Battle of Monmouth Abstract

A Brief History

As British General Clinton prepared to evacuate Philadelphia there was strong sentiment in the Continental Army command that a cooperative effort between their army and the newly allied French naval fleet might result in winning the war. A French naval squadron consisting of 11 war ships along with transports carrying 4000 French troops sailed from France in May of 1778 and headed to America. The fleet, commanded by Comte d'Estaing, was far superior than any Admiral Howe (British) could immediately concentrate in American waters. This represented a stronghold on strategic initiative in favor of the Americans, which Gen Washington hoped to capitalize on.

Clinton received orders from England to detach 8000 of his roughly 10,000 man force to the West Indies and Florida and evacuate the rest of his men from Philadelphia to New York by sea. Instead, Clinton decided to move the entire army to NY before making any detachments and to move them overland. His decision was largely based on the fact that he didn't have the transports to move his 3000 horses over sea. Clinton set out from Philadelphia with his 10,000 men, to include Tories from the region, on 18 June 1778. Washington and his growing army of 12,000 men immediately occupied Philadelphia and began pursuit of Clinton towards NY.

Washington was still undecided as to whether he should risk an attack on the British column while it was on the march. He held a meeting of his command staff, the Council of War, and attempted to find some resolve in that matter. The council, however, was quite divided on the issue. The only unifying theme was that none of Washington's generals advised in favor of a general action. Brig Gen Anthony Wayne, the boldest of the staff, and Maj Gen Marquis de Lafayette, the youngest of the staff, urged for a partial attack on the British column while it was strung out on the road. Gen Lee, who had been exchanged and had rejoined the army at Valley Forge, was the most cautious. He advised only guerilla action to harass the British column. On 26 June 1778, Washington sided with a more bold approach but did not go so far as issuing orders for a general action. He sent almost one-half of his army as an advance guard to strike at the rear of the British when Clinton made the eminent move out of Monmouth, which occurred on 27 June 1778.

Early in the morning on 28 June, Lee advanced upon unreconnoitered ground and made contact with the British rear guard. Clinton reacted quickly and maneuvered to envelop the American right flank. Lee felt that he was then faced by a superior force and fell into a retreat that seems to have been quite confused. Washington was quite irate at the retreat and spoke harshly at Lee. Washington then assumed a defensive position to repel a possible British counter-attack.

The ensuing battle, involving the bulk of both armies, was fought on that hot, sultry day and continued until nightfall with both sides holding their original positions.

 
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