Battle of Monmouth

The Battle of Monmouth is one of the battles from the American Revolutionary War. This battle took place in Monmouth, New Jersey where the Americans intercepted the British who were trekking from Philadelphia to New York. There were many mistakes and unforeseen twists on both sides which caused it to end in what most consider a draw.

After enduring a terribly rough winter in 1777 and 1778 in Valley Forge, the American army was facing new problems. General George Washington feared that they would not have enough food to feed all of their soldiers. On top of that, they were running low on ammunition.

Meanwhile, British General Howe was requesting to be relieved of his post in America and relocated to England. His wish was granted, and he was replaced with Sir Henry Clinton. Not long after the arrival of their new General, the British decided to leave Philadelphia where they had been guarding their hold. Soon the British army was evacuating Philly, and slowly trudging North toward New York with plenty of artillery and supplies.

The news of the British evacuation reached Washington, and he decided to cut them off. Thanks to their large guns, the British made slow progress, and the Americans overtook them at Monmouth. 

General George Washington rallying the troops at the Battle of Washington.
Public domain image.

Washington had devised a plan to send 4,000 men to attack the British army, and attempt to break it in half. He asked General Lee to lead this attack, but Lee declined due to lack of confidence in the plan. Washington then made the same offer to Marquis de Lafayette and agreed to send 5,000 men instead of 4,000. When Lee heard this, he insisted that he should be the one to lead, and Washington consented.

Clinton expected the Americans to attack, so he sent one of his officers with a group of soldiers up the Middletown road in the middle of the night. He had no way of knowing that in separating his army, he was accommodating General Washington’s plan almost to the letter.

As soon as he heard the British were on the move, Washington sent Lee with his 5,000 men to stop the British troops that were still marching toward New York with Clinton. Meanwhile, Washington brought the main group of Americans up Monmouth Road to attack from behind.

Lee and his men crept slowly and quietly up on the slow-moving British. However, what could have been a simple and successful surprise attack quickly turned into a jumbled and confused mess. Lee gave no orders to his commanding officers. He had no plan laid out. He simply let them do whatever they thought was best in the moment.

When they attacked, things went instantly wrong. The Americans were not working as a team, and it was easy for the British to gain the upper hand. Lee ordered everyone to retreat to Washington’s main troop. Clinton did not miss a beat. As soon as the Americans retreated, his men were hot on their heels.

General Washington’s plan was to come up from the rear and attack, while Lee’s men attacked from the other side. Instead, he found Lee’s men completely out of order and flying toward him with the British in pursuit. This is the one time that Washington was said to have cursed.

General Charles Lee

After sending Lee directly to the rear of his army, Washington began collecting all of his troops and putting them back in line. He quickly ordered three generals and their troops to go and hold off the oncoming British army.

These generals fought hard and managed to delay the British just long enough for Washington to pull together the rest of the troops. They then fell back into line with the rest of the American men, and stood their ground against the onslaught of enemy soldiers.

The British attacked hard trying to break the American lines. Neither army would budge. When the night started to set in, the British fell back and continued North on their journey, leaving the Americans in the field.

Most who look back on this battle consider it a draw. The British continued on their way and arrived at New York. The Americans fell back and planned for their next battle. No one really won.

Close Bitnami banner