Morgan’s riflemen at the battle of monmouth

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Why Colonel Morgan Did Not Come Up on Lee’s Right

Copyright © 2003 by Rich Bellamy

Daniel Morgan was born in 1732. Some authors have credited Morgan as a native of Virginia or Pennsylvania but the most convincing case is for Hunterdon County, New Jersey. While in his mid-teens he had an argument with his father and leave New Jersey for Virginia. He would call Virginia home for the rest of his life.

He was not an educated man but moved up the ranks to become a General in George Washington’s Army. His earliest military experience occurred on the Braddock expedition during the French and Indian War. Morgan served as a wagon driver. In the Monmouth Campaign he served as a Colonel commanding his beloved riflemen.

Morgan was not the only man in the Monmouth Campaign who was serving with General Braddock’s Army in 1755 when it met a disastrous defeat. Other notables in Braddock’s Army were the number one and the number two men in the American Army - George Washington and Charles Lee. Sir Henry Clinton, the leader of the British Army, was also present at the defeat of Braddock’s Army.

Colonel Morgan had come a long way since the French and Indian War. Earlier in the Revolutionary War Morgan and his Virginia Riflemen served as the advance during Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec in 1775. That march is still considered one of the most outstanding military campaigns in our nation’s history. Morgan was captured at Quebec but was back serving under General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. It is only after the Americans won at Saratoga that the French believed the Americans would have a chance to win the war. Saratoga gave the French the confidence to enter the Revolutionary War on the American side.

With the French in the war, London was afraid the French Fleet would bottle up Clinton’s British Army in Philadelphia. In early 1778 London sent instructions for the British Army to leave Philadelphia and go to New York City. Clinton did not have enough ships to send everyone by sea so about 17,000 British and Hessians had to march across New Jersey. Once the British started the march, Washington sent soldiers to harass Clinton’s Army on the march. Morgan and his 900 riflemen were part of the men assigned to this task. This was Morgan’s element and he did an excellent job.

Washington detached another larger force while his army was pursuing the British Army. Major General Charles Lee commanded this force of 5,000 men. Lee had orders to attack the rear of Clinton’s Army if Lee saw the opportunity to do so. On the evening of June 27th Lee and

his 5,000 men were at Englishtown, New Jersey. Washington with the rest of the army except for some militia and Morgan’s men were seven miles away to the northwest, in what is now present day Monroe. Clinton and his army were at Monmouth Courthouse (Freehold), five miles to the east of Englishtown.

At about 12:30 AM on June 28, 1778 Lee received a message from Washington informing Lee of Morgan’s location, which Lee had not known. Morgan and his force of 900 were three and one-half miles south of Monmouth Courthouse at Richmond’s Mill. Now that Lee knew the location of Morgan’s command, he wrote to Morgan at 1:00 AM informing him that he expected to attack Clinton’s rear in the early morning and that he wanted Morgan to be on Lee’s right flank. Lee dated his letter June 28th. Morgan received the letter at about 3:00 AM and as it was already the early morning of June 28th he believed he was to be on the British flank in the early morning of June 29th. Another possibility is that Morgan had only indefinite information about precisely where he was to go or when he was to go there. Morgan was left in a wait and see situation. In either case Morgan did not move from Richmond’s Mill on the 28th.

The June 28th morning battle between Lee’s advance and Clinton’s army lasted until about 11:30 AM. Morgan, at Richmond’s Mill, could hear the fighting. He sent a courier to find out what was happening. The courier could not find General Lee but did find General Wayne, who was in the process of retreating. Wayne’s message for the courier was that the enemy was advancing and that Morgan should “govern yourself accordingly…” This would not be of much help to Morgan. The courier next found General Washington and Washington wrote the following for Morgan, “confine yourself to observing the motions of the enemy…”

Morgan and his men were never of any assistance to Lee during the morning’s fight, as Morgan did not come up on Lee’s right as Lee expected. By the time Morgan received instructions from Washington it was the afternoon of the battle. He was uncertain where the British troops were and so took a roundabout way to reach Washington’s command. For this reason he arrived at the battle area too late to take part in the fighting.

After the battle Morgan continued to bite at the flanks of Clinton’s army as the British continued their retreat across New Jersey to Sandy Hook. At Sandy Hook ships carried the British Army safely to New York City.

This is how one of the most elite units in the American army, Morgan’s rifleman, were present near the battlefield but took no active part in the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778.


By David Martin
Richmond’s (Richman’s) Mill was located at the head of a millpond just to the east of Halls’ Mill Road, about three miles south of Monmouth Court House (present day Freehold). The mill, also known as Shumar’s Mill, Hall’s Mill or Blue Ball Mill, was built around 1747 by Stephen Haviland. Some of its hand-hewn beams were thirty feet in length. During the late 1800s it was well known for its fine quality of flour. In the early 1900s the mill was used variously as a roadside stand, a lunchroom a dance hall, and a residence. It burned in 1932.

The millpond is now on the grounds of the Rutgers Soils and Crop Research Center, and is not accessible to the public. However, it is possible to view the site from the Research Center’s parking lot.

The Research Center is located on the east side of Hall’s Mills Road, about 1.5 mile south of Park Street (Route 33) and about .7 mile north of the intersection of Hall’s Mill Road and Route 524 just west of Adelphia (there is a McDonald’s at this intersection). You can also reach the Research Station by going south on Route 9 to the intersection of Route 9 and Route 524. Turn left (east) on Route 524 and go .3 mile to the intersection with Route 524 and Hall’s Mills Road. This is where the hamlet of Blue Ball was located. It was named after a tavern erected in 1800. In 1834 the settlement consisted of a tavern, a store, ten or twelve houses and two churches; there is a shopping center there now. Turn left on Hall’s Mill Road (there is a McDonald’s nearby) and the Research Station will be .7 mile north on the right.

Richmond’s Mill no longer exists, but the mill pond can be seen in the woods to the southeast of the Research Center. Please bear in mind that the Rutgers Soils and Crop Research Center is private property and not part of Monmouth Battlefield State Park, so do not linger long in their parking lot or leave your car to wander around their facilities. In addition, it is NOT advisable to try to look for the mill site as you are driving along Hall’s Mill Road between the Research Station and Blue Ball because the road is quite narrow and busy.

As noted in Rich Bellamy’s accompanying narrative, Colonel Daniel Morgan’s force of about 800 riflemen was operating in the vicinity of Richmond’s Mill on June 27. General Charles Lee gave Morgan orders to move against the southern flank of the British forces at Freehold, but Morgan did not do so because of a confusion in the wording of his orders (Lee ordered Morgan to attack in the morning, but dated his order June 28, so Morgan thought he was supposed to attack on June 29). As a result, Morgan did not participate in the battle of Monmouth, which was fought to the east and west of Freehold during most of the day on June 28.

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