Saturday, June 30, 2012

Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

For further reading about the Battle of Monmouth, consult the following sources, available at the David Library of the American Revolution.

Battle maps: Battle of Monmouth
Garry Wheeler Stone

The Battle of Monmouth
Samuel Stelle Smith

The battle of Monmouth
William Stryker

Ebenezer Wild diaries, 1776-1792

Journal of a march, a battle, and a waterfall : being the version elaborated by James McHenry from his diary of the year 1778 begun at Valley Forge, & containing accounts of the British, the Indians, and the Battle of Monmouth.

The making of a scapegoat : Washington and Lee at Monmouth
Theodore Thayer

Men of color at the Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778 : the role of African Americans and native Americans at Monmouth : containing a brief history of these men of color and a presentation of more than one hundred names and identifications
Richard S. Walling

Monmouth Road to Glory
C. Malcolm B. Gilman

Journal of John André, 1777, June 11 - 1778, Nov. 15

Conflict at Monmouth Court House : proceedings of a symposium commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the battle of Monmouth, April 8, 1978

Monmouth Court House: the battle that made the American army
Joseph G. Bilby and Katherine Bilby Jenkins

Monmouth Courthouse, 1778: the last great battle in the north
Brendan Morrissey
Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

Account of Benjamin Van Cleave, civilian of Monmouth County
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

Beyond just the fighting, civilians in the area were also heavily affected by the battle.  This account from Benjamin Van Cleave, a child at the time of the battle, gives insight into the noncombatant experience of the Revolutionary War.

“I was then five years old and can remember the confusion of women and children and their flight to the pine swamps.  When we had got a mile from home, the British army were in sight at a mile and a half distant.  We proceeded a short distance further and a consultation was held about the course to pursue, the men having gone in search of our army.  I gave them the slip & aimed to return home, got within a short distance of the British right flank and the sound of the bugles drove me back, where, in the confusion, I had not been missed.  The next day my father and brothers acted as guides to separate companies of Col. [Daniel] Morgan’s rifle men and reconnoitered the British right flank, took a number of prisoners and took and recaptured a great deal of property…The firing of the small arms was distinctly heard where we were and the fortune of the day anticipated from the advancing or receding of the sound…On the retreat of the enemy the inhabitants returned and found, with some exceptions, the buildings around our neighborhood burnt, the naked chimneys standing, a great part of the trees in some orchards cut down, the woods burnt and property hat had been hid destroyed or carried away.  The earth was strewn with dead carcasses, sufficient to have produced a pestilence.  My father had neither a shelter for his family, nor bread for them, nor clothes to cover them, save what we had on.  He saved one bed with a looking glass only, which he carried with us, a yearling had escaped the enemy and a sow, whose back was broken with a sword, lived, and his anvil, I believe, remained along the rubbish of the shop.  Several wagons and an artillery carriage were burnt in the shop, but the piece of artillery was thrown into a hole of muddy water in the middle of the road and was not found by the enemy.

Van Cleve, Benjamin.  Autobiography of Benjamin Van Cleave.  Monmouth County Historical Association [Newsletter], Winter-Spring 1996.  New York Historical Society, transcribed September 1995.

Drury, Augustus Waldo.  History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio.  S J Clarke Publishing Company Dayton, Ohio, 1909.  p. 63

Friday, June 29, 2012

Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

Account of Bernardus Swartwout, New York
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

Bernardus Swartwout served in the 2nd New York from 1777 until the end of the War, first as a gentlemen volunteer and then as an ensign, commissioned on September 1st, 1778.  The following is his personal account of the battle and all of the action that took place for the day, highlighting the back and forth nature of the fighting.

June 28th

"We drew rum & provisions--were ordered to march--not having time to prepare our provisions for eating--left our baggage of every kind behind, also the soldiers coats.  At 9 o’clock AM fell in with the enemy at, or near Monmouth Courthouse; we immediately formed in a field and a few cannon shots were exchanged--We not being posted in an advantageous position as Gen. Lee thought, were ordered to recross a defile or morass in our rear and form again in a wood--remained there an hour--The Enemy advanced--Gen. Lee gave us orders to retreat (to the parties dissatisfaction) from an advantageous piece of ground--we retired in great haste but in good order--the enemy pressed hard on our rear.  After retreating two miles was met by Gen. Washington who was amazed to find us retreating--he ordered us to halt, form on a hill immediately in our front and face the enemy, accordingly did so, with alacrity, on good piece of ground--the enemy had been advancing on us very fast, cutting our rear to pieces--we commenced a smart cannonade upon them, with compliment they returned--heavy firing was produced—the enemy endeavored to gain our left wing, but the reception they met with confused them to such a degree that they broke their ranks and fell back--they formed and again came up, but were repulsed and made a precipitate retreat--we pursued them with charged bayonet--they made a short stand--the line came to a shoulder and a heavy fire of Musketry commenced together with charging bayonets--again they were obliged to sound the retreat--we pursued them some distance but night approached fast--we were compelled to relinquish the chase--returned up the hill from whence we cannonaded--lay still about two hours, then marched towards the enemy one mile, then counter marched back to the aforesaid hill again, where we laid down under the blue skies this night--both armies suffered severely from the excessive heat.”

