June 28, 1778: Battle of Monmouth

“This battle was fought on the 28th June 1778, and my Regiment was in the latter part of the action.”

– John Hereford

Recreated 2d Virginia Regiment at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, 2008

Recreated 2d Virginia Regiment at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, 2008

In the summer of 1777, I enlisted under Lieutenant Erasmus Gill, a recruiting officer belonging to the Second Virginia Regiment, of Infantry of the line, on the Continental establishment, for the term of three years. I marched with the said officer, and under the command of Captain Marcus Calimar [Marquis Calmes], another recruiting officer of the same Regiment, with about one hundred recruits from Leesburg, and joined the American Army near Philadelphia.

I was annexed to Capt. Peyton Harrison’s Company in said Regiment, as Sergeant, and continued as such, during my service in the Regiment. In the winter of 1777-1778, the army took up their winter quarters at the Valley Forge. When the Spring Campaign opened we left our huts and lay in the plains below, on the Schuylkill, until the enemy left Philadelphia.

As soon as the news of their movement arrived in our Camp the whole American Army was put in motion and crossed the Delaware at [?] ferry, as well as my memory serves.

Orders were given to the troops to divest themselves of knap-sacks and blankets in order to go with as much expedition as possible on a fast march to [overtake] the enemy.

Monmouth-mapThe day was [exceptionally] hot and as our march was through a dry, barren sandy coun-try destitute of water, many of our soldiers became exhausted, and fell by the way. Our Army passed through Mount Holley, an English town in the State of New Jersey. The principal action took place between the church and Monmouth Court House, where we [?] the retreating troops under Gen.l Charles Lee.

This battle was fought on the 28th June 1778, and my Regiment was in the latter part of the action. The division to which I belonged, formed near the church. The Re-giment in which I served, was then commanded by Col. Christian Febiger, an old swede, who told me he had been in thirty six actions in Europe and America.

The English having gained the heights of Monmouth, commenced a heavy fire from their artillery, which was returned by Col. Harrison of Virginia, commanding our artillery — We lay on the field of battle that night, and on the next day, buried the dead of both armies. The British having made their escape during the night, our army took up the line of March, for the heights of Brunswick, and lay their some time.

Pension application of John Hereford

Advertisements

September 11, 1777: Battle of Brandywine

“He [Colonel Alexander Spotswood] commanded the second [Virginia] regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.”

– Francis Brooke

The Battle of the Brandywine, was fought on September 11, 1777, in the area surrounding Chadds Ford, PA. The battle, which was a decisivevictory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on September 26, beginning an occupation that would last until June, 1778.

Edward G. Lengel explains the positioning of the Continental Army in his article, The Battle of Brandywine: “Washington concentrated the American defenses at Chad’s Ford, but also prepared to prevent possible British flanking movements to the south or north. Pyle’s Ford, an easily defensible crossing and the only practicable one south of Chad’s Ford, was covered by two brigades of Pennsylvania militia under Brigadier General John Armstrong. Nathaniel Greene’s 1st Division, composed of the 1st and 2d Virginia Brigades under Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg and George Weedon, was entrusted with the primary defense of Chad’s Ford. Greene’s troops straddled the Nottingham road leading east from the Brandywine. To Greene’s right was Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s 4th division containing two brigades of Pennsylvania Continentals. Colonel Thomas Procter’s Continental Artillery Regiment was placed on some heights commanding Chad’s Ford to Wayne’s right.” The 2d Virginia Regiment was assigned to Weedon’s Brigade of Greene’s Division.

Lengel further writes that “What remained of the three divisions fled a mile further east to Dilworthtown, just north of which place Greene’s division was forming up. Washington had dispatched Greene to this place after learning of the fall of Birmingham Hill, and he now arrived to supervise the positioning of Greene’s troops. By this time the 1st division was the last fresh American division on the field. Knyphausen had assaulted Wayne’s and Maxwell’s positions around Chad’s Ford at five o’clock, rapidly driving them back and capturing all of Procter’s guns. The position at Dilworthtown was therefore critical if the rest of the army (including Armstrong’s militia, which had not been engaged but was busy retreating eastward) was to be preserved.

"Weedon's Run" by Pamela Patrick White & Bryant White, http://www.whitehistoricart.com

That this position held until sundown was partly because of Washington’s careful positioning, at Sullivan’s suggestion, of Brigadier Generals Peter Muhlenberg’s and George Weedon’s brigades respectively on the front and flank of the British advance. As the Hessian grenadiers marched on Dilworthtown, Captain Johann Ewald [of the Hesse-Cassell Jaegers] wrote, they “received intense grapeshot and musketry fire which threw [the Germans] into disorder, but they recovered themselves quickly, deployed, and attacked the village.’

