freehold, New Jersey) on 26 June 1778. George Washington ordered Maj. Gen. Charles Lee to attack the British rear guard, but Lee delayed and the attack failed. His division of more than four thousand men retreated until halted by Washington, two and one-half miles to the rear. Washington skillfully reformed his lines to meet the British, now heavily reinforced. One of the war's fiercest contests followed. Repeated assaults failed to break the American lines, and the British withdrew. Washington reported his loss at 69 killed and 161 wounded; the Americans buried 249 British on the field. A court-martial sustained charges against Lee of disobeying orders and making an unnecessary retreat.


Smith, Samuel Stelle. The Battle of Monmouth. Trenton, N.J.: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1975.

Walling, Richard S. Men of Color at the Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778. Hightstown, N.J.: Longstreet House, 1994.

C. A.Titus/a. r.

See alsoCourts-Martial ; Revolution, American: Military History .

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