June 28, 1778: The Battle of Monmouth Court House, the current modern-day Freehold Township New Jersey, was fought on June 28, 1778, during the American Revolution. The Continental Army, commanded by George Washington fought against the British commanded by General Sir henry Clinton. The Continentals had spent the previous winter in Valley Forge rebuilding the army as Washington defended his position against political enemies who favored his replacement as commander-in-chief. In February 1778, an alliance with the French had tilted the strategic balance in favor of the Americans, forcing the British to abandon hopes of a military victory and adopt a defensive strategy. Clinton was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia and consolidate his army. The Continental Army shadowed the British as they marched hard across New Jersey to Sandy Hook, from where the Royal Navy would ferry them to New York. Washington's senior officers urged varying degrees of caution, but it was politically important for him not to allow the British to withdraw unscathed. Washington detached around a third of his army under General Lee and sent it to attack, hoping to land a heavy blow on the British without becoming embroiled in a major engagement. The battle began badly for the Americans when Lee botched an attack on the British rearguard at Monmouth Court House. A counter-attack by the main British column forced Lee to retreat until Washington arrived with the main body. Clinton disengaged when he found Washington in an unassailable defensive position and resumed the march to Sandy Hook. The battle was tactically inconclusive and strategically irrelevant; neither side landed the blow they hoped to on the other, Washington's army remained an effective force in the field and the British escaped to New York. The Continental Army inflicted more casualties than it suffered, and it was one of the rare occasions on which it retained possession of a battlefield. It had proven itself to be much improved after the training it underwent over the winter, and the professional conduct of the American troops during the battle was widely noted by the British. Because of the American success and that of Washington his position as commander-in-chief became unassailable. The fact that Washington was able to fight the British successfully and they had to yield the field was due in no small part to the awful early summertime heat on June 28, 1778. High humidity hung in the air and the temperature topped 100 degrees. The British had been marching for several days and Clintons troops were exhausted and had to yield in the fact of the Americans and the heat, as there were estimates that the British lost more men to heat stroke than battle wounds. The hot weather may have turned the tide of battle and saved Washington’s position as commander of Continental forces and thereby also saved the Revolution.
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