Henry Dearborn: "The Plains Near Monmouth Court House"

A Revolutionary War Experience Primary Source
This is a sketch of three soldiers operating a cannon.

Henry Dearborn led American soldiers during the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. He kept a diary during the Revolutionary War, and this is his journal entry from that day. Spelling and capitalization is original. 


28th haveing Intiligence this morning before sun Rise, that the Enimy ware mooving, we ware Ordered, together with the Troops Commanded by the Marquis & Genr. Lee (in the whole About 5000) to march towards the Enimy & as we thought to Attact them.—at Eleven oClock A.M. after marching about 6 or 7 miles we ariv'd on the Plains Near monmouth Court House, Where a Collumn of the Enimy appeared in sight, a brisk Cannonade Commens'd on both sides, the Collumn which was advancing towards us Halted & soon Retired, but from some moovements of theirs we ware Convinced they Intended to fight us, shifted our ground, form-d on very good Ground & waited to see if they Intended to Come on, we soon Discovered a Large Collumn Turning our Right & other Coming up in our Front With Cavelry in front of both Collumns Genr Lee was on the Right of our Line who Left the ground & made Tracks Quick Step twoards English Town. Genr Scots Detachment Remained on the ground we form-d on until we found we war very near surrounded—& ware Obliged to Retire which we Did in good order altho we ware hard Prest on our Left flank.—the Enimy haveing got a mile in Rear of us before we began to Retire & ware bearing Down on our Left as we went off & we Confin'd by a Morass on our Right, after Retireing about 2 miles we met his Excelency Genr. Washington who after seeing what Disorder Gen Lee's Troops ware in appeer'd to be at a Loss whether we should be able to make a stand or not, however he order'd us to form on a Heighth, & Indevour to Check the Enimy, we form-d & about 12 Peices of Artillery being brought on to the hill with us; the Enimy at the same time advaning very Rappedly finding we had form'd, they form'd in our front on a Ridge & brought up their Artillery within about 60 Ros of our front. When the brisket Cannonade Commenced on both sides that I Ever heard.—Both Armies ware on Clear Ground, & if any thing Can be Call'd Musical where their is so much Danger, I think that was the finest musick, I Ever heard.—however the agreeableness of the musick was very often Lessen'd by the balls Coming too near—Our men being very much beat out with Fateague & heat which was very Intence, we order-d them to sit Down & Rest them selves,—from the time we first met the Enimy until we had form'd as above mentioned several sevear scurmishes hapened at Different Places & Times,—Soon after the Cannonade became serious at Large Collum of ehe Enimy began to Turn our Left—Some Part of our Artillery Play'd upon them very Briskly & they finding their main Body & they finding their main Body ware not advancing halted—the Cannonade Continued about 2 1/2 Hours & then the Enimy began to Retire from their Right. Genr. Washington being in front of our Reg. when the Enimy began to Retire on their Right he ordered Col. Cilley & me with abt. 300 men to go & attact the Enimies Right wing, which then was Passing thro an orchard, but when they found we ware about to attact them they form'd & stood Redy to Receive us, when we ariv'd within 200 yards of them we form-d Batallion & advanc'd but having two Rail fences to take Down as we advanced, (the Last of which was within 60 yards of the Enimy) we Could advance but slowly, the Enimy when we ware takeing Down the Last fence, give us a very heavy fire which we Did not Return, after takeing Down the Last fence we march'd on with armes shouldered Except 20 men who we sent on their Right to scurmish with them while we Pass-d the fences, the Enimy finding we ware Determined to Come to Close quarter, fil'd off from the Left & Run off upon our Right into a swamp & formd in the Edge of it, we Wheel'd to the Right & advanc'd towards them, they began a heavy fire upon us we ware Desending toward them in Open field, with shoulder'd armes until we had got within 4 Rods of them when our men Dress'd very Coolly & we then gave them a very heavy fire from the whole Batallion. they had two Peices of artillery across a small Run which Play'd with grape very briskly upon us but when they found we ware Determin'd to Push upon them they Retreeted to their main body which was giving way & ware Persued by some Parties from our Line, we Persued until we got Possession of the field of Battle, where we found 300 Dead & a Conciderable number of wound[ed],—among the dead was Col. Mungton & a number of other officers, the Enimy Retired—across a Morass & formed. Our men being beat out with heat & fateague it was thought not Prudent to Persue them. Great numbers of the Enemy Died with heat & some of ours—we Remain'd on the field of Battle & ware to attact the Enimy Early Next morning but they Prevented us by a Precipitate Retreet in the middle of the night, they Left 5 Officers wounded at Monmouth Court House the Enimies Whole Loss in the Battle of Monmouth was 327 kill'd - 500 wounded - 95 Prisoner

Our Loss—63 kill'd - 219 wounded

Here Ends the famous Battle of Monmouth.



Journals of Henry Dearborn, 1776-1783 by Henry Dearborn (Cambridge: J. Wilson and Son, 1887).

Related Battles

New Jersey | June 28, 1778
Result: Inconclusive
Estimated Casualties