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Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, USA

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The American Revolutionary War in the Middle Atlantic States:
Battle of New York City | Washington's Retreat from New York City | Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River
Battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey | British Capture of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania
The Paoli Massacre | Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania | Battle of the Barrels | The Winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey | Battle of Stony Point, New York | Battle of Springfield, New Jersey | General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne
Molly Pitcher | General Lord Charles Cornwallis

In May 1778, France pledged military support to the Colonial cause. The British government feared a world war with France in addition to the conflict in the Colonies. To prepare for this possibility, General Sir Henry Clinton was ordered to abandon Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and detach 8000 of his roughly 10,000-man force to the West Indies and Florida. The rest of his men were to be evacuated from Philadelphia to New York by sea.

However, Clinton opted to move his entire army overland to New York. From there, he dispatched his troops to the south. The Redcoats left Philadelphia on 18 June, 1778. General George Washington and his army immediately surged out of Valley Forge and occupied the city. From there, Washington's troops began their pursuit of Clinton's forces across New Jersey towards New York.

The Battle

On 26 June, Washington finally decided to attack the marching British troops as they headed toward New York. His plan was to send almost half of his army as an advance force under the command of General Charles Lee1 to strike at the rear of the British forces as they continued their march.

Early in the morning on 28 June, Lee made contact with the British rear guard at Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey. Fearing a rout by a superior force, he ordered an immediate retreat. As more Colonial troops followed Lee's advance force, they also began to retreat. They were uncertain what caused Lee to take to flight. It is said that General Wayne prevented a total disaster by refusing to allow his men to run and threatening to fire into the retreating Colonials.

Washington was furious at the setback and relieved Lee of command on the spot. He personally took charge of the troops to prepare a defensive position to meet the British counterattack.

The Americans repelled attack after attack by the British. They even stood their ground and repulsed a British bayonet charge, and inflicted heavy losses on the Redcoats. During the fighting on the hot summer day, the legend of Molly Pitcher was born.

The shooting stopped at sunset, and Washington and his generals began to prepare for further fighting the next morning. However, during the night the British army quit the field, gaining a six-hour head start over their pursuers.

Realising he could not push his men further, Washington gave his troops a rest while the British were able to reach the ocean at Sandy Hook. Once there, the Redcoats set sail for New York. American casualties totalled 69 killed, 161 wounded, and 37 dead of 'sunstroke'. The British reported 65 killed and 170 wounded. Lee was court-martialled for disobeying orders and suspended from service.

The Aftermath

Washington's army moved northward, crossed the Hudson River, and occupied positions at White Plains, New York. There they kept watch on Clinton's forces and waited for him to give battle again. The British commander refused to leave Manhattan Island.

The Americans carried out a few actions during the summer of 1778, including General John Sullivan's abortive raid on Rhode Island and General Wayne's successful attack at Stony Point, New York.

Washington and his forces kept the British bottled up for all of 1779 and wintered in Morristown, New Jersey2. Washington's forces stayed in Morristown until June 1780 when a 5000-man British force moved to attack them in the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey.

After their defeat at the hands of the Americans at Springfield, the British again retreated to New York. At the same time, Washington moved his men to the Hudson Highlands where this force remained until the end of the war.

In September 1780, Colonial General Benedict Arnold committed his infamous act of treason. He negotiated with Clinton to turn over the American stronghold of West Point for cash and future considerations. Arnold's plan was for naught as details of the negotiations were captured in the possession Clinton's liaison with Arnold, Major John Andre.

Dressed as a civilian with passes signed by Arnold to allow him through the American battle lines, Andre was hanged as a spy. Arnold narrowly escaped, and went on to lead British troops against his former comrades in arms in the south.

1It is unclear why Washington decided to place Lee in charge of the strike force since he had urged caution during the council of war.2The Colonials also made their winter camp here after the Battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1777.

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