Battle of Monmouth Preliminary Study Phase

Historical References

Stone, Dr. Gary;
Dr. Stone is a historian specializing in the study of the Battle of Monmouth. He currently works on the site to maintain the park and also works to restore the site to the condition it was in during the battle. His extensive research provided a remarkable level of insight for this project, including the maps which were scanned from his own notes.

Stryker, AGEN William S.;
"The Battle of Monmouth;" Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1927.

Boatner, COL Mark M. III;
"Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.

Gluckman, Arcadi;
"U. S. Muskets, Rifles and Carbines;" Otto L. Ulbrich Co., Buffalo, 1948.

Historical Library

American Antiquarian Society
The American Antiquarian Society offers a wealth of historical resources, housing 2/3 of all primary source materials printed between 1640 and 1821. Their collections serve a worldwide community of students, teachers, historians, biographers, genealogists, and authors.

American Antiquarian Society
185 Sallisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609-1634
+1-508-755-5221

Publications

Sources which proved to be useful in the development of the staff ride are listed below:

Smith, Samuel S.

"The Battle of Monmouth;" Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, NJ, 1977.

Boatner, COL Mark M. III;

"Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966. This encyclopedia provides a detailed yet concise account of the battle as well as biographies of many of the people involved. It serves as an excellent foundation upon which to pursue further research.

Greene, Jack P. and J.R. Pole;

"The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" Basil Blackwell, INC., Cambridge, MA, 1991. This encyclopedia provides a brief overview of the battle as well as the events leading up to it, organized topically rather than chronologically.

For additional references concerning various aspects of the battle, consult the following sources:

Gluckman, Arcadi;

"U. S. Muskets, Rifles and Carbines;" Otto L. Ulbrich Co., Buffalo, 1948.

Johnson, Curt;

"Battles of the American Revolution;" Bonanza Books, New York, 1975. Johnson provides another brief look at the Battle of Monmouth as well as other battles of the American Revolution. This source also provides additional information about approximate sizes of British and American units and the weapons and equipment used by both sides.

Wood, LTC William J.;

"Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781;" Da Capo Press, New York, NY, 1995.

Palmer, LTC Dave Richard and LTC Richard L. Tripp;

"Early American Wars and Military Institutions;" Dept of History USMA, West Point, NY, 1973.

Billas, George Athan;

"George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.

Suggested Study Format

  1. Biographies of Key Individuals with Bibliography
    1. Americans
      • COL Dickinson. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • GEN Grayson. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • COL Knox. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • MGEN Marquis de Lafayette. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • MGEN Charles Lee. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • GEN Maxwell. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • COL Eleazer Oswald. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • GEN Scott. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • GEN Varnum. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
      • GEN Von Steuben. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Clary, David A. and Joseph W. A. Whitehorne; "The Inspectors General of the United States Army, 1777-1903;" Office of the Inspector General and Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C., 1987.
      • GEN George Washington. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Billas, George Athan; "George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.
      • GEN Wayne. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
    2. British
      • Sir Henry Clinton. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Billas, George Athan; "George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.
      • LTGEN Charles Cornwallis. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Billas, George Athan; "George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.
      • COL Henry Monkton. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Billas, George Athan; "George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.
      • LTCOL John Graves Simcoe. Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of ther American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
        Billas, George Athan; "George Washington's Opponents;" William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1969.
  2. Key Events
    • American Training at Valley Forge
    • British evacuate Philadelphia.
    • French alliance with Americans.
    • Washington changes command of advance force.
    • British General Clinton miscalculates American force size, objective and location.
    • American intelligence assets provide confusing intelligence.
    • Main British force departs to continue retreat.
    • American General Lee fails to plan attack or conduct reconnaisance.
    • American General Lee retreats advance force.
    • British reinforcements arrive from advance column and pursue Lee.
    • Washington takes command and establishes effective counter-attack defenses.
    • Americans capitalize on effective terrain and artillery.
  3. Time frame for study
    • Two months from scheduled date of depature for cadet study, 2 - 3 weeks for Cadre advance reconnoiter, 1 - 2 weeks for in-progress study; all time frames per suggestion.