[General James] Agnew’s 4th Brigade…occupying at Ewald’s suggestion a hill on the flank, ‘ran into several American regiments’ of Weedon’s brigade [2d and 10th Virginia Regiments], preparing to fall upon the German’s flank. ‘At this point,’ Ewald wrote, ‘there was terrible firing, and half of the Englishmen and nearly all of the officers of these two regiments (they were the 46th and 64th Regiments of Foot) were slain.’ Fortunately for the British, an English artillery officer arrived opportunely with two six-pounders on Weedon’s flank, breaking up their attack. By this time it was growing dark and Greene’s men could follow their compatriots to Chester while the British remained in Dilworthtown, tending the wounded of both sides.”

Francis Brooke (who served as a lieutenant in the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment) recalls the service of his father-in-law Colonel Alexander Spotswood and the 2d Virginia Regiment at the Battle of Brandywine in his memoirs: “He commanded the second regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.” This is corroborated by Captain John Peebles of the 42nd Regiment of Foot‘s grenadier company writes in his diary that the men of Weedon’s Brigade were “…the Enemy’s best troops…”

Video from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos from the 2010 Reenactment

Photos on Flickr

October 4, 1777: Battle of Germantown

"The Battle of Germantown" by Xavier della Gatta, 1782

The heroism and gallantry of the second Virginia regiment I cannot help particularly mentioning; they would do honour to any country in the world. It is universally believed they behaved the best of any troops in the field.”

— Virginia Gazette, October 17, 1777

Virginia Gazette, October 17, 1777

WILLIAMSBURG, Oct. 17.
Extract of a letter from York town, Pennsylvania,
dated October 8, 1777.

Our loss is pretty well fixed to seven hundred killed, wounded, and missing; that of the enemy not certainly known, but surely very great, as you may judge by the following intelligence, brought this evening by General Green’s aid de camp, and which he says may be relied upon: General Agnew, Colonels Walcot, Abercrombie, and Thomas Byrd, from Virginia, with General De Heister’s son, killed; General Kniphausen wounded in the hand; and between two and three hundred waggons, loaded with wounded, sent to Philadelphia.  That General Howe had sent about two thousand Hessians over Schuylkill (denoting a retreat) and that he had refused to let any of the inhabitants of Philadelphia go to see the field of battle”.

“General Schuyler writes us, the twenty ninth of September, that if superior numbers, health, and spirits, can give success, our army in the Northern department will have it this campaign.

“For my part, I do not despair of success in this quarter also.  Another such battle as the last will totally unfit General Howe for pursuing farther hostilities this campaign, and again possess us of Philadelphia.”

This moment an express arrived, with a letter from Captain William Pierce, dated Skippack camp, 12 o’clock P.M. the day which the above bloodly battle was fought.  It contains sundry particulars, but the printed has only time to relate the following, viz.  Our glorious general, after animating speech to his army, directed them to hold themselves in readiness to march at 6 o’clock, with two days provision, ordered large fires to be made in the camp, and the tents to stand still nine at night, when they were to be struck, and put into the baggage waggons.  The army marched all night, arrived at Chestnut Hill about day-break, and immediately fell upon the enemy’s picket guard, with such fury and firmness, that they were instantly routed, with great slaughter.  The whole army then pushed towards Germantown, but were met by the main body of the British army consisting of about ten thousand men, when a hot and dreadful engagement ensued.  After an incessant fire of cannon and musketry, for upwards of an hour, the enemy gave way in all quarters and our men drove them, with fixed bayonets, for near two miles, when they formed again.  Our men, with steadiness and intrepidity, broke them a second time, and they retreated in great disorder to Germantown, with our whole army in close pursuit of them, till they got about half way the town,

"...when they took up in houses..."Cliveden, the home of Benjamin Chew, was used by British forces during the battle

