U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content

HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY

AMEDD BIOGRAPHIES

AMEDD CORPS HISTORY

BOOKS AND DOCUMENTS

HISTORICAL ART WORK & IMAGES

MEDICAL MEMOIRS

AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORIES

THE SURGEONS GENERAL

ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE SURGEON GENERAL

AMEDD UNIT PATCHES AND LINEAGE

THE AMEDD HISTORIAN NEWSLETTER

Chapter X

Table of Contents

265

CHAPTER X

1778 - MONMOUTH

The Monmouth Campaign, Map

The outcome of the military campaign of the North in 1777 was of the utmost import to the American Government. France, eager to revenge her losses in the Seven Years’ War, was but awaiting the opportunity which the victory at Saratoga afforded. Colonial agents in France had already negotiated a secret treaty, and when on December 4 the news of victory came, the French king decided to give material aid to the struggling colonists. A new treaty of alliance was promptly signed in February, 1778, by which the independence of the colonies was recognized and an alliance on a footing of equality ratified. It was agreed that war with England be made a common cause and that neither country should make a separate peace. This was aid which the colonists urgently needed and which in the end enabled them to win the war. The news, announced to the army at Valley Forge on May 3, was received with the firing of guns and demonstrations of delight. Quite otherwise was its reception in England, and renewed but vain attempts at reconciliation were made.

Tangible results of the treaty with France followed quickly. Gen. Howe, censured for failure of the campaign of 1777, obtained leave to return to England in May, turning his command over to Sir Henry Clinton. Before leaving, his younger officers prepared for him the extravagant fete known as the “Mischianza”, wherein John Andre again, for a brief moment, glittered in the spotlight. The noise of these absurd revels had scarcely died away when rumors came of a great French fleet on the way to block the Delaware and cut off supplies. Mere rumors did what Washington and his army had not been able to do; Clinton ordered that Philadelphia be evacuated. The sick and supplies were sent around by boat, and the army was ordered to march by way of Brunswick to Paulus Hook.


266

Washington soon had news of the intended movement and was on the alert at Valley Forge, his army improved by Steuben’s drilling and recruited to 15,000 men. Forgotten was the long, dreary winter just passed, with its cold and hunger. All were again buoyant and hopeful, ready once more to try the desperate game of battle.

On the night of June 17-18 Clinton’s army crossed the Delaware and marched for New York. The army, composed mainly of British and German regulars, had also a considerable number of troops recruited in America. There were regiments (large or small) of New Jersey Volunteers, Maryland Loyalists, Volunteers of Ireland and Caledonian Volunteers. The Irish regiment numbered more than 500 men. Surgeon’s Mate John Hammell, formerly of Van Cortlandt's New York Regiment, who had been taken prisoner by the British, accepted service in the British Army and was made surgeon of the regiment of New Jersey Volunteers. He was later taken prisoner by the Americans and was saved from hanging by General Washington.

The discipline of this army seems not to have been up to the usual British standard. There was an immense train of camp followers, Loyalists, and many women and children. British and German soldiers had wooed and won many Pennsylvania maidens, and a crowd of these followed the army. There were doubtless others of a different class. Some soldiers had deserted in order to remain behind, and hundreds deserted on the march:- 600 says Fortescue. General Clinton was obliged to issue an order that:-

“The women of each regiment will march at the head of it, under the escort of a non commissioned officer and six men, who will take care that they do not get out of the road on any account.”

The whole column was nearly twelve miles long. No one has painted a picture of this army with its peculiar vanguard. A film of it would be worth a million.

Washington learned of the evacuation on June 18, and that evening his army moved for the crossing of the Delaware at Lambertsville. Arnold, still suffering from his wounds received at Saratoga, was left in command at Philadelphia. Lee commanded one division and Wayne another. From the 22nd to


267

the 24th of June the army was at Hopewell, near Trenton. The British column marched by Mount Holly, Crosswicks and Allentown, heading toward Brunswick.

