At Monmouth Courthouse in east-central New Jersey, General Washington's Continental Army came of age. Leavened by their experiences during the winter encampment at Valley Forge, the Continentals would give as good as they got on that sweltering mid-summer's day: June 28th, 1778.
GMT is pleased to offer the latest in Mark Miklos' popular and critically acclaimed American Revolutionary War series: Volume V, Monmouth.
The British campaign of 1777 had ended on a mixed note. On the one hand, their attempt to split New England from the rest of the rebellious colonies by driving the line of the Hudson Valley ended in failure with the surrender of General Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. [See GMT's American Revolutionary War series, Volume I: Saratoga.]
On the other hand, British General Sir William Howe successfully captured the American capitol at Philadelphia after defeating General Washington's Continental Army at Brandywine Creek. [See GMT's American Revolutionary War series, Volume II: Brandywine.]
The winter of 1777-1778 would prove pivotal to the cause of American liberty. France joined the war against England and the Continental Army received professional training from Baron von Steuben during their winter encampment at Valley Forge. Both events would have far reaching consequences.
As the campaigning season of 1778 dawned, the British decided to evacuate Philadelphia and concentrate their military effort in New York City. The new British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Henry Clinton, sent a portion of his force to New York by sea. The rest, numbering some 20,000 troops with their baggage and camp followers, undertook to march across the narrow waist of New Jersey to Sandy Hook, from whence they could sail to Staten Island.
By June 18th this force and its 1,500 wagons were across the Delaware River on the New Jersey shore. The British moved in 2 great columns under Generals Cornwallis and Knyphausen. On June 26th the leading elements of the British army entered the village of Monmouth Courthouse and halted for a 36-hour rest. Sandy Hook and safety was only a day's march away.
General Washington reacted to the anticipated British evacuation by positioning his army on high ground north of Princeton. For two days he waited to determine what route the British would ultimately take in their retreat across New Jersey. He hoped for an opportunity to strike them and test his newly trained troops. Meanwhile, General Maxwell's New Jersey Brigade and the New Jersey militia harassed the enemy movements.
On June 24th Washington called a council of war. His second in command, Major General Charles Lee, and several other officers were opposed to bringing on a general engagement. Generals Greene, Wayne, and La Fayette, however, argued for sending out a large detachment to support the troops already harassing the British with the main body of the army kept within striking distance. Eventually the council agreed. Lee was given command of nearly 5,500 men of the American vanguard.
The early phases of the battle of Monmouth are a confusing maze of marches and counter marches by the Americans. Having failed to properly scout the ground, Lee had little solid intelligence to go on, a flurry of contradictory reports to interpret, and had given his brigadiers scant instructions other than to be ready to react as circumstances may dictate.
Initially the numerically superior American vanguards attempted to envelope and destroy the 1,200-man British rear guard near the outskirts of the village of Monmouth Courthouse. The main British army had marched out of town in the pre-dawn darkness. The trailing element of the army was General Cornwallis' 9,500-man First Division that was ordered to countermarch to the relief of the rear guard.
Thrown into disarray as much by the arrival of overwhelming numbers as by the lack of command and control, many American units began to retreat on the authority of their own regimental colonels. A few American officers showed initiative and offered noteworthy delaying actions but could not stem the tide of the onrushing British wave.
At a critical moment General Washington arrived, having moved ahead of his main body that was moving up to support Lee. Expecting to see a smart American action he was horrified to find the vanguard in a state of near collapse. In one of the more colorful moments of the war Washington, from the saddle, relieved Lee of command and stabilized the American lines.
The middle stages of the battle included gallant and heroic fighting by both sides across farms, hedgerows and ravines as well as an immense artillery barrage involving 22 guns for two hours. The British light infantry attempted to turn the American left behind Perrine Ridge but were unsuccessful. The Americans, on the other hand, did manage to swing a brigade of Continentals with a battery of 4 guns to the top of Comb's Hill on the British left.
His lines now exposed to a raking fire, his men exhausted, and his baggage now safely out of reach of the Continentals, Clinton decided to halt the attack. As units began to yield the ground Washington ordered a limited counter attack. Two detachments of "picked men" drove the 2nd Battalion, 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) from an exposed position in an apple orchard on the British right while General Anthony Wayne led 3 small regiments against the 1st Grenadiers on the British left.
