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“'A very smart cannonading ensued from both sides.': Continental Artillery at Monmouth Courthouse, 28 June 1778" (Including information on artillery attached to the New Jersey Brigade)

“'A very smart cannonading ensued from both sides.': Continental Artillery at Monmouth Courthouse, 28 June 1778" (Including information on artillery attached to the New Jersey Brigade)

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Published by John U. Rees
Sometimes the larger view of an historic event is all that is available when finer points are desired. A case in point concerns certain details of the afternoon artillery duel at the June 1778 Monmouth battle. Beginning about 2 o’clock, Brig. Gen. Henry Knox, American artillery commander, stated "The Army was drawn up on advantageous ground to receive the Enemy who advanced to the Attack with Considerable impetuosity and by a brisk Cannonade which was return'd with becoming spirit … the Cannonade lasted untill about Six in the Evening." Maj. Gen. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, recalled his troops massing on Perrine Hill, with a morass in front, “by the time they were well formed … the Batteries were all established; the Enemy appeared in the front of Wykoofs [Wicoff’s] house, I began a Cannonade on them with ten pieces, however they soon established a Strong Battery of Sixes and twelves and some Howitz[ers] … and endeavoured all they could to Discompose the left Wing; but with out the least Effect; this cannonade was briskly kept up for upwards of two hours …” Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn described the action vividly,

"we form.d & about 12 Peices of Artillery being brought on the hill with us: the Enimy at the same time advancing very Rappedly finding we had form.d, they form.d in our front on a Ridge & brought up their Artillery within about 60 Rods [330 yards] of our front. When the briske[s]t Cannonade Commenced on both sides that I Ever heard. Both Armies ware on Clear Ground & if any thing Can be Call.d Musical where there is so much Danger, I think that was the finest musick, I Ever heared. 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 …"
Sometimes the larger view of an historic event is all that is available when finer points are desired. A case in point concerns certain details of the afternoon artillery duel at the June 1778 Monmouth battle. Beginning about 2 o’clock, Brig. Gen. Henry Knox, American artillery commander, stated "The Army was drawn up on advantageous ground to receive the Enemy who advanced to the Attack with Considerable impetuosity and by a brisk Cannonade which was return'd with becoming spirit … the Cannonade lasted untill about Six in the Evening." Maj. Gen. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, recalled his troops massing on Perrine Hill, with a morass in front, “by the time they were well formed … the Batteries were all established; the Enemy appeared in the front of Wykoofs [Wicoff’s] house, I began a Cannonade on them with ten pieces, however they soon established a Strong Battery of Sixes and twelves and some Howitz[ers] … and endeavoured all they could to Discompose the left Wing; but with out the least Effect; this cannonade was briskly kept up for upwards of two hours …” Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn described the action vividly,

"we form.d & about 12 Peices of Artillery being brought on the hill with us: the Enimy at the same time advancing very Rappedly finding we had form.d, they form.d in our front on a Ridge & brought up their Artillery within about 60 Rods [330 yards] of our front. When the briske[s]t Cannonade Commenced on both sides that I Ever heard. Both Armies ware on Clear Ground & if any thing Can be Call.d Musical where there is so much Danger, I think that was the finest musick, I Ever heared. 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 …"

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Published by: John U. Rees on May 04, 2013
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02/01/2015

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“A very smart cannonading ensued from both sides.” 
 
