To John Augustine Washington
Brunswick in New Jersey July 4th 1778.
Your Letter of the 20th Ulto came to my hands last Night1—before this will have reached you, the Acct of the Battle of Monmouth propably will get to Virginia; which, from an unfortunate, and bad beginning, turned out a glorious and happy day.
The Enemy evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th Instt—at ten oclock that day I got intelligence of it, and by two oclock, or soon after, had Six Brigades on their March for the Jerseys, & followed with the whole Army next Morning—On the 21st we compleated our passage over the Delaware at Coryells ferry (abt 33 Miles above Philadelphia) distance from Valley forge near 40 Miles—From this Ferry we moved down towards the Enemy, and on the 27th got within Six Miles of them.
General Lee having the command of the Van of the Army, consisting of fully 5000 chosen Men, was ordered to begin the Attack next Morning so soon as the enemy began their March, to be supported by me—But, strange to tell! when he came up with the enemy, a retreat commenced; whether by his order, or from other causes, is now the subject of enquiry, & consequently improper to be discanted on, as he is in arrest and a Court Martial sitting for tryal of him. A Retreat however was the fact, be the causes as they may; and the disorder arising from it would have proved fatal to the Army had not that bountiful Providence which has never failed us in the hour of distress, enabled me to form a Regiment or two (of those that were retreating) in the face of the Enemy, and under their fire, by which means a stand was made long enough (the place through which the enemy were pursuing being narrow) to form the Troops that were advancing, upon an advantageous piece of Ground in the rear. hence our affairs took a favourable turn, & from being pursued, we drove the Enemy back, over ground they had followed us, recovered the field of Battle, & possessed ourselves of their dead. but, as they retreated behind a Morass very difficult to pass, & had both Flanks secured with thick Woods, it was found impracticable with Men fainting with fatiegue, heat, and want of water, to do any thing more that Night. In the Morning we expected to renew the Action, when behold the enemy had stole off as Silent as the Grave in the Night after having sent away their wounded. Getting a Nights March of us, and having but ten Miles to a strong pass, it was judged inexpedient to follow them any further, but move towards the North River least they should have any design upon our posts there.
We buried 245 of their dead on the field of Action—they buried several themselves—and many have been since found in the Woods, where, during the action they had drawn them to, and hid them—We have taken five Officers and upwards of One hundred Prisoners, but the amount of their wounded we have not learnt with any certainty; according to the common proposition of four or five to one, their should be at least a thousand or 1200—Without exagerating, there trip through the Jerseys in killed, Wounded, Prisoners, & deserters, has cost them at least 2000 Men & of their best Troops—We had 60 Men killed—132 Wounded & abt 130 Missing, some of whom I suppose may yet come in. Among our Slain Officers is Majr Dickenson, & Captn Fauntleroy, two very valuable ones.
I observe what you say concerning voluntary enlistments, or rather your Scheme for raising 2000 Volunteers; & candidly own to you I have no opinion of it—these measures only tend to burthen the public with a number of Officers without adding one jot to your strength, but greatly to confusion, and disorder—If the several States would but fall upon some vigorous measures to fill up their respective Regiments nothing more need be asked of them, but while these are neglected, or in other words ineffectually & feebly attended to, & these succeedaniums tried, you never can have an Army to depend upon.
The Enemy’s whole force Marched through the Jerseys (that were able) except the Regiment of Anspach, which, it is said, they were affraid to trust, & therefore sent them round to New York by Water, along with the Commissioners; I do not learn that they have received much of a reinforcement as yet—nor do I think they have much prospect of any, worth Speaking of, as I believe they stand very critically with respect to France.
As the Post waits I shall only add my love to my Sister2 and the family, & Strong assurances of being with the sincerest regard & Love—Yr Most Affecte Brother
Mr Ballendines Letter shall be sent to New York by the first Flag.3 I am now moving on towards the No. River.
1. This letter has not been found.
2. GW was referring to his sister-in-law, John’s wife, Hannah Bushrod Washington.
3. This letter has not been identified. The correspondent may have been John Ballendine (d. 1782), at this time of Fairfax County, a promoter, builder, and operator of a series of mills, ironworks, and canals in Virginia, with whom GW had a variety of dealings.