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

John U. Rees
© 2003


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“A very smart cannonading ensued from both sides.
Maxwell’s Jersey Brigade Artillery and the Afternoon Cannonade at Monmouth

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Each brigade in Washington’s army had at least two cannon attached to it for field service. Major Joseph Bloomfield, 3rd New Jersey, identified the New Jersey brigade artillery: "In 1776 two Companies of Artillery were raised in New Jersey for one Year & afterwards the Officers Commissioned for the War. the Company in West Jersey, was Commanded by Hugg‑Westcoat & Dayton [Captain John Westcott was captain, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Dayton; Samuel Hugg had commanded the company up to June 1777] ‑ and arranged as one of the Companys of Lambs Artillery & in 1778 Attached to the Jersey Brigade with two field Pieces ..." Drummer Joseph Lummis, Captain Thomas Randall’s company, Lamb's 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment, stated that his company "took winter quarters at Valley forge and in the Spring of 1778 was detatched to the New Jersey troops under the Command of General Maxfield [and was with him at the battle of Monmouth] served in the Jersey line the Campaign of 1778 and took Winter quarters at Elizabeth town, and in the Spring 1779 the Company was sent to Eastown with the pieces taken at Saratoga where they remained until General Sullivan returned from after the Indians ..." Identity of the attached artillery is confused by Colonel Israel Shreve’s 7 April 1778 letter to General Washington from Mount Holly, New Jersey: “If your Excy. should think proper to send more troops to this Quarter, with Artillery, I Beg for the Jersey Compy. Of Artillery, at present Commanded by Capt. Lt. Seth Bowen [of the 3rd Continental Artillery] …” The brigade artillery was correctly noted in an account of a 25 February 1779 British attack on Elizabethtown, New Jersey, General Maxwell noting, “A few well directed shot from Capt. Randolphs [Thomas Randall, 2nd Continental] Artilery induced them to continue their retreat leaving two killed on the ground ...”1

Caleb Fulkerson, 1st New Jersey fifer serving for nine months, stated with regard to the artillery that at Monmouth "the Brigade to which... [he] was attached was held as a reserve ... excepting their Artillery which was engaged." He refers to the action under Lt. Colonel Eleazer Oswald, 2nd Continental Artillery, in the morning near the courthouse, and their role in the afternoon's heavy cannonading at the Perrine Hill position.2

Oswald stated at Lee’s court martial that after being ordered to retreat from in front of Monmouth Courthouse his artillery "formed upon ... [an] eminence, which I suppose was about a quarter of a mile in the rear of where I was [previously], [where] I discovered on my left General Maxwell's brigade and General Scott's detachment coming out of the wood upon this eminence I had formed for action, and had taken two pieces from General Scott's detachment and two from General Maxwell's brigade, making in all ten. I heard some person behind me ask one of my officers what we were doing there with the pieces, and why we did not retreat. I turned my horse about and saw it was General Maxwell. I told him I had my orders; upon which he said, very well, and went off ..." On being questioned later as to whether he was "certain that it was General Scott's detachment and General Maxwell's brigade that you saw come out of the wood, or their artillery only?" Oswald answered that he was "not certain that it was General Scott's detachment, but I got their artillery, and there was a body of men with the two pieces; but I am certain it was General Maxwell's brigade." Colonel Oswald remained on the hill for a short time and then retreated again at General Lee's order. "Just after I ascended the hill on the plain [after crossing the defile near Carr's house], Major Shaw came up, and said it was General Knox's order that I should form my pieces there; but before this, I had ordered the two pieces I had taken from Scott's detachment, and the two that I had taken from General Maxwell's brigade, to join their brigade again ..."3