On the 25th Washington reached Kingston and prepared for battle, but Clinton turned from the northerly road to the direction of Monmouth Court House. Washington had sent Morgan and Maxwell with light troops to hang on the flanks of the retreating British, and on the 25th sent forward Lafayette and Wayne with some 4000 men. Still later General Lee took command of the advance guard, now one-third of the whole army.

Monmouth Courthouse, 1778

The 26th was an extremely warm day, and on the 27th there were heavy rains which brought no relief from the excessive heat. On this day the British reach Monmouth, now Freehold. The head of the main American column had arrived at Cranberry; Lafayette was within five miles of Monmouth. The Jersey men all appeared patriotic and the army marched with confidence in pursuit of a fleeing enemy. It was on this night before the battle that Dr. James Griffith of the Third Virginia Regiment demanded admission to the presence of Washington, and, when admitted, informed the General that Lee was to prove a traitor on the next day. The information was either not believed to be reliable or not acted on. It is singular that on the next day, when Lee was carrying out his plot, Dr. Thomas Henderson of Monmouth brought to Washington news of Lee’s retreat.

The day of battle was exceptionally warm and there was much of marching and countermarching; of advance arid retreat, from morning until evening. For the soldiers it was a day long to be remembered. Both armies suffered from the heat, but the British more than the Americans because of their tight woolen uniforms and knapsacks. The Americans wore lighter clothing and threw aside their packs. The tongues of a great number of men were so swollen as to render them unable to speak. Sir Henry Clinton reported that “three sergeants and 45 rank and file died with fatigue.” An American writer said, “Several of our men have fallen sick from these causes, and a few unfortunately have fainted and died in a little time after.” Eleven German soldiers also perished from the effects of the heat.


268

The battle was no great victory for either side. In numbers they had been fairly well matched, some 15,000 men on each side. The Colonials had 70 killed, 161 wounded and 131 missing. The British reported 65 killed, 170 wounded, and 64 missing: a total of 338. When they marched next day four wounded officers and a number of soldiers were left behind. One account said that several houses were filled with the enemy wounded, left in care of surgeons and nurses. Dr. Samuel Forman, who was at Freehold next day, said, “Several houses in Freehold were filled with the wounded of the enemy.”

Clinton's army continued the march and on June 30th reached Sandy Hook, from where it was ferried across to New York. A portion of the wounded were carried along with the army.

The courthouse and several churches in Monmouth became improvised hospitals. Every room in the courthouse was filled. The wounded lay on straw on the floor and their groans and supplications made a scene of woe. St. Peter’s church, still standing, was one of the two churches used. Two hundred American soldiers were detached to bury the dead. As fast as the wounded died their corpses were thrown promiscuously into a pit on the later site of the home of Dr. Throckmorton. The Americans claimed to have buried 249 British dead. Probably the reports from the volunteer forces were not complete. Among the British dead was Lieut. Col. H. Monckton of the 2nd Grenadier Guards.

After the battle of Monmouth the army marched to Brunswick, crossed the Hudson and encamped at White Plains. In July it was encamped about West Point. It then consisted of six divisions, under Major Generals Gates, McDougall, DeKalb, Putnam, Lincoln and Stirling. There were regiments from all the colonies except South Carolina and Georgia. The regiments from one colony were generally brigaded together, Massachusetts and Virginia each having three brigades, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland each two.

Monmouth was the last pitched battle fought in the northern colonies. Thereafter the war was carried to the far south, and the colonies which had until then borne the brunt of the conflict were left in comparative peace. They continued, how-


269

ever, to furnish the principal part of the Continental Army and the greater part of the equipment and supplies for that army. The story of the northern army from this time on is chiefly one of tiresome watchfulness during the summer and of suffering in dismal camps during the winter.

At this time there were still a number of hospitals in Pennsylvania, as well as in New England and Virginia. On December 20th Dr. Morgan, who was investigating the regime of Dr. Shippen, wrote a letter to Congress asking about the hospitals at Lancaster, Dunkerstown, Reamstown, Reading, Allentown and Bethlehem. There was also a hospital at Sunbury.