Battle Analysis Summary

  • Objectives
    • American: To engage the British rear defenses left at Monmouth Courthouse as the British continue their retreat to New York.
    • British: To get his retreating forces, particularly the supply and baggage train, to the safety of the terrain near Sandy Hook. To establish defenses that are to guard against any American attempt to engage the supply column in retreat.
  • Comparison of Troops
    • Training Level:
      American: They were farmers and craftsmen led by many commanders who had experience in the British Army during the French and Indian War. The American Army was beginning to develop into a professional military organization under the experienced training at Valley Forge. There they were trained in European style warfare from Von Steuben and other military officers from Europe.
      British: They were a highly trained, disciplined, and organized fighting force. The majority of the leaders were combat veterans, and most of the units involved in the battle were regular infantrymen. British soldiers were considered the finest in the world.
    • Leadership:
      American:The American units were a combination of regular infantry combat veterans along with less disciplined militia units. The command structure was improving and was greatly reorganized from the restructuring that occured at Valley Forge. Though they operated on echelons of command, they still experienced sudden changes in command and control.
      British: Their infantry units were led by organized echelons of command and control was very regimented. The professionalism of the British leaders also allowed for a very unified command strucure.
    • Equipment:
      American: The primary individual weapon was the colonial long rifle and attached bayonet. They also had fire support in the form of field cannons and howitzers. Horses were used primarily by officers to maintain command and control although some small scale scout and "cavalry" elements utilized them. Much equiptment was not standardized but belonged personally to the soldier.
      British: The primary individual weapon was one of many types of standardized muskets with attached bayonet. They also had fire support in the form of field cannons and howitzers. Horses were used by the commanders and the Dragoons. The dismounted troops also carried heavy field packs, containing, among other things, three days of rations. Their packs limited their mobility in combat.
  • Initial Schemes of Maneuver
    American: There was a general consensus among Washington's commanders to avoid a general engagement at the beginning of this battle. It was to be more a harrassing assault on the rear guard of the British as they evacuated Monmouth Courthouse. The plan called for an advance element (Lee's command) to initiate contact with the enemy left flank or rear while a reserve element (Washington's command) would come forward to reinforce or manuever on an enemy flank. Lee was to use the advantage of cover to keep most of his force out of British observation and thereby cause the British to underestimate the American force size. This would prevent the British from sending for reinforcements from the already detached main body. As Lee engaged the rear guard and drew them into battle, Washington was to bring his support element forward to overpower the British, if needed.
    British:. Clinton was aware of an American force behind him (southwest) and therefore made plans and positions to defend, attack, or retreat at Monmouth Court House. He feared the Americans were after his baggage/supply train and would attack it from the northwest while it was on the retreat. He therefore decided to resume the retreat in the direction of Sandy Hook (northeast) instead of opting to head toward South Amboy (north, nothwest). Also, Clinton wanted to resume his retreat to New York as soon as possible, knowing that his baggage/supplies would be safe within one day's further movement. He planned to continue the retreat by establishing defensive positions that would act as a delaying defense to the force behind him as his echelons succeessively advanced out of Monmouth Courthouse. Further, he placed most of his combat assets with the retreating supplies, to include a flanking element, thinking that his supplies were the American objective.
  • Starting Locations of Forces
    • The maps will aid the understanding of this and the previous section.
  • Action
    American Washington had given orders to General Lee, the advance force commander, at 01:00, 28 June, to set out reconnaisance parties to recon the terrain and enemy. Lee partially complied by having forces overwatch the enemy camp. However Lee failed to conduct a recon of the terrain in which he would travel upon in his attack. Further, Lee failed to develop a plan of attack and preferred to develop it as he went. When Lee attacked, the reasons above caused him to be constantly changing position of the elements of his force. Some historians contend that this "shuffling" of his troops compromised the size of his force (about one-half of the Continental Army) to the British. Consequently, the British began to call back reinforcements from the already departed forces. Lee's recon elements then began to send back conflicting reports as to whether or not the British had actually continued their retreat. A combination of the confused intelligence reports, the difficulty in his command and control, and the growing size and pressure from the flanking British forces caused Lee's forces to retreat back toward the support element (Washington's element). As Lee retreated he established hasty and succesive defensive lines to delay the British advance upon them. Washington heard of the retreat and moved forward to reinforce Lee. By this time the British had moved over considerable ground toward the Americans and were still advancing. Washington took control of both his and Lee's command and began to establish coordinated