Many Continental officers noted the afternoon cannonade. According to Colonel Israel Shreve "the Cannonade was heavyer than Ever known on the field in America before ..." Major General de Steuben noted that “The cannonade continued more or less briskly till past five o'clock.” General Henry Knox, commander of the army's artillery, stated "The Weather was extremely hot & we had much business on hand," and that following Lee's retreat "The Army was drawn up on advantageous ground to receive the Enemy who advanced to the Attack with Considerable impetuosity and by a brisk Cannonade which was return'd with becoming spirit … the Cannonade lasted untill about Six in the Evening." Major General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, Left Wing commander, recalled, “After passing the new [Tennent] Meeting house … the left Wing … took the left hand road … and formed [on Perrine Hill, with a morass in front] … by the time they were well formed … the Batteries were all established; the Enemy appeared in the front of Wykoofs [Wicoff’s] house, I began a Cannonade on them with ten pieces, however they soon established a Strong Battery of Sixes and twelves and some Howitz[ers] … and endeavoured all they could to Discompose the left Wing; but with out the least Effect; this cannonade was briskly kept up for upwards of two hours …”4 Lt. Colonel Dearborn claimed more American cannon were involved, and described the action charmingly,

we form.d & about 12 Peices of Artillery being brought on the hill with us: the Enimy at the same time advancing very Rappedly finding we had form.d, they form.d in our front on a Ridge & brought up their Artillery within about 60 Rods [330 yards] of our front. When the briske[s]t Cannonade Commenced on both sides that I Ever heard. Both Armies ware on Clear Ground & if any thing Can be Call.d Musical where there is so much Danger, I think that was the finest musick, I Ever heared. however the agreeableness of the musick was very often Lessen’d by the balls Coming too near - Our men being very much beat out with Fateague & heat which was very intence, we order.d them to sit Down & Rest them Selves …5

Grenadier Lieutenant William Hale, 45th Regiment, described the cannonade from the British side. After attacking Continental troops at the hedge-row, “With some difficulty we were brought under the hill we had gained, and the most terrible cannonade L[or]d. W. Erskine says he ever heard ensued and lasted for above two hours, at the distance of 600 yards; on our side two medium twelves, as many howitzers and 6 six-pounders which were answered by fourteen pieces, long twelves and french nines; our shells [i.e., howitzers] and twelves, which were admirably conducted by a Capt. Williams, did most horrible execution among their line drawn up on the hill.” Hale gave further details in a 14 July letter, “I escaped unhurt in the very hot action of the 28th last month, allowed to be the severest that has happened, [in the hedge-row fight] the Rebel’s Cannon playing Grape and Case upon us at the distance of 40 yards and the small arms within little more than half that space; followed by a most incessant and terrible cannonade of near three hours continuance; you may judge from the circumstances of our battalion guns, 6 pounders, firing 160 rounds, and then desisting only lest ammunition should be wanting for Case shot; of the roar kept up by our twelves [12 pounder cannon] and howitzers, answered by near twenty pieces from their side on a hill 600 paces from ours …”6

Before leaving Valley Forge a "Return of Continental & private property Horses   Field peices   Ammunition & Baggage Waggons, in the Brigade of Artillery commanded by Gen.l Knox," dated "Artillery Park, 28.th May 1778," listed 29 guns in the park, "26 of which have 4 horses a footnote states that "3 of the above guns have but three horses each, & one Howitzer with two ditto"), and 29 ammunition wagons with 4 horses per wagon, plus 6 spare ammunition wagons without horses.7 Unfortunately gun types are not given. While the exact number and size of Continental artillery at Monmouth is open to some debate Commissary of Military Stores Samuel Hodgdon’s letter from "Croton Bridge 19 July 1778" to John Ruddock, Deputy Quartermaster of Stores at Fishkill, gives some idea of ammunition expenditure:

Sir   the great Consumption of Cannon Ammunition in the late Battle at Monmouth Renders it Necessary that a Supply be sent With all posable dispatch to Camp

200 six pound strap shott
200 four pound Ditto
100 three pound Ditto is Much Wanted also
100 Good Arms & Accutrements

I have sent by Mr. Giles QrM Stores five Load of Damaged Arms & Ammunition Who Will Conduct the Above stores to Camp"8