During the summer the Wyoming Indian Massacre had occurred, followed by a punitive Expedition under General Sullivan. A hospital was established at Sunbury. A report from this hospital, July 3 to Oct. 1, appears truly remarkable.

Admitted, 315. Discharged, 47. Convalescent, 57. Died, 1.

Thatcher’s journal for 1778-9, although at times straying from the strict narrative of events, is sufficiently interesting to justify reprinting. We left him at the Albany Hospital at the end of 1777, busy with the wounded of the two armies. By February 1778 this work was about finished and there was leisure for light diversions. On February 4th he wrote:

“Several gentlemen belonging to the hospital being desirous of improving in the accomplishment of dancing, Mr. John Trotter has agreed to open a special school for our accommodations, and we are to attend every afternoon. Master Trotter has for many years been in the practice of teaching the art in the city of New York, and has acquired great fame as a man of knowledge and experience in his proffession. He is above fifty eight years of age, a small, genteel, well proportioned man, every limb and joint proclaiming that he is formed for his proffession. * * * Under the tuition of such a master, we flatter ourselves that in due time, if we improve our advantage, we shall be able to figure in a ballroom.”

Mr. Trotter had a singularly felicitous and appropriate name. New York even then, as now, led in the art of “tripping the light fantastic toe.” The medical men, after the rigors of a strenuous campaign, found time for relaxation. As Thatcher does not recount any triumphs in this line it seems probable


270

that his Puritan conscience did not allow him to prosecute it to completion. Nothing of importance occurred at Albany until June 1st, when he wrote

“Orders have been received for the removal of our hospital from this city to the High Lands on the Hudson river, where our whole army, it is said, is about to assemble. * * * During my residence in this city I have contracted but a limited acquaintance with the inhabitants. They are chiefly Low Dutch, and not much inclined to associate with strangers. * * * In a society of about thirty professional gentlemen, harmonizing in similar pursuits and inclinations, our sympathies and mutual pleasures are mingled. We are now to be separated * * * Three of our number are to continue with the sick in this place, and the remainder are destined to a new situation.

June 5th. “We embarked with our hospital stores and baggage on board a sloop, and proceeded with a fair wind down the Hudson. In the evening we landed at Kinderhook, a small town on the bank of the river.

June 7th. “Arrived at Fishkill, where we replenished our stock of provisions.

June 10. “Proceeded on our voyage * * * and on the 11th reached the place of our destination, * * * and took possession of the house which we were to occupy as a hospital. This house was erected by Colonel Beverly Robinson * * * situated on the eastern bank of the Hudson, about two miles from West Point, which is on the opposite shore.

The Beverly Robinson House

June 11th. “Robinson’s house, with the outbuildings, is found very convenient for a hospital; the farm and gardens are very extensive, affording excellent pasturing for horses and cows, and containing three or four large orchards abounding in fruit of every description. * * * * * .

This house was erected by Colonel Beverly Robinson, a respectable gentlemen of Scotland, for his summer residence, but being induced to adhere to the British interest, he has, with his excellent family, removed to New York, and thereby forfeited his large estate.”

The Robinson house was an important hospital until the end of the war. It appears to have been occupied by Arnold and other officers as well as by the hospital.


271

July 2nd. “Dr. Brown Surgeon General just arrived from Philadelphia.

July 3rd. “The military commission, which in other armies is eagerly sought for and prized * * * is in ours held in little estimation.”

There was much disaffection among the officers at this time and many resigned. Washington made representations to Congress, recommending a half pay establishment, similar to that of the British Army. Congress passed a resolution giving to all officers serving to the end of the war half-pay for seven years; to soldiers, eighty dollars. These emoluments were later increased.

July 8. “I accompanied Dr. Woodruff to Fishkill Village, about 14 miles. Dined at the hospital with our old friends Dr. Adams and Dr. Eustis.”

On July 20th Dr. Thatcher going out to shoot at some sheep accidentally shot and killed the favorite horse of General Glover. He received a billet from the General at West Point, demanding $150 for the horse, which he paid.

