"What is this you have been about to day?"
The New Jersey Brigade at the Battle of Monmouth

John U. Rees
© 2003


Return to Table of Contents


“General Lee being detached with the advanced Corps …”
Composition of Charles Lee’s Division

My thanks to Garry Stone for providing his updated reckoning of Lee’s detachment. For a detailed study of the action between Cilley’s Battalion and the 42nd Regiment see, Garry Wheeler Stone, Daniel M. Sivilich, Mark Edward Lender, “A Deadly Minuet: The Advance of the New England ‘Picked Men’ Against the Royal Highlanders at the Battle of Monmouth, 28 June 1778,” The Brigade Dispatch, vol. XXVI, no. 2 (Summer 1996), 2-18.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Beginning on June 22nd General George Washington detached four separate forces under as many commanders to pursue, hinder, and harass British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton’s column as it moved across Monmouth County to the sea.

The first left from "Coryell's Ferry, Monday, June 22, 1778":

[General orders] Each Brigade is to furnish an active, spirited Officer and twenty five of it's best marksmen immediately; These parties to join Colo. Morgan's Corps and continue under his command 'till the Enemy pass thro' the Jerseys after which they are to rejoin their Regiments without further orders … [After orders] The Officers and twenty five men from each Brigade who are to be annexed to Colo. Morgan's Corps are to be sent to his quarters early tomorrow morning about a mile in front of the Army. The two Light Infantry Companies in the North Carolina Brigade will be attached to Colo. Morgan's Corps instead of the twenty five therefrom, mention'd in the first order of this day.1

Washington noted in his post-battle report sending “off Colo. Morgan with a select Corps of 600 Men to reinforce General Maxwell” and his Jersey Continentals and militia.2

Colonel Daniel Morgan’s picked troops were active in the days before and after the June 28th battle, but took no part in that day’s action. The ensuing three detachments played a crucial role throughout the battle, and as such deserve particular notice.

Surgeon Samuel Adams, 3rd Continental Artillery, recorded the departure dates of each corps:

24th [June] W: fair - the Army remained in [Hopewell] except a Detachment of light troops sent off under Genl. Scott - I rode over to Prince Town & returned ...

25th Th: fair & hot - the Army Marched on halted at Kingstown from 12 o'clock till sunsett, then marched again halted about 12 at Night at a place called Long Bridge - this day a large detachment sent forward under the command of the Marquis de la Fayette ...

26th F: fair & light showers with thunder - the Army proceeded on to Cranbury -  a detachment sent off under Gen'l Lee ...

27th S: fair and excessive hot! - we marched in the morning to Penelopon's Creek. The detachments that had been sent off halted this night at English Town 4 miles in front of the Main Army.3

General Washington’s battle report noted,

“The Enemy, in Marching from Allen Town had changed their disposition and placed their best troops in the Rear, consisting of all the Grenadiers, Light Infantry, and Chasseurs of the line. This alteration made it necessary to increase the number of our advanced Corps; in consequence of which I detached Major General Lee [26 June] with two Brigades to join the Marquis at English Town, on whom of course the command of the whole devolved, amounting to about five thousand Men.”4

The brigades sent forward under General Lee on the 26th were named in the commander in chief’s letter of the same date:

[Washington to Lee]

Cranbury, June 26, 1778.

Dear Sir: Your uneasiness, on account of the command of yesterday's detachment, fills me with concern, as it is not in my power, fully, to remove it without wounding the feelings of the Marquis de la Fayette. I have thought of an expedient which though not quite equal to either of your views, may in some measure answer both; and that is to make another detachment from this Army for the purpose of aiding and supporting the several detachments now under the command of the Marquis and giving you the command of the whole, under certain restrictions; which, circumstances, arising from your own conduct yesterday, render almost unavoidable. The expedient which I would propose is, for you to march towards the Marquis with Scot's and Varnum's Brigades. Give him notice that you are advancing to support him, that you are to have the command of the whole advanced body; but as he may have formed some enterprise with the advice of the Officers commanding the several Corps under his command, which will not admit of delay or alteration, you will desire him to proceed as if no change had happened, and you will give him every assistance and countenance in your power. This, as I observed before, is not quite the thing; but may possibly answer, in some degree, the views of both.5

Charles Lee’s provisional division is of interest beyond units and numbers. Understanding the detachment’s composition is crucial to understanding many of the battle's events.

