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National Historic Landmark MONMOUTH BATTLEFIELD
New Jersey

Location: N.J. 522 northwest of Freehold, Monmouth County.

Ownership and Administration (1961). Privately owned farmland, public roads, and abandoned line of Pennsylvania Railroad.

Significance. The Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, marked the debut of the American Army after the hard winter's training at Valley Forge. Although Washington failed in his design to thwart the British movement across New Jersey, this last major battle in the North demonstrated to both sides that the Prussian drillmaster, "Baron" Frederick von Steuben, had succeeded in molding an American Army that was able to meet the British on even terms.

On June 18, 1778, British Gen. Sir Henry Clinton abandoned Philadelphia and headed toward the Jersey coast, where he planned to embark his 10,000 men and return to New York by water. Washington, his army now numbering about 14,000 men, pursued. Against the advice of most of his lieutenants, he determined to attack Clinton and his vulnerable wagon train. The American striking force, commanded by Gen. Charles Lee, was poorly managed and after a feeble blow at the enemy near Monmouth Courthouse fell back on the main army led by Washington. Enraged, Washington peremptorily relieved the erratic Lee and took over the conduct of the battle in the face of a strong British counterattack. The fighting raged throughout the day with sun and 100°F temperature taking almost as heavy a toll as gunfire. Neither side would yield. The fighting raged back and forth in the fields and swamps between Old Tennent Church and the little settlement around Monmouth Courthouse. The engagement stands as the longest sustained action of the Revolutionary War. Clinton pulled away and made his escape during the night, his precious wagon train intact. Washington failed to prevent Clinton's escape, but he had demonstrated his own superb qualities of leadership and the new prowess of the army created in the misery of Valley Forge.

Old Tennent Church
A survivor from pre-Revolutionary times, the Old Tennent Church is a reference point for tracing the actions of the Battle of Monmouth, fought on the slope southeast of the church on June 28, 1778. (National Park Service)

Present Appearance (1961) The present town of Freehold, which in 1778 consisted of a courthouse and a few scattered dwellings, is a modern commercial city. The area northeast of Freehold, where General Lee's initial attack was made, has been largely built up and the character of the wartime scene lost, although the preliminary movements of the two armies can still be followed on the ground. In contrast is the remarkably open and unspoiled condition of the major scene of battle north west of town. The battle area, about 1-1/2 by 3 miles in extent, has undergone superficial change, but despite widening of fields and draining of swamps the terrain has retained its historical character to an unusual degree. One of the traditions that arose from the battle of Monmouth is the story of Molly Pitcher, who carried water to her husband and other artillerymen during the sweltering day of battle. Two places on the battlefield are marked as sites of the Molly Pitcher Spring. Of much greater significance as a historical landmark and survivor of the battle is the fine Old Tennent Church, dating from 1751. The battlefield slopes away southeast to the town of Freehold, from the high ground on which the church stands. The building serves as a handsomely preserved point of reference for tracing the combat action. The wartime road from nearby Englishtown to Monmouth Courthouse, employed by the Americans in their approach on Monmouth, passes near the church. Six farms are included in the battle area, and several houses of the Revolutionary period still stand on the field, including the Craig House, now much in need of restoration.

Although never accorded formal preservation, Monmouth Battlefield is one of the best preserved of the Revolutionary War battlefields. It has survived by accident, not design; however, at this writing the State of New Jersey is planning a State Park for the area. [34]

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005