when they took up in houses, and opened upon our men two or three field pieces with grape shot, which played with such violence that general Sullivan’s division gave way, and we, in turn, were beat back better than two miles.  Both armies, being greatly fatigued, shewed a willingness to discontinue the fight, and ours were ordered to march to Skippack creek, where they are now encamped.  The enemy contented themselves with their last advantage, and retired to their old quarters at Germantown.  They must have had 1000 killed dead on the field, and at least 1500 wounded.  A Captain, and twenty five men, fell into our hands.  Our loss does not exceed three hundred killed, and five hundred wounded.  We brought off two field pieces, and two waggons loaded with baggage.  General Nash is mortally wounded with a cannon ball.  Col. Hendricks is wounded below the left eye, but likely to recover; he behaved with such heroism, that he was the admiration of the field.  Lieut. Col. Parker, of the second Virginia regiment, a brave officer, got wounded in the leg, and it is said the bone is broke.  Col. Matthew Smith, our deputy adjutant general, got his leg broke by a grape shot.  Cornet Baylor, of light horse, had one half of his foot shot away.  Major Jameson had his horse killed under him, but he himself was unhurt.  Capt. Dickinson was slightly wounded in the knee.  Capt. Thomas Edmonds was so badly wounded, that he died in a few hours.  Capt. Eustace, of the first Virginia regiment, was killed dead on the spot.  Two Maryland colonels, of the name of Stone, were wounded, and many other officers, that I cannot recollect at present.  The heroism and gallantry of the second Virginia regiment I cannot help particularly mentioning; they would do honour to any country in the world.  It is universally believed they  behaved the best of any troops in the field.  Indeed the whole continental army is composed of a set of brave men; and if the different states would exert themselves to raise their different quotas, general WASHINGTON would put an end to the contest immediately.  The artillery I cannot overlook; it was served, in every instance, to admiration.  Col. Josiah Parker behaved like a hero. Brigade Major Scott does honour to his country, and in the action shewed himself to be one of the first military characters in our army.  Capt. Moss, of the first Virginia regiment, I must not forget; he is truly a brave man.  The Carolina troops fought like heroes. —  The Delaware Frigate fell into the enemy’s hands, it is said by the treachery of the crew; but the river is still ours, and I am convinced Philadelphia will be again in a few weeks.

Dr. James Wallace to Michael Wallace

Head Quarters Army, Oct. 12, 1777

Dear Sir: I received yours two days after the action at German Town whilst I was in the midst of fatigue and hurry with my sick wounded, among whome was our friend Col. Blackburn, who was wounded through the thigh, has been under my care ill within these few days I left him at Baltimore in care of Dr. Brown. I make no doubt but by this time you have a very ostentatious account of the drubbing we had at German Town. We most certainly were drubbed, let the account which you have received be what they will. I wish it was in my power to give you a just account of the action. I believe few know. But this much is evident that we attacked the enemy early in the morning before it was quite light, and drove them some distance, when all of a sudden we retreated in a very confused state and left many of our wounded on the field. The 9th Virg’a Reg. was all taken to a man; the manner in which they were taken does them much honour, if it be true. It is said they fought their way into the commons of Philadelphia and on the army’s retreating they were left without any support, and were surrounded and all taken.

The whole of this affair appears a mystery to me. Many of the officers have told me that when they were ordered to retreat they were then pursuing the enemy, who were flying before them; they were astonished to the last degree when they retreated from the highest expectations of success. Our army is now [in] exceedingly good spirits. We increase every day with the militia from Virginia, we have rec’d a reinforcement of about 1500 Continental troops from New England.

We lost only one officer out of our Regiment, which was Mr. Die of Capt. Willises company. Our Lieutenant Col. Parker was wounded in the leg. Since the action we have lost a fine officer from our Reg’t, viz., Col. Spotswood, who has resigned and gone home. I wrote you a day or two before the engagement at Brandy Wine which I imagine you have not rec’d. Many of my intimate acquaintances were killed; the third Virg’a Reg’t was cut to pieces.

Narrative of My Life; For My Family, Francis T. Brooke

The General was neglectful of his affairs, and was better fitted for the army than for the pursuits of civil life.  He commanded the second regiment, at the battle of Brandywine; and, it was said by a British writer, one Smith, that it was the only regiment that left the field of battle in good order.  He was again in the battle of Germantown, where his brother, Capt. Spotswood, being badly wounded, was thought to be dead; whereupon he sent his resignation to Gen. Washington, having made a contract with his brother, when they entered the army, that if either should be killed, the survivor should return home to take care of the two families.  When it was known that Capt. Spotswood was still alive, a prisoner in Philadelphia, he wished to return to his command in the army; but General Washington replied to his letter to this effect, that he could not be reinstated in his former command, because many officers had been promoted after his resignation…General Spotswood spent a great deal of his fortune in the army; and representing a claim for his land, before a committee of the Senate of Virginia, I heard General Meade, who was a member of that committee say, that he knew the fact, that while the army of the North was naked of clothing, General Spotswood had clothed his whole regiment out of his own pocket, in Philadelphia.

Recommended Reading: Battle History of the 2d Virginia Regiment

Battle of Great Bridge

Philadelphia Campaign

Paulus Hook

Charleston

Guilford Courthouse (Hawes’ 2d Virginia Regiment of 1781)