1
Continental Artillery at Monmouth Courthouse, 28 June 1778
(Including information on artillery attached to the New Jersey Brigade)
John U. Rees (Published in
 Military Collector & Historian
, vol. 60, no. 1 (Spring 2008), 38-39.)
“Battery Fire” by Bryant White
 
Sometimes the larger view of an historic event is all that is available when finer points are desired. A case in point concerns certain details of the afternoon artillery duel at the June 1778 Monmouth battle.
Beginning about 2 o’clock, Brig
. Gen. Henry Knox, American artillery commander, stated "The Army was drawn up on advantageous ground to receive the Enemy who advanced to the Attack with Considerable impetuosity and by a brisk Cannonade
which was return'd with becoming spirit … the Cannonade lasted untill about
Six in the Evening." Maj. Gen. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, recalled his troops massing
on Perrine Hill, with a morass in front, “by the time they were well formed … the
Batt
eries were all established; the Enemy appeared in the front of Wykoofs [Wicoff’s]
house, I began a Cannonade on them with ten pieces, however they soon established a
Strong Battery of Sixes and twelves and some Howitz[ers] … and endeavoured all they
could to Discompose the left Wing; but with out the least Effect; this cannonade was briskly
kept up for upwards of two hours …”
2
Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn described the action vividly,
 
 
we form.d & about 12 Peices of Artillery being brought on the hill with us: the Enimy at the same time advancing very Rappedly finding we had form.d, they form.d in our front on a Ridge & brought up their Artillery within about 60 Rods [330 yards] of our front. When the  briske[s]t Cannonade Commenced on both sides that I Ever heard. Both Armies ware on Clear Ground & if any thing Can be Call.d Musical where there is so much Danger, I think that was the finest musick, I Ever heared.
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
3
Grenadier Lt. William Hale, 45
th
 Regiment, described the bombardment from the British side. After attacking Continental troops at the hedge-row,
With some difficulty we were brought under the hill we had gained, and the most terrible cannonade L[or]d. W[illiam]. Erskine [British quartermaster general, veteran of Fontenoy
and the Seven Years’ War]
says he ever heard ensued and lasted for above two hours, at the distance of 600 yards; on our side two medium twelves [12 pounder cannon], as many howitzers and 6 six-pounders which were answered by fourteen pieces, long twelves and french nines; our shells [i.e., howitzers] and twelves, which were admirably conducted by a Capt. Williams, did most horrible execution among their line drawn up on the hill.
4
Hale gave further details in a 14 July letter,
I escaped unhurt in the very hot action of the 28
th
 last month, allowed to be the severest that has happened, [in the hedge-
row fight] the Rebel’s Cannon playing Grape and Case
upon us at the distance of 40 yards and the small arms within little more than half that space; followed by a most incessant and terrible cannonade of near three hours continuance; you may judge from the circumstances of our battalion guns, 6 pounders, firing 160 rounds, and then desisting only lest ammunition should be wanting for Case shot; of the roar kept up by our twelves [12 pounder cannon] and howitzers, answered by
near twenty pieces from their side on a hill 600 paces from ours …
 
5
It must be noted that Lieutenant Hale’s claims as to the size and number of American guns (“long twelves and French nines” and “near twenty pieces”) are exaggerated.
 
 
 
Contine
ntal Army field artillery in action. Detail from William Mercer, “Battle of Princeton on 3rd January 1777” (
Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
All these descriptions are vague in certain crucial details. Of the ten or twelve Continental cannon involved (perhaps more if you count the pieces under Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene on the American right at Combs Hill), it is not certainly known which artillery companies took part, and how many and what type of cannon each company used in the action.
6
 Here is what we do know. Before leaving Valley Forge a "Return of Continental &  private property Horses Field peices Ammunition & Baggage Waggons, in the Brigade of Artillery commanded by Gen.l Knox," dated "Artillery Park, 28.th May 1778," listed 29 guns in the park, "26 of which have 4 horses" (a footnote states that "3 of the above guns have but three horses each, & one Howitzer with two ditto"), and 29 ammunition wagons with 4 horses per wagon, plus 6 spare ammunition wagons without horses.
7
 Commissar 
y of Military Stores Samuel Hodgdon’s letter from "Croton Bridge 19 July
1778" to John Ruddock, Deputy Quartermaster of Stores at Fishkill, gives some idea of cannon types via his account of ammunition expenditure:

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