"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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“We are informed by several persons…“
Selected Contemporary Newspaper Accounts

American Newspaper Accounts

30 June 1778, The Pennsylvania Evening Post.

Extract of a letter from his excellency gen. Washington to the hon. Gen. Arnold, in this city [Philadelphia], dated Fields near Monmouth courthouse, June 29, 1778.

I have the honor to inform you that about seven o’clock yesterday morning, both armies advanced on each other. About twelve they met on the grounds near Monmouth court-house, when an action commenced. We forced the enemy from the field, and encamped on the ground. They took a strong post in our front, secured on both flanks by morasses and thick woods, where they remained until about twelve at night, and then retreated. I cannot at this time go into a detail of matters. When opportunity permits, I shall take the liberty of transmitting congress a more particular account of the proceedings of the day.

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4 July 1778, The Pennsylvania Evening Post.

We are informed by several persons who were present at the late action in New-Jersey, that the loss of the enemy in killed is about five hundred, and that near the same number were taken prisoners and deserted during the battle. The loss on the side of the American army is less than one hundred killed.

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From the Pennsylvania Packet:

Mr. Dunlap,

Be pleased to print the following Letters from his Excellency General Washington, together with the return of killed, wounded, &c. for the information of the good people of these United States.

I am Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,

Henry Laurens
President of Congress.

Englishtown, six miles from Monmouth,
June 28, 1778, half after 11 A.M.

Sir … I am now here with the main body of the army, and pressing hard to come up with the enemy. They encamped yesterday at Monmouth Court-house, having almost the whole of their front, particularly their left wing, secured by a marsh and thick wood, and their rear by a very difficult defile, from whence they moved very early this morning. Our advance, from the rainy weather, and the intense heat when it was fair, (tho’ these may have been equally disadvantageous to them) has been greatly delayed. Several of our men have fallen sick from these causes, and a few unfortunately have fainted and died in a little time after. We have a select and strong detachment forward under the command of Major General Lee, with orders to attack their rear if possible. Whether the detachment will be able to come up with it is a matter of question, especially before they get into strong grounds. Besides this, Morgan with his corps and some bodies of militia are on their flanks. I cannot determine yet at what place they intend to embark; some think they will push for Sandy Hook, whilst others think they mean to go to Shoal Harbour. The latter opinion seems to be founded in the greater probability, as, from intelligence, several vessels and craft are lying off that place. We have made a few prisoners and they have lost a good many men by desertion, I cannot ascertain their numbers as they came into our advanced parties and pushed immediately into the country; I think five or six hundred is the least number that have come in in the whole; they are chiefly foreigners.

I have the honour to be, with great respect,
Sir, your most obedient servant,

G. Washington

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8 July 1778, New-Jersey Gazette

Two letters from Major General Charles Lee to the Gazette editor:

Brunswick, July 3d, 1778.


Not satisfied with robbing me and the brave men under my command of the credit due to us with respect to the affair of the 28th, such an atrocious attack has been made on my conduct, and so gross are the injuries I received, that I have demanded a court-martial; which is to be held to-morrow. The reason that I address this note to you, is, that a most incidious, dishonest, and false relation has appeared in your paper of July 1st - I must therefore entreat, as you are an honest man, that you will desire your readers to consider the aforesaid relation as a fiction. Before long they shall have a minute, just, and faithful account - In the mean time I beg you will print this note - and am, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

Charles Lee

Mr. Isaac Collins
July 3d, 1778.


I Desire you will consider this as a postscript to the note I have already addressed to you, and that you will request whatever printer is your correspondent at Philadelphia, to insert the note and postscript in his paper. - To call the affair [at Monmouth] a complete victory would be a dishonorable gasconade - It was indeed a very handsome check, which did the Americans honour. No affair can be more convincing of what they are equal to; in a retrograde manoeuvre of near four miles, no confusion was observable but what arose, and will ever arise from a monstrous abuse, which, if tolerated, will be one day fatal - I mean the liberty which individuals, without authority, take to direct and give their opinions. The behaviour of the whole, both men and officers, was so equally good that it would be unjust to make distinctions; tho’ I confess it is difficult to restrain from paying compliments to the artillery, from General Knox and Colonel Oswald down to the very driver[s]. It is difficult to say which was the decisive point - it was a battle in pieces, and by dint of fighting in a variety of places - in the plain and in the woods - by advancing and retreating, the enemy were at last fairly worn down.