For example, this was a picked force of experienced troops and commanders with only one organization, Maxwell's Brigade, having a large proportion of new levies (i.e., militia drafted to serve for nine months with the state's Continental regiments). Eleven of the thirteen states were authorized by Congress in February to draft nine-month levies from the militia to fill their Continental regiments. New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, and possibly Virginia, all gained relatively high numbers of short-term soldiers in this way, although the Massachusetts levies seem not to have joined in large numbers in time for Monmouth, and the North Carolina levies did not come north until autumn 1778. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Delaware seem to have relied with varying success on regular enlistment to fill their quotas, and Rhode Island's solution was to enlist slaves, thus inaugurating the predominantly black 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The additional regiments, several of which served under Charles Lee at Monmouth, garnered no levies at all, since they had no official state designation.6

Finally, some of Lee’s units were organizations composed of picked men taken from their regiments to serve as light troops, while other units were standing battalions, regiments, or brigades. Perhaps the “chosen” nature of the detachments sent from the army prior to the battle goes far to explain why many of Lee's units were also involved in the various intense combats directed by Anthony Wayne and Joseph Cilley later in the day of the 28 June battle.


Garry Stone & Mark Lender, Jan. 1993, rev. April 2003/GWS & John U. Rees


1. Many of the units comprising General Lee’s division were provisional organizations composed of picked men from many different regiments; these units were sometimes commanded by chosen officers the troops were unfamiliar with. There were also standing brigades and regiments under Lee’s command. In some instances the two can be easily confused, case in point being Scott’s Virginia Brigade (a standing unit) and Scott’s detachment of picked troops. The former had a temporary commander while Brigadier General Scott was absent with his provisional brigade. Some unit strengths are approximated or based on best information.

2. Many units were brigades, regiments, or battalions in name only, while their actual field organization differed. Scott’s (standing) Brigade contained the 4th, 8th, and 12th Virginia Regiments. These three “regiments” were so small they were likely formed into a single composite battalion. Varnum’s Brigade actually contained only a single composite “regiment” comprised of two or three battalions. Actual or likely field organizations are noted in dark blue capital letters; subunit field organizations are in dark blue parenthesized letters.

3. Sources (not included) for this table of organization are many and various, and include the Lee court martial proceedings, army strength returns, diaries, letters, and 19th century pension depositions.



Major General Charles Lee, commander
Lt. Col. John Brooks, acting adjutant-general
Captain John Francis Mercer (3rd VA), aide-de-camp (apptd. 8 June 78)
Captain Evan Edwards (Hartley’s Additional), aide-de-camp

Brigadier General Louis DuPortail, Engineer
Jean Baptiste, Chevalier de Ternant, Deputy Inspector
Brigadier General David Forman, New Jersey Militia


Col. William Grayson, Commander

4th, 8th, 12th VIRGINIA REGIMENTS                                      (1 battalion?)
          Lt. Col. John Park
w/ battery of two guns,*
          Capt. Thomas Wells, 10th Comp., 3rd Cont. Art.


Col. John Durkee (4th CT)                                                   (2 or 3 battalions)
Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney (2nd RI)
Lt. Col. Giles Russell (4th CT)

(Varnum's Brigade consisted of four under strength New England regiments [1st RI, 2nd RI, 4th CT, & 8th CT], but with only three of their complement of eight colonels present, about half of the brigade was detached to serve in Wayne's and Scott's detachments of picked men. 1st & 2nd RI were already functioning as one battalion (Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney's "regiment").

