Why Did the Battle of Monmouth Happen?

The Battle of Monmouth occurred on June 28, 1778, when Gen. George Washington attacked British Gen. Sir Henry Clinton as the redcoats attempted to retreat from Philadelphia to New York. Washington moved his troops from Valley Forge, Pa., to rally with Maj. Gen. Charles Lee near Monmouth Courthouse, N.J.

Washington's objective at Monmouth was to defeat Clinton after the British abandonment of Philadelphia in the spring of 1778. British strategy focused on keeping New York after the French entered the war on the side of the colonials. British forces numbered 10,000 versus Washington's 12,000 total.

Lee's forces engaged the British first. His 5,000-strong forward unit was supposed to harass the British until Washington's troops arrived. The subordinate withdrew his army before Washington's force of 7,000 came to bear. The normally reserved Washington, in a rare display of emotion, sternly reprimanded Lee in public for his failure. The superior officer rallied the troops and continued the battle.

Casualties for each side amounted to roughly 500 for the colonials and around 1,100 for the British. Although Americans claimed victory, in reality the battle was a draw. Lee was suspended from military service six weeks after the battle. The Battle of Monmouth was the last engagement in the north as British forces headquartered at New York. The legend of "Molly Pitcher" emerged after the very hot day in which many troops died of heat stroke.