When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
June 28, 1778 Battle of Monmouth
The new British commander, Lieutenant General Henry Clinton, received orders to follow a defensive strategy and consolidate forces in New York City. He abandoned Philadelphia and marched his army north. After a 40-hour halt at Monmouth Court House, the army moved out, leaving a small covering force. In order to strike a vigorous blow at the retreating enemy, American general George Washington ordered Charles Lee, commanding the advance guard, to attack the British rear. When Lee attempted to surround the small force at the courthouse, he was surprised by the arrival of Lord Cornwallis’s rear guard, which Clinton had ordered back to resist the attackers. Rather than risk fighting a delaying action on difficult terrain, Lee ordered a retreat but was tardy giving Washington notice. When Washington arrived, he was therefore surprised and indignant to find his Continental forces retreating in much disorder.
Washington arrived about noon, ahead of his main army, in time to see Lee’s men fleeing the battlefield. Outraged, Washington rallied and re-formed the men to delay until his following units were in a battle line. There were attacks and counterattacks by both sides throughout the hot afternoon, with numerous casualties as American and British cannon swept the field in the largest artillery duel of the war. The American left held steady while the advanced right wing under Major General Nathanael Greene was pushed back. Greene re-formed his units as part of the main battle line and fought on. Benefiting from their winter training at Valley Forge, the Continentals repulsed the British regulars and made bayonet counterattacks. By late afternoon both sides were exhausted and fighting stopped. Clinton rested his men until midnight, then he slipped them away to the coast and evacuation by the Royal Navy. Washington did not follow.
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