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.

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