Diary of Bernardus Swartwout, 2nd NY Regiment, 10 NOV 1777-9 Jun 1783; Bernardus Swartwout Papers; New York Historical Society; NY, NY. 

Darley, Felix Octavius.  George Washington at Monmouth.  1858.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Intern's Corner: Battle of Monmouth

Artillery Engagements
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

After a long day of fighting and repeated failed assaults on the American positions, General Clinton halted all attacks around 5:00 PM on this day, 1778.  However, this was not the end of the fighting, as both sides engaged in an artillery duel through the evening until Clinton ordered his army to retreat towards Sandy Hook.  When Washington found out that the British had left the field, he made no move to pursue, as they had already had a six hour head start, and the American forces could convincingly claim victory having forced the enemy to retreat.  Below is a latter from the Deputy Commissary-General of Military Stores Samuel Hodgdon to John Ruddick, the Deputy Commissioner of Military Stores on July 19th, 1778.  The request for more ammunition to replenish stores after the battle gives a sense of scope of the level of engagement and scale of the artillery bombardment after the fighting. 

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, Richard Alan Ryerson, James R. Arnold, and Roberta Wiener. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Vol. 3. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Print. p. 806-810.


            The Great consumption of Cannon Ammunition in the late Battle at Monmouth Renders it Necessary that a supply be sent with all possible dispatch to Camp

200 six pound strap shot
200 four pound Ditto
100 three pound Ditto is Much wanted also
100 good arms & accoutrements

            I have sent by Mr. Giles CM stores five Load of Damaged Arms & Ammunition who will Conduct the above stores to Camp”

Letters sent by Commissary General of Military Stores and Assistant Quartermaster Samuel Hodgdon.  19 July 1778-24 May 1784, Numbered Record Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlements of Accounts, and Supplies in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Record Group 93.  National Archives Microfilm Publication M853, reel 33, vol. 111, p. 96.

Archambault, Alan.  American Artillery Crew in Action during the Revolutionary War.  As found online at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Intern's Corner: Battle of Monmouth

Account of Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch, Ansbach Jaeger
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

The fighting at Monmouth was in some respects an accident, as the battle did not progress according to either side’s initial expectations.  Washington had expected Lee to carry out an attack with an advance detachment that would later be reinforced by Washington’s own troops to push through the British line and hopefully destroy it.  Instead upon arriving at the battlefield, he found his army in full retreat, despite Lee’s numerical advantage over the British rear guard.  The British were invigorated by initial success versus Lee’s troops, and had every expectation of continued successes throughout the battle.  However, they were repulsed repeatedly in a series of major assaults on the American line once Washington arrived and redeployed his troops  They were eventually pushed back, and lost much of the ground that they had won.  As often occurs in war, this battle was considerably more drawn out and intense than was expected, with much heavy fighting and marching for the duration of the unseasonably hot day.  The following account comes from the diary of Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch, an Ansbach Jaeger in General Knyphausen’s unit, who details movements of the troops and the intensity of the engagement.

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, Richard Alan Ryerson, James R. Arnold, and Roberta Wiener. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Vol. 3. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Print. p. 806-810.

June 28th, 1778.

“At two o’clock in the morning we marched.  We were the rear guard for General Knyphausen’s column.  As this was the first and had nothing to fear, we were thus spared from fatigue.  The second, under the command of General Cornwallis, followed us with the Light infantry as its rear guard, and the Queen’s Rangers covering the flank.  They were attacked at once and the majority wounded.  Between nine and ten o’clock the enemy came in large numbers.  Cornwallis had already passed Freehold.  The Light Infantry formed a front, but as they were too weak for this, they were reinforced immediately by the entire column.  This consisted of the 1st and 2nd Brigades, English and Hessian Grenadiers, the Guards, the Rangers, and the 16th Dragoon Regiment.  We do not think the enemy was strong, but finally discovered that this was Washington with his army.  The cannonade was heavy by both sides and continued until o’clock.  However, our Britons again proved their bravery, suffering a loss of 400 to 500 men killed and wounded.  The enemy was defeated and pursued as far as a swamp, unknown to us, where we took the greatest losses, which may have been the enemy’s plan.  However, it failed.  Reportedly the rebel losses were more than 800 men.  They retreated and our army followed slowly during the night.  The heat was terrible and our greatest losses were the deaths due to the heat.”

