Saturday, June 30, 2012

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

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