On Monmouth's Fields

In June of seventeen seventy-eight
General Clinton led British troops north,
forced to abandon Philadelphia,
he now marched leisurely for New York.

He knew American troops shadowed him,
and he realized that he had a good chance
to draw Washington out and strike a blow
before he continued his advance.

The patriots had just come off of
a brutal winter at Valley Forge,
most know about how they suffered and froze,
but to the sad story there is much more.

Because the whole of that frigid winter
the great Kościuszko made them all drill,
turning a mob of backwoods militia
into professionals of great skill.

The hunger and hardships they had faced,
and the long winter days they had to train,
turned them to hard men, tested and tried,
those who left the Forge were not the same.

But the generals still did not think them
strong enough to beat Clinton's army,
yet they couldn't just let an enemy force
march through New Jersey with impunity.

What kind of country would they be making
if they could not control their own lands?
Morale was already at a low ebb,
they needed to make some sort of stand.

They decided to destroy-in-detail,
limit their attack to the British rear-guard,
Lafayette wanted to lead the assault,
but General Lee was finally put in charge.

He led his men on a lengthy advance,
with British Rangers there was skirmishing,
the Continentals got the best of it,
and the British scouts continued retreating.

But when they got up to Monmouth's field
they were all shocked by what they found there,
the British rear-guard, reinforced and strong,
and soon Lee's thoughts turned to despair.

His flanks were already out of their place,
and his command just could not unify,
the line did not seem to coordinate
no matter how many aides went to ride.

Facing a foe of superior force,
and still not confident about the men,
he ordered retreat back to a forest,
where he planned to organize a defense.

Behind this fight, far from the confusion,
Washington marched on with the bulk of his force,
then he saw soldiers coming towards him,
and pressed forwards mounted on his horse.

The men knew not where they were to go,
they just knew they'd been told to retreat,
angered that the attack had stalled out,
General Washington rode to find Lee.

He found him and his men fighting as rear-guard,
demanded to know why they were falling back,
scolding General Lee for taking the job
if he had not intended to attack!

He reformed the routing patriots,
formed a line atop a rise, Perrine's Hill,
brought in General Knox and the artillery,
commanding the mass through sheer force of will.

He needed to buy time for the main force
to march on and join up in the battle,
the British kept coming, soon to attack,
convinced they still had the patriots rattled.

Before in battle the Redcoats just had
to flash their bayonets in the bright sun,
that was enough to scare Continentals
and assure them the battle was won.

But they were no longer facing such men,
the Americans had learned Europe's game,
they did not flee at the sight of steel,
gave hard volleys once the foe was in range.

Britain's field commander, General Cornwallis,
made several attacks to break up the line,
only to run into fire and rage,
with his Redcoats turned back every time.

They he tried to turn Washington's left flank,
the boldest maneuver of the fight yet,
but the main force had come, and pushed forwards,
striking hard under young Lafayette.

Seeing there would be no quick victory
the British withdrew there forces back,
both armies in defensive positions,
the fight would become a long slugging match.

Soldiers hunkered down as across the fields
artillery thundered and cut loose,
both sides trying to break up the other,
their foe's ranks they sought hard to reduce.

The heat was such that many of the men,
suffered and even died from heat stroke!
One man passed out and his wife manned his gun,
fighting on alongside all the blokes.

Then Washington sent Nathaniel Green
with artillery up towards Comb's Hill,
a high position on the British left,
from which the guns could enfilade and kill.

The British saw their hopeless position,
and quickly began an ordered retreat,
marching north towards Clinton's main force,
having blown their opportunity.

Washington saw his enemy leaving,
and sent Mad Anthony Wayne forward,
to harangue the British as they marched off,
cutting down men despite their good order.

And through the battle ended as a draw,
for the nation it was victory,
they'd kept the field in an open battle,
and matched the Redcoats in soldiery.

This changed the calculus of the whole war,
all knew battles would be more costly now,
England would no longer campaign in the north,
hoping for easier prey down south…

by David Welch

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