Stephen Olney's description of Monmouth

... On the day of the battle of Monmouth, Captain Olney says,

"After marching two or three miles we arrived on the plains of Monmouth, having a wood near at hand, on our left." It is worthy of remark, that two brigades had been sent forward as a vanguard,by the commander in chief, under Lee and Lafayette; and Lee, as the senior officer, took command of the whole vanguard, so that Gen. Lafayette, had only the militia and light-horse. Gen-Knyphausen, of the British, had been sent forward with their baggage, and had got some distance ahead; and General Washington had sent round a detachment commanded by Colonels Morgan and Dickinson, to attack this convoy, encumbered by their long train of carraiges and baggage, while he ordered General Lee to attack them in front. Consequently; the first attack was made upon the rear-guard of the enemy, commanded by Cornwallis and Clinton, their commander in chief. The rapidity with which Clinton faced about and attacked the light-horse of Lafayette, rather astounded General Lee, and obliged him to form his troops upon ground rather unfavorable; having a deep ravine behind, which rendered his retreat difficult, to say the least. Captain Olney says,

"The heat of the day was so intense that it required the greatest efforts of the officers to keep their men in the ranks; and several of my company were so overcome and faint in coming, that they said they could go no father; but by distributing about half a pint of brandy, which I happened to have in my canteen, (which the second sergeant had put there) I made out to get them along. We had not yet seen the enemy, but General Lee came in haste, and ordered Colonel Olney to march his regiment and occupy the woods in our left. We had scarcely reached the woods, when the front of the regiment wheeled, and commenced a retrograde movement. At this instant the enemy appeared and discharged their artillery. The first ball took one of my corporals in his knapsack and back; some one said "Corporal ----- is killed." I answered "never mind, he has paid the last debt."

We continued our retreat in good order, not faster than a walk. Our artillery seemed to be well screened and kept the enemy in check. When we came to the end of the plain we formed in a line front of a morass, and began a fire with musketry. The enemy came on with such impetuosity, that they turned our right flank, which threw us into disorder, and we retreated. At this instant our main army came up, commanded by Washington himself, and commenced a heavy fire with our artillery; and the British found they had got a fresh army to contend with."


Williams, Catherine R. Biography of Revolutionary Heroes; Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton, and Also, of Captain Stephen Olney. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1839. pg 243-245

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