Monmouth, considered a "draw" by most historians, was not only the longest battle of the war; it was essentially the last major engagement fought in the North. Following the ensuing strategic stalemate, major operations shifted to the Southern theater.
- Molly Pitcher. Mary Hays (a.k.a. Molly Pitcher) won the hearts of the troops and entered American folklore after she replaced her fallen husband and helped to man one of the artillery pieces along Perrine Ridge.
- Allows any 1 American artillery unit to rally from disruption without die roll. American player decides when to invoke the Molly Pitcher rule. Molly remains with that artillery unit for the rest of the game.
- Heat Game Turns. June 28th, 1778, was the hottest day on record in New Jersey up to that time. On both sides, more men died from the heat that day than from enemy action.
- During the 7 heat game turns, artillery movement is reduced, units suffer a -1 DRM to all morale check die rolls, and if the Initiative die roll is tied, the game turn is skipped (unless either player used Momentum to influence the Initiative roll.)
- The overall number of "High Morale" spaces on the Army Morale Track has been reduced while the number of "Fatigued" spaces has been increased to further reflect the difficult conditions that day.
- Many American units were ordered to drop their coats and packs. British units fought in their full-dress woolen uniforms. American troop icons will be drawn in shirtsleeves to reflect the orders of the day.
- Variable Reinforcements & Play Balance. Historically, 800 riflemen and light infantry under Colonel Dan Morgan took no part in the battle because of faulty communications. Likewise, General Clinton called for additional reinforcements that never arrived.
- Players may or may not receive significant late-game reinforcements, some of which have variable entry options. Among those units that may or may not appear are Morgan's rifles, the Hessian Jaeger Corps, the British 2nd Brigade under Major General James Grant, several Loyalist units and 3 Brigades of Continentals held in reserve at Englishtown to guard against a British strategic turning movement.
- For play balance allow the British reinforcements only with a strong American player and the American reinforcement only with a strong British player.
- Command & Control for Lee's Vanguard. Lee failed to reconnoiter or give his unit commanders a specific battle plan. Throughout the morning he issued contradictory and conflicting orders. The American player will be handicapped by poor command and control until Lee is relieved of command by Washington.
- Each turn a die is rolled to determine which American brigade(s) or detachment(s) is effected. The frequency of the outcome reflects the actual unit performances. A second die is rolled to determine the impact of command & control breakdown upon those units for the game turn. Impact can range from movement restrictions or outright loss of movement to negative combat modifiers and full retreat. It's possible for units to retreat off the board and out of the game! What's more, every regiment or battalion within a brigade is equally affected. Individual counters will identify the unit's parent formation for ease of reference.
- Victory objectives. Several farms within the middle of the game board represent victory points per turn for the side in "control."
- In this way players have incentive to play in the middle of the board. For the Americans, a quick rush forward by Lee to grab points or eliminate the British rear guard is hampered by lack of command and control. For the British, keeping the rear guard in action to control points has to be balanced against knowing when to pull back. Ultimately, each side will be heavily reinforced and the battle will sway across the Jersey farmland.
- Demi-Leaders. (American): Colonel Dan Morgan and Lt. Colonel Eleazer Oswald. (British): Brigadier General Sir William Erskine and Lt. Colonel James Webster.
- Oswald is a demi-leader of artillery and unlike other demi-leaders, has no effect on the play of tactics chits. Instead, he allows the American player to stack 2 artillery units in the same space.
As with all games in the American Revolutionary War series, on-site research has been conducted by the designer with support from Park Historian Dr. Garry Wheeler Stone, Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Thanks to the courtesy of Dr. Stone, the Monmouth game map will be created from a copy of the 1778 base map to insure accuracy. This is particularly critical when showing the road net, which has often been shown incorrectly in many secondary sources on the battle as well as in previous versions of Monmouth war games.
As a captain of Rhode Island troops said, "…you have been wishing some days past to come up with the British, you have been wanting to fight, now you shall have fighting enough before night."