Summary of the Battle of Monmouth
The Battle of Monmouth, also known as the Battle of Monmouth Court House, was fought on June 28, 1778, in Monmouth, New Jersey. It was part of the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777–1778. As British forces under the command of General Henry Clinton moved out of Philadelphia, Americans led by Major General Charles Lee attacked their rear, which was under the command of Major General Charles Cornwallis. During the fighting, Lee made tactical mistakes that allowed Cornwallis to gain the advantage. However, General George Washington arrived and rallied the Americans. Washington gained the advantage by placing artillery under the command of Major General Nathanael Greene on a hill. This allowed the Americans to fire on the British lines and kept the British from taking the right flank of the Continental Army. After a long day of fighting, hostilities ceased. During the night, Clinton decided to pull the British out and started the march to New York City.
This painting depicts Washington rallying the troops at the Battle of Monmouth. Image Source: Wikipedia.
- Also Known As: The battle is also called the Battle of Monmouth Court House.
- Date Started: The fighting started on June 28, 1778.
- Date Ended: The fighting ended on June 28, 1778.
- Location: The battle was fought near Monmouth Court House, New Jersey.
- Who Won: There was no clear winner in the Battle of Monmouth.
- Military Campaign: Philadelphia Campaign of 1777–1778.
Key Events in the Battle
- General George Washington planned an attack on the British army near Monmouth Court House. Washington and the Continental Army were at Valley Forge.
- Washington wanted to send a small advance party ahead of the main army. The advance force was under the command of General Charles Lee — Washington’s second-in-command — and was supposed to engage the British while Washington moved in with the rest of the Continental Army.
- The British army was under the command of General Henry Clinton, and the rearguard was under the command of General Charles Cornwallis.
- Lee and his men attacked the rearguard. However, Lee decided to break off the attack and retreated back toward Valley Force, which allowed Cornwallis to regroup.
- As Lee retreated, he met up with Washington on the road. Washington was furious over the retreat and removed Lee from command on the spot.
- Washington continued the march to Monmouth Court House and moved his forces into position.
- He placed Nathanael Greene and his division on his right.
- He placed William Alexander, Lord Stirling, and his division, on his left.
- Anthony Wayne and his men were placed in the center. Some of Lee’s men joined them.
- The reserve was placed under command of the Marquis de Lafayette and took the rest of Lee’s men.
- Artillery was placed on both flanks. On the right flank, the artillery was able to fire on the British line from a long distance, which gave the Americans an advantage because the British could not easily fire back at them.
- Cornwallis attacked Alexander and his men first.
- Washington launched a counterattack on the right of the British forces.
- Cornwallis regrouped and attacked Greene’s division. However, the American artillery on the right flank helped Greene and his men push the British back.
- After the British regrouped, Cornwallis launched an attack on Wayne in the center.
- The fighting continued into the early evening, and the British eventually withdrew and made their camp for the night.
- During the night, the British withdrew and headed to New York City.
- It was the last battle of the Philadelphia Campaign.
- As legend has it, Washington cursed loudly at Lee when he met with him on the road as Lee was headed back to Valley Forge.
- Washington rode through the ranks of the Continental Army and inspired the men.
- The British lit campfires, which gave Washington the impression they planned to attack in the morning. However, it was just a trick and the British quietly marched away in the night, just as Washington had done to them several times in the past.
- Although there was no clear winner in the battle, the Americans did hold the field, due to the British withdrawal.
- It was a hot day, and nearly 100 men in total died from heatstroke during the battle.
- Washington’s horse died from the heat.
- Today, Monmouth Court House is Freehold Borough, New Jersey.
The Legend of Molly Pitcher at Monmouth
During battles, there were colonial women who carried water to thirsty American soldiers on the battlefield. They were given the nickname “Molly Pitcher.” At the Battle of Monmouth, legend has it that a woman from Philadelphia named Mary Ludwig Hays carried water to the men. When her husband, who was with the artillery, was injured, she supposedly took his place on the battlefield and helped fire on the British.
This illustration depicts Molly Pitcher helping with the artillery at the Battle of Monmouth. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.
Important Leaders and Casualties
Prominent American Military Leaders
Prominent British Military Leaders
- Henry Clinton
- Charles Cornwallis
- The total estimated casualties at the Battle of Monmouth were around 900–1,900 killed, wounded, or missing.
- The Americans suffered somewhere from 400 to 1,200 casualties.
- The British suffered around 500–700 casualties.
Significance of the Battle of Monmouth
The Battle of Monmouth was important because it showed the training the Continental Army had done at Valley Forge during the winter of 1776–1777 had paid off. Despite Lee’s retreat, the Americans were able to hold the field until the end of the day, which helped convince the British to withdraw and continue their march to New York City.
Timeline of the Battle of Monmouth
This timeline shows how the Battle of Monmouth fits into the chronology of the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777–1778.
This painting by William B.T. Trego depicts Washington leading his men to Valley Forge. Image Source: Wikipedia.
- August 22, 1777 — Battle of Staten Island
- September 3, 1777 — Battle of Cooch’s Bridge (Iron Hill)
- September 11, 1777 — Battle of Brandywine (Brandywine Creek)
- September 16, 1777 — Battle of the Clouds
- September 20–21, 1777 — Paoli Massacre (Battle of Paoli Tavern)
- September 26, 1777 — British Occupy Philadelphia
- September 26, 1777 — Siege of Fort Mifflin Begins
- October 4, 1777 — Battle of Germantown
- October 22, 1777 — Battle of Fort Mercer (Red Bank)
- November 16, 1777 — Siege of Fort Mifflin Ends
- December 5–8, 1777 — Battle of White Marsh (Edge Hill)
- December 11, 1777 — Battle of Matson’s Ford
- December 19, 1777 — Winter at Valley Forge Begins
- March 18, 1778 — Battle of Quinton’s Bridge
- March 21, 1778 — Battle of Hancock’s Bridge
- May 1, 1778 — Battle of Crooked Billet
- May 20, 1778 — Battle of Barren Hill
- June 19, 1778 — Winter at Valley Forge Ends
- June 28, 1778 — Battle of Monmouth