Burgoyne, Bruce E.  Diaries of Two Ansbach Jaegers.  Bowie MD, Heritage Books, INC, 1997.  p. 41-42.

Field Yager Corps of Hesse-Cassel, 1776-1783: Privates and Officer in Parade Dress. 

Lieutenant von Feilitzsch would have worn a uniform very similar to this one, except with bright red facings and linings on their coats.

Lefferts, Lt. Charles M.  Uniforms of the American, British, French, and German Armies in the War of the American Revolution, 1775-1783.  New York, 1826.  Print. p. 252-253.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

Molly Pitcher
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

Mary Hays, or Molly Pitcher, was a Revolutionary War heroine famous for carrying water to the parched Continental troops during the Battle of Monmouth, on June 28th, 1778.  The supply of water was of particular importance to the men, as the extreme summer heat from the unseasonably hot day “destroyed more than the action.” In fact the weather was so intense, that Lieutenant General Clinton reported that “a great part of those we [the British] lost fell dead as they advanced, without a wound.”  The name Molly Pitcher comes from an 18th century term for women who worked in taverns, and likely also was used to refer to women such as Mary Hays who brought water to Continental troops.  In some more sensational accounts, Pitcher is also credited with taking the place of her wounded husband at his post manning an artillery piece  This was a job she performed with great skill and courage even as one enemy cannon shot passed right between her legs, miraculously just ripping her petticoat.  Accounts vary, and there is no definitive proof of her actual involvement in the battle, but Molly Pitcher lives on as one of the greatest Revolutionary War heroines.  Her bravery, whether real or invented, inspired many to keep up the fight and stay strong no matter what.

Quotes from Rees, John U. “Exceeding Hot & water is scarce…” Monmouth Campaign Weather, 15 June to 7 July, 1778. p. 11

Information from 
Kortenhof, Kurt. "This Week in History: May/June." The History Channel Magazine May-June 2006: 48.
Perrine, William Davison. Molly Pitcher in Monmouth County, New Jersey,1778 to 1957. Freehold, NJ: n.p., 1958. Print.

MOLLY PITCHER. (Ten American Girls from History 1917). 
By George Alfred Williams, 1917.

For further information on Molly Pitcher, see the following, available at the David Library.

A Molly Pitcher Chronology by Samuel Stelle Smith.

A Molly Pitcher Sourcebook by David G. Martin.

Molly Pitcher, Young Patriot by Augusta Stevenson;
illustrated by Gene Garriott. 

A Short history of Molly Pitcher: the heroine of the Battle of Monmouth:
together with an account of the ceremonies incident to the unveiling of
the cannon planted over her grave in the Old Graveyard in Carlisle,
 By the Patriotic Order of Sons of America on June 28, 1905.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

Account of Major Robert Beale, Virginia
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

General Lee initially disagreed with Washington, believing that the very fact that the British were evacuating Philadelphia was a great victory, and did want to risk a battle and possibly ruin what success they already had.  Lee did not believe that American troops could stand up to British regulars, and was scared that a battle could turn the British evacuation into a British victory and so turned down the command of the attacking force.  Command was given to Lafayette, but when the force was established, it was large enough that Lee thought it more fitting the army’s second in command and successfully petitioned to have the command transferred to him.  This did not mean that Lee agreed with the plan any more than previously, and was somewhat lethargic in his planning and execution of the campaign.  Below, Major Robert Beale of the Virginia Continental Troops details his experience of the actions in the campaign and his opinion of Lee’s command decisions. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 1993. Print. p. 1080-1088.

Charles Lee Esq’r. Major General in the Continental Army in America.         
By Johann Michael Probst, 1891

“I joined the army again early in April.We did nothing but watch the evacuation of Philadelphia for they kept themselves in close quarters. As soon as known they had left Philadelphia there was a considerable party dispatched under command of General Lee to overtake them if possible, and retard their retreat until the whole army could be brought up.We overhauled them at Monmouth and if our commander had maintained his position one half hour longer, the war would have that day been ended, but he retreated and gave the enemy such an advantageous position as to renew the action with every prospect of success.We lay on our arms all night, indeed expecting a night action but it was not attempted and by day-break the British had gotten out of our reach.This was the twenty-eighth of June, 1778.We went from Monmouth to White Plains, State of New York. There we continued during the campaign doing nothing.”
Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society, Volume 6, No. 1, December 1956.“Revolutionary Experiences of Major Robert Beale.” 505-506.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Intern's Corner: The Battle of Monmouth