August 7th. “An unusual number of patients have been brought to our hospital within a few days. Their diseases are putrid fever (typhus) and dysentery; many of the cases appear so malignant, that it is feared they will baffle all the skill of the physician.”

No doubt they did and would baffle many of the present day.

The principal army was now in the Highlands. On September 6th Major General Putnam arrived with a division of Virginia and Maryland troops. The brigadiers, Woodford and Muhlenberg, took up their quarters in the hospital. Thatcher says that Dr. Griffith was surgeon and chaplain of Woodford's Brigade. In October Col. Baylor's Regiment of cavalry (104 men) was surprised and cut to pieces, near Tappan. Washington visited the hospital about this time.

In November Thatcher grew tired of long hospital service, with no prospect of promotion, and transferred to the First Virginia State Regiment, which under the command of Col. George Gibson had been taken into the Continental Service. Of his reception as regimental surgeon he says:


272

“Nov. 10th. Being introduced to the officers of the regiment I received a polite invitation to take my quarters in the marquee with Colonel Gibson and his Lieutenant Colonel, William Brent.”

Although Dr. William Shippen was then Medical Director, Thatcher never but once mentions his presence with the army. On November 18th he wrote:

“Rhode to the village of Fishkill, breakfasted with Dr. [Malachi] Treat, [Physician General of the Northern Department] and waited on Dr. John Cochran [Surgeon General of the Middle Dept.] who is in close attendance on the Marquis de Lafayette, who is dangerously sick with a fever”

As might have been expected, this conscientious Puritan did not find himself entirely at home with the pleasure-loving Virginians. Already in November 13th he wrote:

“As we are now stationed at considerable distance from the enemy at New York, we feel secure from the annoyance of the days of war; and, military duty not being very urgent, our officers appear disposed to relax in their discipline, and contract a habit approaching to dissipation. They have adopted the practice of giving suppers, alternately, with music and dancing through half the night. These are the favorite amusements of the Virginia and Maryland officers, but they do not accord precisely with my own views of time well spent, though I am frequently enticed to a participation in their banqueting revels.”

On November 28th the Virginia Division under General Putnam marched south, crossed at King’s Ferry on the 29th, and on the 4th of December camped near Scotch Plains, awaiting orders. On the 9th the march was resumed to the neighborhood of Middlebrook, New Jersey, where this division went into camp for the winter. Huts were to be erected, but an inexplicable amount of time was consumed in building them, with the result that the army spent the most severe part of the winter in tents. Thatcher's account of this camp is worthy of perusal. He says:-

February. “Having continued to live under canvass tents most of the winter, we have suffered extremely from exposure to cold and storms. Our soldiers have been employed six or eight weeks in constructing log huts, which at length are completed, and both officers and soldiers are now under comfortable covering for the remainder of the winter.


273

“Log houses are constructed with the trunks of trees, cut into various lengths according to the size intended, and are firmly connected by notches cut at their extremities, in the manner of dovetailing. The vacancies between the logs are filled in with plastering consisting of mud and clay. The roof is formed of similar pieces of timber, and covered with hewn slabs. The chimney, situated at one end of the house, is made of similar but smaller timbers, and both the inner and outer side are covered with clay plaster, to defend the wood against the fire. The door and windows are made by sawing away a part of the logs of a proper size, and move on wooden hinges. In this manner have our soldiers, without nails, and almost without tools, except the axe and saw, provided for their officers and for themselves comfortable and convenient quarters, with little or no expense to the public.

“The huts are arranged in straight lines forming a regular, compact, uniform, village. The officers' huts are situated in front of the line, according to their rank, the kitchens in the rear, and the whole is similar in form to a tent encampment.

“The ground, for a considerable distance in front of the soldiers line of huts, is cleared of wood, stumps and rubbish, and is every morning swept clean for the purpose of a parade ground, and roll call of the respective regiments.