I am, Sir, yours,

Charles Lee”

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8 July 1778, New-Jersey Gazette

Trenton, July 8.

Extract from General Orders.

Head-Quarters, Freehold, June 29, 1778.

The Commander in Chief congratulates the army on the victory obtained over the arms of his Britannic Majesty yesterday, and thanks most sincerely the gallant officers and men who distinguished themselves upon the occasion, and such others as, by their good order and coolness, gave the happiest presage of what might have been expected had they come to action.

General Dickinson, and the Militia of this State, are also thanked for the nobleness in opposing the enemy in their march from Philadelphia, and for the aid which they have given in harrassing and impeding their motions, so as to allow the continental troops to come up with them.

It is with peculiar pleasure the Commander in Chief, in addition to the above, can inform General Knox, and the officers of artillery, that the enemy have done them the justice to acknowledge that no artillery could be better served than ours.”

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8 July 1778, New-Jersey Gazette

Extract of a letter from a gentleman at Camp, dated English-Town, June 29th, 1778.

I have for two weeks past been with the militia of this State, under the command of Major-General Dickinson. It truly affords me the most heartfelt pleasure to see in what numbers and how suddenly my brave countrymen poured in from every quarter, to the defence of our glorious cause. - During the whole time they underwent the greatest fatigues, severe and long marches, without a murmur. - In every skirmish they behaved with the greatest spirit, and appearing always confident of the courage and prudence of their General, they obeyed his orders of every kind with the utmost chearfulness and alacrity. At the drawbridge near Bordentown, when General Dickinson with greta propriety had ordered some lines to be thrown up, they appeared anxiously to desire the arrival of the enemy. The continental troops and great part of the militia had however been withdrawn, except those of Colonels [Joseph] Phillips [1st Battalion Hunterdon County] and Shreve, who were previously detached to guard a ford one mile further up the creek, and only the three regiments of Colonels [Frederick] Frelinghuysen [1st Battalion Somerset County], [Hendrick] Van Dike [2nd Battalion Somerset County], and [John] Webster [1st Regiment Middlesex County] remained, when a party of the enemy appeared, and with great zeal began to repair the bridge, which had been cut down - Upon the very news of their approach, the troops rushed down with the greatest impetuosity, and a small party from one of the regiments which happened to be considerably advanced, caused them to retire, after having killed four and wounded several others. In the morning the lines were again manned, but the enemy thought proper to change their rout. This conduct of the militia saved, in my opinion, Trenton and the country adjacent from rapine and desolation. In short, their conduct during the whole time, gave me the most pleasing ideas of the strong love of liberty which is natural to the human soul. Surely whilst the farmers of the country are induced by the mere fondness for freedom to leave all their domestic concerns at this season of the year, and undergo the hardships of a soldier’s life; to suffer the several fatigues and with pleasure face every danger - I say, whilst this continues to be the spirit of Americans --, Americans must and will be free.

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8 July 1778, New-Jersey Gazette

“Extract of a letter from a Gentleman at Camp, dated July 4, 1778.

[After a describing in detail the army’s July 4th commemoration the letter goes on] … The enemy are said to be gone from Middletown a few miles, and it is imagined they will all be out of the state by to-morrow. - At half past three to-morrow morning the left wing of our army begins its march for King’s ferry, 70 miles from hence, the other two grand divisions will follow the 6th and 7th, leaving Maxwell’s brigade and Col. Morgan’s corps (about 2000 or 2500 men) to cover New-Jersey.

The Court-Martial for the trial of General Lee did not get to business till this morning: As many witnesses will be examined, and the whole taken down in writing, it will probably last some time, during which they are to continue at Brunswick.

* * * *

15 July 1778, New Jersey Gazette

Philadelphia, July 14.

In Congress, July 7, 1778.

Resolved unanimously, That the thanks of Congress be given to General Washington for the activity with which he marched from the camp at Valley Forge in pursuit of the enemy; for his distinguished exertions in forming the order of battle; and for his great good conduct in leading on the attack and gaining the important victory of Monmouth, over the British grand army, under the immediate command of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, in their march from Philadelphia to New-York.

Resolved, That General Washington be directed to signify the thanks of Congress to the gallant officers and men under his command, who distinguished themselves by their conduct and valour at the battle of Monmouth.

Extract from the Minutes.

Charles Thomson, Sec.

