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June 8, 2008 / howardmestas



“94 degrees — heat index 102 degrees”  —



It was so hot today, I followed Sheila around just to get the cold shoulder!!!  But the good news was that it played into one of the most authentic, lifelike, and realistic interpretive trips any self-respecting history teacher could have asked for.  The battle of Monmouth (June 28-1778) is famous for a plethora of reasons and the oppressive, sweltering heat on that historic day is one of them.  Our park historian and field guide stated that, according to official records, the temperature was identical to that on the day of the battle and in fact there were as many British casualties due to heat exhaustion as from American fire.

It should be noted in the official record of the world for today, that a brave contingent of historical pilgrims hiked with our guide in a patriotic 2 mile excursion through this sultry wilderness while a crew of “sunshine patriots” shrank from the service of their country and elected ride back to the visitor’s center in an air-conditioned bus.

Monmouth was the first battle following the winter encampment at Valley Forge and was the direct result of General George Washington trying to slow and harrass British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton who was moving to join other forces in New York.  Early in 1778, Benjamin Franklin secured a treaty with France and the British command knew the Delaware River would soon be filled with French war ships.  Clinton had no choice but to evacuate Philadelphia and retreat northward with Washington on his tail.

It seems like every battlefield visitor’s center has a placard stating that this was the “turning point” in the war, but this one may really have some merit.  For example, this was the first occasion where Continental troops matched or surpassed British regulars in all aspects of warefare including tactics, discipline, strategy, and battlefield resolve.  There are many scholars who have questioned the importance of Baron Von Steuben and his training of Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, but according to our expert historian/guide at Monmouth, the Prussian’s winter visit was invaluable.

This battle was also important in that it may have been the elimination round for Washington’s nemesis, General Charles Lee, who until this point was gaining support in the continental congress in his insurgent pursuit of becoming commander-in-chief.  A disagreement about orders arose and Lee publicly disrespected Washington, thus leading to a court martial and ultimately to his dismissal from military service.  The troops looked upon Lee with disdain and may have engaged this battle with greater intensity to embellish the reputation, and to reassure the command of their beloved Washington.  The outcome of the firefight, with the greatest artillery barrage in the new world to that point, produced much needed political and military objectives.  Washington and his army would gain the respect of the continental congress and our French allies, while the British command and their loyalist allies were now painfully aware that the page to a new chapter in the war was turning.  For these reasons, I disagree wholeheartedly with many historians who say that the battle of Monmouth concluded as a draw.  I walked that ground, and it is the property of the United States Government.  Had Washington been routed that day, it would be part of a British national park with statues of General Clinton on the grounds.


I know Ryan is still struggling with the devasting fact that Molly Pitcher is a mythical person, but then again she is still reeling from the time her parents explained that her brother was an only child.  I pity the girl when someone tells her the facts about Santa.


On our hike through the park, the ranger warned us of an assortment of biting insects from gnats to deer ticks, but I feared not!  For they were but insignificant little microbes when compared to the fearsome savage restroom creatures that have taken command of our dorm room. 





Leave a Comment
  1. mattharris1 / Jun 9 2008 11:35 am

    Howard, I enjoyed reading your posts. You have an inventive imagination and a clear, lucid prose style. And your comments on Mommouth were spot-on. Well done!–Matt

  2. Jonathan Rees / Jun 9 2008 2:38 am


    Tell me how visiting these sites will affect what (or better yet how) you teach in the classroom.

  3. stacirodosevich / Jun 9 2008 12:21 am

    Yes, it was a great, authentic day for the battle field. However, I was one of those “sunshine patriots” who rode in the air-conditioned bus. However, do not judge ‘us’ for the choice we made. Everyone was given that same opportunity. We, ‘sunshine patriots’, didn’t curl up our noses to you sweaty, brave patriots when you boarded the nice, air-conditioned bus!

  4. history591twenty7 / Jun 8 2008 11:31 pm

    Well, Howard, maybe the dorm is trying to make the trip a little more authentic for you. I imagine the creepy critters crawling around the privies in those days were probably pretty scary too, not to mention the lice, ticks, and mosquitos that were everywhere. Thank goodness the women there were taking care of the laundry for them.

  5. ryanboyd20 / Jun 8 2008 9:36 pm

    Ok, you knew last summer that I found out she wasn’t real. Every picture I see of it makes me question the very existence. I have one biological sister and two step brothers. AND, last but not least, I thought you were Santa. You’re sure old enough! HAHA!

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