defensive positions to check the advance of the British. The defenses worked due, in particular, to good positioning of both the troops and the supporting artillery. The largest land-artillery battle of the Revolutionary War ensued and the infantry units on both sides became statically locked in close combat. The heaviest casualties were suffered during this time. The intense battle continued for hours until a few artillery peices could be moved to a high position (Comb's Hill) that offered superior fields of fire on the British infantry lines. Shortly after the Americans accomplished this the British received very intense fire and casualties from the artillery. Eventually the British infantry were forced to reposition under the effective artillery fire. Washington then counterattacked and several shifts in momentum occured between the Britsh and the Americans. When the British had pushed American elements back near their original defensive positions at the Parsonage Farm, the artillery on Comb's Hill once again rained on the British. Again, the Americans inflicted heavy casualties on the British and this time they retreated. The Americans regained the ground they had lost earlier but had not actually gained any ground beyond their original position. Nightfall was upon the battlefield shortly after the British retreat and the Americans went into bivouac. Washington had planned to continue the attack the following day, but the British retreated from Monmouth Courthouse during the night.
    British: Clinton was aware of an American force behind him (southwest) but was not aware that it was the entire Continental Army. Therefore the day they arrived at Monmouth Courthouse (26 June) Clinton set up positions that allowed him to attack, defend, or retreat. Based on further intelligence, he expected an enemy two-pronged attack in which an element would engage him from the rear (southwest) of his retreating column and another would flank his advance supply column itself (from the northwest). When Clinton resumed the retreat (04:00, 28 June) he therefore placed most of his combat assets with the retreating supplies, to include a flanking element. When the retreat resumed, the defense element was reinforced to 1500 - 2000 men to give them the capacity to delay any movement on the retreating column from the rear. About two hours after the last of Clinton's main body left (08:00), the rear guard was attacked by Lee. Elements of the last force to leave were turned back to reinforce the rear defense. The newly reinforced rear defense went on the offensive and attempted to out-flank Lee. The attack by Lee was repulsed and the Americans were put on the retreat with too little effort. Clinton ordered the advance supply train to detach units to the defense of its own flank. The Americans established hasty defenses in their retreat and eventually disclosed the size of their element, particularly when Washington's element came to reinforce. Clinton called for further reinforcements from the retreating column. The British kept pushing forward through the Lee's retreat defenses until they ran into Washington's defenses which were heavily covered by American artillery fire. A very bloody artillery dual ensued with the infantry units of both sides locked in static engagements (the Hedgerow). Eventually the British could no longer take the severe punishing they began to receive from American artillery placed high upon a hill to their southern flank (Combs Hill). The British were forced to reposition the infantry units and in the process of doing so exposed their flanks. Washington took advantage of this and cautiously counter-attacked. The British regrouped and turned to meet the attack. Several shifts in momentum occured between the Britsh and the Americans. When the British had pushed American elements back near their original defensive positions at the Parsonage Farm, the artillery on Comb's Hill once again rained on them. They again took heavy casualties and this time they fell into rtereat. The British retreated back to Monmouth Courthouse by nightfall where they reorganized and continued their retreat at about 23:00, under cover of darkness.
  • Outcome
    • This was the last major engagement in the North and was the longest battle of the war. Tactically, the battle was a draw. The Americans had not gained ground of any importance and the British were able to continue with their retreat. Essentially, both sides had accomplished their objectives; the Americans successfully harrassed Clinton's main force; and the British escaped to New York with their supplies intact. Although it was a draw in a tactical sense, the Americans had achieved a victory in terms of being able to fight on equal terms with the British main force. This is directly a consequence of the rigors withstood at Valley Forge. It is also seen by many historians as a success in that Lee was courtmartialed as a direct result of his actions during the battle.
  • Lessons Learned
    • The British were once again reminded of the maturing capacity of the American Army, particularly so soon after the American success at Saratoga . The Americans were able to draw upon their training at Valley Forge and see where they needed further improvements in their new style of fighting. Most crucial to that point is that the issue of command and control was still troubling. Had Lee maintained better control of his troops during the initial attack he might have been able to accomplish his objective in the face of not planning his attack. As Lee's subordinate commanders were not given specific orders as to the course of action to follow, it was a great control challenge to Lee when they moved independently. Through this, the utility of tactical planning and execution was greatly emphasized. The extent to which the command and control did work, however, allowed greater and more complex strategy and coordination with larger echelons.
 
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