* * * *

Horses, pistols, and other items lost on the field of battle were advertised for; here is one example.

15 July 1778, New Jersey Gazette

On the day of the action near Monmouth Court-house the subscriber being wounded, gave a silver mounted CUTLASS with a green handle to a Captain of the militia belonging to this State. It is therefore requested that said Captain will return it to Col. Vanschaack of the first battalion of New-York forces, or to the subscriber at Englishtown.

Joseph M’Crahen, Captain

* * * *

British Newspaper Accounts

6 July 1778, New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.

New-York, July 6. On Sunday Morning the 28th Instant, the Rear of the Royal Army under the Command of General Sir Henry Clinton, was attacked by the Rebel Army commanded by Generals Washington, Lee, Gates, Wayne, and Fayette, about one Mile and a half West of Freehold Court House, in Monmouth County, New-Jersey; when the Grenadiers, Light Infantry, and Queen’s Rangers, distinguished themselves in a particular Manner, having opposed the whole of Washington’s Army, and pursued them several Miles; their Loss we know not, but ‘tis said to be great.

The following officers are amongst the killed, in the Royal Army.

Lieut. Col. Moncton, Capt. John Gove of the 5th.

The wounded are, Lieut. Col. Trelawney, of the Guards, Lieut. Col. Abercrombie, 37th [Regiment]; Major William Gardiner, 10th; Capt. Andrew Cathcart, 15th; Capt. William Brereton, 17th; Capt. Harry Ditmass, 15th; Capt. Baldwin Leighton, 46th; Lieut. Mungo Paumier, d[itt]o.; Lieut. Desborough, of the Marines; Capt. John Powell, 52d. Capt. Thomas Wills, 23d. Lieut. Patrick Belley, Guards; Capt. Stephenson, Queen’s Rangers (before the action) Lieut. Col. Simcoe, Queen’s Rangers; Capt. Lloyd, 46th; Lieut. Kennedy, 44th.

We are informed that the following, is an exact return of the loss of the Royal Army.

Killed 110
Wounded 172
Missing   56
Total 338

It is certain the rebels have not suffered so heavy a loss as on this occasion, in any engagement since their defeat on Long Island.

About 70 Prisoners was brought up to Town last Friday, that were taken in the above Engagement.

We hear General Washington with the greatest Part of his Army are gone towards New-Brunswick.”

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13 July1778, New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury

New-York, July 13. To our former Account of the Action of the 6th inst. in Jersey, we add the following Particulars, as, hitherto, we have been unprovided with a State of the Day’s Operations.

The Action commenced at Twelve, on the hottest Day imaginable. After a March of eight Hours, the British Guards forming the Rear of the Army, the Rebels insulting the flanking Parties, at Eleven the General reconnoitered the Enemy, and finding them in Force, ordered an Halt on the Heights of Freehold, having given orders to the advanced Party to March, accordingly. The Rebel Battalions shewing themselves with a Disposition to stand; the Commander in Chief ordered the Rear of the Army to form in the Front, and the Light Horse to advance, and Charge those in the Front of the Wood leading to Freehold Court-House, at the same Time commanding the first Battalion of Guards to support the Cavalry, and follow the Charge with Bayonets, while the Cavalry were advancing during the Moment in which the Guards were Loading, in Consequence of Orders, they received a Fire on the Right from the Wood, of 300 of the Enemy posted in Ambush. Orders were now given to face to the Right, and Charge through the Wood. This Order was executed with such Alacrity; that the Rebels were forced with Bayonets through a deep Morass, a Wood hardly penetrable, during a very hot Fire, cross a Plain and Ravine, to the Edge of a second Wood; when the Ardour of the Troops was most judiciously stopped by Orders from the General, who perceiving them affected by the excessive Heat … this Influence having occasioned a Check to the first Line of the Rebel Army, they retreated under the Cover of a Cannonade, which occasioned the Loss of the gallant Lieut. Col. Monckton, and several other very respectable Officers.

In this Affair the first Battalion of the Guards, and a Part of the British Grenadiers charged, and occasioned the de route of the whole Rebel Army, confessed by themselves, to consist of Fourteen Thousand Men, and led by their most approved Officers.

The whole Line of March consisting of thirteen Miles extent, was effected without the Loss of a single Waggon, howsoever molested and harrassed by the whole Rebel Army.