We’re pleased that Mark Relation, a Sophomore History Major in the Honors Program at Boston College, has joined us as an Intern this summer. In addition to his scholarly pursuits (Mark plans to pursue a Ph. D. in Ancient History), Mark is a musician – he plays saxophone in Boston College’s Marching Band and Wind Ensemble. When we invited Mark to be a guest blogger this summer, he suggested a series on the Battle Monmouth, which we will begin today with this overview of the event. Check back for future posts, as Mark plans to focus on some of the more interesting characters who emerged from the drama of the Battle of Monmouth, and tip off our readers on materials that can be found on the subject in the collections of the David Library of the American Revolution.

Meg McSweeney
Chief Operating Officer

Battle of Monmouth
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

On June 28th, 1778, the British and American forces met in the last major battle to be fought in the North. The battle took place near Monmouth Courthouse as the American forces attempted to harass the British during their retreat from Philadelphia to New York. Washington intended on cutting off the British rear guard and destroying them, but due to General Lee’s reluctance to follow orders that he disagreed with, reinforcements to the British rear, and a lack of communication and proper planning by the Americans under General Lee, the battle did not go as planned and descended into heavy fighting. The British initially held the advantage against Lee’s troops, but the arrival of Washington on the scene with reinforcements managed to turn the tide in favor of the American forces. However, the heat and humidity of the day combined with the long and drawn out nature of the fighting allowed the British to retreat without significant pursuit that evening. Both sides considered this a victory, as the Americans had won the fighting by occupying the field after the British retreat, and the British had successfully escaped to New York, their initial goal for the whole campaign. During the fighting, the British lost up to twelve hundred men and the Americans lost between five and six hundred, though casualty rates vary and exact numbers are difficult to determine. In the aftermath of the battle, General Lee was blamed for the lack of clear success as he did not follow Washington’s orders to attack as planned and failed to appropriately plan for and carry out the battle. After a month of trials
in a court martial, he received a one year suspension from command and was never placed in command again. (My source for this entry is The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia by Richard L. Blanco and Paul J. Sanborn; New York: Garland Pub., 1993.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Letters from the Front: Leaving the Army 1783

"Congratulate me on my freedom have obtained my discharge from the Army—in consequence have changed my condition from a public Servant, to a private Gentleman, Gentleman indeed..."

In my final blog post as the Sol Feinstone Scholar at the David Library, we fast-forward to the end of the Letters from the Front collection. In December 1783, the Continental Army was in the process of demobilizing after nearly eight years of warfare. Officers were receiving their discharges and settling long-overdue accounts. Lieutenant Oliver Rice of the 4th Massachusetts had been engaged in the American struggle for independence since the very beginning. Starting as a private in the Lexington Alarm company in April 1775, he later rose to the rank of sergeant in the 4th Continental Regiment in 1776, sergeant-major of the 9th Massachusetts in 1777, was commissioned an ensign on June 2, 1778 and promoted to lieutenant on September 5, 1780. He finally received his discharge from Continental Army on November 3, 1783. The Sol Feinstone Collection preserves several more of his letters from 1782 and 1783, which detail the hardships the characterized the closing years of the Continental Army. In his final letter to his brother (transcribed in full below), Oliver vividly describes the fate that awaited most American officers-- a long trip home in an impoverished state after many years of faithful service to the cause of independence and liberty. While most accounts of the American Revolution focus on the sacrifices of American officers and soldiers, few remember the relatively poor treatment these freedom fighters received in the post-war period. Rice's letter is a potent reminder that, despite tales of glory, the cost of warfare, then as now, is heavy and extends well into the post-war period.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Letters from the Front: The Aftermath of Monmouth

"Last Fryday two Tories were hanged at Monmouth Court House, I went to the place of execution, but they were turned off a few minutes before I arrived.__"

On June 23, 1778, American and British forces faced off near Freehold, New Jersey, in a confrontation that has come to be known as the Battle of Monmouth.  The details of this engagement will be covered in a special summer series by David Library Intern Mark Relation, who will be taking over the blog shortly. In the meantime, this post of the Letters from the Front series examines the aftermath of that battle. On July 19, 1778, Dr. Samuel Adams (whose letters have featured prominently in earlier posts) wrote to his wife in Massachusetts, providing a vivid description of Englishtown, New Jersey, where he was stationed to care for wounded officers from the battle. His letter, presented in full below, provides insight into the often-neglected post battle experience as well as commenting on the general situation in eastern New Jersey during this period. It is an invaluable source for understanding the events taking place behind American lines in the summer of 1778.