During Monmouth, the further reduced CT regiments may have functioned as one battalion.)

w/ battery of two guns,*
          Capt. David Cook, 11th Comp., 3rd Cont. Art.
          Capt. Lieut. Jonathan Compston, “                       

(* under command of Lt. Col. Eleazer Oswald, 2nd Continental Artillery)


Brigadier General Anthony Wayne (detached)
Major General the Marquis de Lafayette (acting commander)

LIVINGSTON'S BATTALION, 380                                               (battalion)
          Col. Henry Beekman Livingston (4th NY)
          Lt. Col. Ezra Badlam (2nd MA)
          Maj. Edmund B. Dickinson (1st VA)
STEWART'S BATTALION                                                             (battalion)
          Col. Walter Stewart (2nd PA)
WESSON'S BATTALION                                                               (battalion)
          Col. James Wesson (9th MA)
          Lt. Col. Nathaniel Ramsay (3rd MD)
w/ battery of two guns,
          Capt. Thomas Seward, 6th Comp., 3rd Cont. Art.


Brigadier General Charles Scott
Col. Marinus Willet, volunteer Aide

CILLEY'S BATTALION, 350 rank & file                                      (battalion)
          Col. Joseph Cilley (1st NH)
          Lt. Col. Henry Dearborne (3rd NH)
          Maj. Simeon Thayer (2nd RI)
PARKER'S BATTALION                                                               (battalion)
          Col. Richard Parker (1st VA)
          Lt. Col. Samuel Smith (4th MD)
          Capt. Alexander Smith (Rawling’s Additional)
          Capt. Alexander Trueman (6th MD)
BATTALION (unknown commander)                                               (battalion)
BUTLER’S BATTALION                                                                  (battalion)
          Lt. Col. William Butler (Acting Commander, 4th PA)
          Col. Mordecai Gist (3rd MD)
w/ two batterys totaling four guns


Col. Henry Jackson
Lt. Col. William Smith
Maj. John S. Tyler
(Jackson's detachment was composed of three under strength Additional Continental Regiments: Jackson's, Henley's, and William Lee's. The three regiments were formally reconstituted as one regiment, 22 April 1779.)


Col. Richard Butler
Maj. Benjamin Ledyard, 1st NY


Brigadier General William Maxwell
Brigade Major Aaron Ogden (Quartermaster)

                                                                                Present, fit, June

          Col Mathias Ogden                                                396
          Lt. Col. William De Hart
          Col. Israel Shreve                                                  373
          Lt. Col. David Rhea
          Maj. Richard Howell
          Col. Elias Dayton                                                    294
          Lt. Col. Francis Barber (detached, aide to Lord Stirling)
          Maj. Joseph Bloomfield
          Lt. Col. David Brearly                                            234
w/ battery of two guns
          Capt. Thomas Randall’s Company (attached to 2nd Cont. Art.)
NJ militia light horse: Lt. Col. Anthony W. White (4th Contl. Light Dragoons)
          Somerset Co. Light Horse, Capt. John Stryker


1. General orders, 22 June 1778, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745‑1799, vol. 12 (Washington, D.C., 1934), 105-107 (hereafter cited as Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington).

2. Henry Laurens, President of Congress, 1 July 1778, ibid., vol. 12 (1934), 139-140.

3. "Samuel Adams's Private Miscellaneous Diary   Ann: Dom: 1778.   Kept partly in the Town of Dorchester and partly in his Excellency General Washington's Camp at Valley Forge, White Plains, Fredericksburgh, &c ...," Samuel Adams Diaries, Manuscript Division, New York Public Library (hereafter cited as Samuel Adams Diary, New York Public Library). See also, Instructions to Brigadier General Charles Scott, 24 June 1778; Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, 25 June 1778, Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, vol. 12 (1934), 117-118.

4. Washington to Henry Laurens, 1 July 1778, ibid., vol. 12 (1934), 139-141.

5. Washington to Charles Lee, 26 June 1778, ibid., vol. 12 (1934), 120.

6. For a study of the nine-month draft and other 1778 recruitment options see, John U. Rees, "`The new Leveys are coming in dayly ...': The Nine Month Draft in the Second New Jersey Regiment and Maxwell's New Jersey Brigade” (Including a study of "The Use and Effect of the Nine-Month Draft in the Other Brigades of Washington's Army"), appendix to Rees, "’I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime...’: An Account of the Services of the Second New Jersey Regiment,’ part I, December 1777 to June 1778 (1994, unpublished, TMs copy held in the collections of the David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pa.).

Return to Table of Contents

Appendix D