Col. Trelawney, who commanded the first Battalion of British Guards, and was dangerously wounded at the Affair of Freehold, on the 29th [sic] of June, we have the Pleasure to hope is out of Danger, and so are almost all of the other Gentlemen present in this Affair.

General Washington’s Army is now encamped at Elizabeth Town, Newark, Second River, Hackinsack, &c. in New-Jersey.

We hear there are at this Juncture, a very great Confusion in General Washington’s Army; there has been a Duel fought between a French General, Conway, and Col. Cadwallader, in which the former was shot thro’ the Eye, and died on the Spot. General Lee has been accused of Misconduct in the late Action the 28th ult. in New-Jersey; but ‘tis said exculpates himself in two Letters published in a Pennsylvania Paper a few Days since. The Somerset Militia we are told suffered much in the Battle of yesterday Fortnight.

* * * *

20 July1778, New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury

“New-York, July 20. Lord Stirling is President of the Court Martial at the Tryal of General Lee, which was not ended last Wednesday.

General Conway was not killed by Colonel Cadwalader as mentioned in our last. He was wounded in the upper Lip near his Nose. Cut was in a fair way of Recovery.

The following Paragraph came too late for last Week’s Paper.

The 18th [sic] of June when the Rear of the British Army attacked the Rebel Army in the Heights of Freehold; the spirited Charge of the Light Horse will ever do them Homour: Attacking the Front of their first Line, covered by a Battery of 6 Pieces of Cannon playing alternately Round and Grape Shot. The 1st Battalion of British Guards, while covering the Charge of the Light Cavalry, received the Fire from the Ambuscade on their Right from the Wood at 20 Yards Distance; being then ordered to charge through the Wood, in the Line of Fire, with Bayonets; the Light Horse proceeded with their wonted Ardour till the Rear Battalions came up to their Support. The incessant and allert Fire of the British Artillery, can’t be too much commended [on] the Day of Action at Freehold: The Battalion Guns of the Guards, with the two 12 Pounders, covered the Troops after the Charge through the Wood, Morass, and Field in Front of the second Wood, where they were ordered to halt, spent with Heat, Thirst and Fatigue. The Fire was so well kept up, that they expended from Eighty to Ninety Rounds in a short Period, while the Remains of the advanced Corps of the Enemy, were falling back on their second Line. Several of the 1st Battalion of Guards, and the two Companies of British Grenadiers of the 1st Battalion that made the Charge with Bayonets through the Woof at Freehold, had narrow Escapes from the Enemy’s Riflemen that lurked in the Under-wood; throughout the Wood scarce a Bush that had not a Fellow under it, whose Fire directed the British Bayonet to prevent the further Molestation of the Royal Army. Sir John Wrottelesley commanding the first Company of the 1st Battalion of Guards, was grazed on the Neck with a Buck Shot, and the Hon. Lieut. Col. Gordon, commanding the second Company had his Bayonet shot off from his Fusee, and afterwards by a Rifleman in the Wood, was shot through his Coat under his Left Breast, without Hurt to his Side or Arm. ’Tis supposed that of several Hundreds that lay in the Wood, besides the 300 under the Command of Col. Parker of Virginia, (that formed the Ambuscade) that scarce twenty escaped alive. Col. Parker was wounded in three Places, and died in the Woods: Lieut. Col. Ramsey wounded in two Places, and taken Prisoner. Five Officers, by Appearance Foreigners, were bayoneted in the Wood. Seventeen Prisoners only were taken, eight of whom were run through with Bayonets, and mostly died e’re the Rear moved off the Ground to proceed on their March; which, after the Cannon moved off, was covered by the 33d Regiment of Infantry; the steady Behaviour of which Corps, on this Occasion, will always add to their former Reputation. The Commander in Chief exposed himself much, giving in the Front of the Attack, most of the Orders in Person, continually riding in the Line of Fire from Right to Left, during the whole Time the Affair lasted.

We have the Pleasure to understand, by last Accounts from Freehold, that the four wounded Officers of the Royal Army left with the Soldiery, the Flag, and Surgeons, are as well as can be expected, and are treated in a Manner that does much Honour to the American Gentlemen, whose Protection and Care they are under.”

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William Stryker, ed., "Extracts from American Newspapers, vol. II. 1778," Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, Second Series (Trenton, NJ: 1903), 265, 272, 273-274, 275-276, 277-278, 278-279, 279-280, 294-296, 296, 306-307.

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Appendix M