“The officers’ huts are generally divided into two apartments, and are occupied by three or four officers, who compose one mess. Those for the soldiers have but one room, and contain ten or twelve men, with their cabins (berths) filled with straw, and one

On June 20 Thatcher received a letter from Dr. Daniel Townsend, Hospital Surgeon at Providence, offering him a position as Surgeon of Col. Henry Jackson’s (additional) Continental Regiment, then stationed at Providence. The Lieut. Colonel was Dr. David Cobb. This was a Massachusetts regiment and, as Thatcher said, “Though I have enjoyed the most friendly intercourse and numerous kind favors from the Virginians, yet I cannot but prefer the manners of the New Englanders”. On July 2 he left for Providence, a retired spot; but fortune favored him and we shall meet him again at the crowning achievement of Yorktown.

The army remained in the camp until June 1779 and then returned to its old camp in the Highlands. Thatcher says his regiment left the camp on June 2 and on June 7 camped at Smith's Clove, some fourteen miles back of West Point.


274

During this winter the army was better fed and clothed than ever before. Some clothing and money was received from France and the efficiency of Quartermaster General Greene was apparent.

NOTES.

1 Norwich, Apr. 1, 1778.

“Since my return home as also on the way at Danbury I thought proper to make inquiry concerning the state of the Hospitals, especially at Danbury & am Informed by persons of veracity who have the best means of knowledge, of any evils & abuses in that department which ought to be remedied.

“In particular that the number employed in one office or other as Doctors & Surgeons &c are double to what is necessary, that the Apothecary General is very often Inebriated with Liquor. That the representations made in Congress when the last Resolution passed affecting Dr. Foster, Surgeon in the Eastern Department, was directly the reverse of the truth. The truth was I am most credibly informed that he Doctor Foster was determined to build a very expensive hospital at Danbury but was prevented by Doctor Cutter and Turner, which it was in their province to prevent.

“I am fully persuaded that some further regulations and attention is due to the Medical Department, that one half the officers is totally unnecessary, and hope it may claim the attention of Congress.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        “I am, Gentlemen, with due regards,
                    Your Humble Servt
                          Sam'l Huntington

    Messrs. Sherman, Harrison & Adams.

2 During the winter of 1777-78 the condition of hospitals was such that, on representations made by Governor Livingstone and Dr. Rush, the following resolution was passed by Congress:-

“RESOLVED, That the cloathier general be directed to deliver to the order of the director general as much linen and as many blankets as can be spared, to be retained in the hospitals for the use of the sick;

That the cloathier general be directed to supply the convalescents with necessary cloathing, in order that, when properly recovered (sic) they may join their army.

That a member of Congress be forthwith appointed to visit the hospitals in the middle department; the member chosen, Mr. (John) Penn.

That a recommendation be sent to the clergy of all denominations in the said (Middle) district to solicit charitable donations of woolens and linen, made or unmade, for the sick soldiers in the hospitals; and to send the same to the Board of War, or any hospital, as may be convenient. * * * .”


275

3 SUMS ADVANCED TO THE HOSPITAL DEPARTMENT 1778

From Journals of the Continental Congress.

Jan. 30—to Dr. Jonathan Potts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 20,000
Feb. 25—to Dr. Jonathan Potts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100,000
Apr. 17—to Dr. Jonathan Potts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100,000
May 16—to Dr. Jonathan Potts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100,000
June 10—to Dr. Jonathan Potts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$200,000
Aug. 4—to Dr. Jonathan Potts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100,000
Sept. 3—to Dr. Jonathan Potts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 70,000
Nov. 3—to Dr. Jonathan Potts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$130,000
Nov. 12—to Dr. Jonathan Potts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$150,000    $940,000
Mch. 11—to Dr. Isaac Foster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 50,000
June 9—to Dr. Isaac Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$ 80,000
Nov. 28—to Dr. Isaac Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..$ 25,000    $155,000

                                                                                                $1,095,000

In addition to these larger sums there were many bills from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each, and still other bills to be settled after the war ended. In this year the total expenses of the Government were put at 62 ½  millions. The value of the dollar however was greatly depreciated.