“Strap shott” was more commonly called “fixed ammunition.” In his work British Artillery Ammunition, 1780 Adrian B, Caruana notes, “Fixed ammunition was reserved exclusively for field pieces, and was in 1780 considered to mean either round or case shot fixed to wooden bottoms which were in turn attached to flannel cartridges filled with powder. This implied a fixed quantity of powder in the cartridge since only by detaching it from the remainder of the load could the amount of powder be altered. Semi-fixed ammunition consisted of the projectile fixed to a wooden bottom, but with no cartridge attached. This could be later completed into fixed ammunition by the addition of a cartridge …” A British return of artillery “employed in Germany in the Campaign of 1762” included “Round Shot fixt to Wood Bottoms with Flannel Cartridges filled with Powder,” while an “Extract of a Proportion of Ordnance … for a Battering and Field Train proposed for an Expedition to Canada 1776” lists “Round Shot fixed to Wood Bottoms with filled Flannel Cartridges,” and “Case Shot fixed to Wood Bottoms with filled Flannel Cartridges” for 6 and 12 pounder cannon.9

Thanks to Frank Cecala, Ed Magiera, and John Mills for providing information on “strap shott.”


1. Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives (Washington, D.C., 1976). the actual applications themselves and related materials may be found in National Archives Microfilm Publication M804 (2,670 reels), Joseph Lummis deposition (S41784), a drummer in the company of Captain "Randal" of Lambs 2nd Continental Artillery); Joseph Bloomfield’s deposition is in Lummis’s file (hereafter cited as Revolutionary War Pension Applications). Maxwell to Washington, 27 February 1779, The Papers of the Continental Congress 1774‑1789, National Archives Microfilm Publications M247 (Washington, DC, 1958), reel 169, p. 139.

2. Revolutionary War Pension Applications, Caleb Fulkerson deposition (W17935).

3. "Proceedings of a General Court Martial ... for the Trial of Major General Lee. July 4th, 1778 ...," Collections of the New‑York Historical Society for the Year 1873 (New York, 1874), Lt. Col. Oswald testimony, 134-138 (hereafter cited as Lee Court Martial Proceedings).

4. Israel Shreve to his wife, Mary (Polly), from Englishtown, 29 June 1778, Israel Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston, La. Lee Court Martial Proceedings, Major General de Steuben testimony, 96. Henry Knox to his brother, 3 July 1778, Henry Knox Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, reel 4, vol. 4, item 117. Major General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, to William H. Drayton, South Carolina Congressman, from “Camp Whiteplains August 15th: 1778,” “Letters of William Alexander, Lord Stirling,” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, vol, 60, no. 3 (July 1942), 173-174.

5. Lloyd A. Brown and Howard H. Peckham, eds., Revolutionary War Journals of Henry Dearborn, 1775-1783 (Chicago: The Caxton Club, 1939; reprinted Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, Inc., 1994), 127.

6. William Hale letters, 4 and 14 July 1778, Walter Harold Wilkin, Some British Soldiers in America (London, Hugh Rees, Ltd., 1914), 257-260.

7. "A Return of Continental & private property Horses   Field peices   Ammunition & Baggage Waggons, in the Brigade of Artillery commanded by Gen.l Knox." It is dated "Artillery Park, 28.th May 1778," The Papers of the Continental Congress 1774‑1789, National Archives Microfilm Publications M247, (Washington, DC, 1958), reel 192, vol. 1, p. 249.

8. Samuel Hodgdon to John Ruddock, 19 July 1778, Letters sent by Commissary General of Military Stores and Assistant Quartermaster Samuel Hodgdon ... July 19, 1778-May 24, 1784, Numbered Record Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlement of Accounts, and Supplies in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Record Group 93, National Archives Microfilm Publication M853, reel 33, vol. 111, p. 96.

9. Adrian B, Caruana, British Artillery Ammunition, 1780 (Bloomfield, Ontario; Museum Restoration Service, 1979), 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 43-44.

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Appendix K