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Clinton, Henry, Sir (1738?-1795) to Lord George Germain

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04283 Author/Creator: Clinton, Henry, Sir (1738?-1795) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Letter signed Date: July 1778 Pagination: 9 p. ; 32 x 20.2 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Clinton as Command of Chief of British forces in America to Germain as British Secretary of State for the American Colonies. Detailed report of his recent activity. Says he evacuated Philadelphia on 18 June 1778. Details the problems of the retreat across New Jersey. On page three lists the units undertaking certain actions in the margin. Mentions tough crossing of the Raritan River. Believes Washington's army to have 20,000 troops. Says the Queens Light Dragoons repulsed the American calvary under Lafayette, which was the opening movements in the Battle of Monmouth. Describes the action at that battle. Describes the heroic efforts of the navy to build a bridge to Sandy Hook Island to facilitate the retreat to New York. Laments the loss of Lieutenant Colonel Monckton, commander of the 2nd Battalion of Grenadiers. Praises the services of Lord Cornwallis, Major General Gray, and Brigadier Generals Mathew, Leslie, and Sir William Erskine. Says that Colonel Paterson, who is delivering this report, can provide any further information Germain might need. Report is bound with red string. Page one is fronted by a piece of paper cut in a wave pattern.

Full Transcript: New York July 1778

My Lord,

I have the Honor to inform your Lordship that pursuant to His Majesty's Instructions I evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th. of June at three o'Clock ...in the Morning, and proceeded to Gloucester Point without being followed by the Enemy. Every thing being from thence passed in Safety across the Delaware, through the excellent Disposition made by the Admiral to secure our Passage, the Army marched at 10 o'Clock and reached Haddonfield the same Day. A strong Corps of the Enemy having upon our Approach abandoned the difficult Pass of Mount Holly, the Army proceeded without any Interruption from them, excepting what was occasioned by their having destroyed every Bridge on our Road. As the Country is much intersected with marshy Rivulets, the Obstructions we met with were frequent, and the excessive Heat of the Season rendered the Labour of repairing the Bridges severely felt.
The advanced Parties of our Light Troops arriving unexpectedly at Crosswicks on the 23d, after a trifling [2] Skirmish, prevented the Enemy from destroying the Bridge over a large Creek at that Village, and the Army passed it the next Morning. One Column under the Command of His Excellency Lieutenant General Knyphausen halted near Amely's Town, and as the Provision Train and heavy Artillery were stationed in the that Division, the other Column under Lieutenant General Earl Cornwallis took a Position at Allen's Town which covered the other Encampment.
Thus far, my Lord, my March pointed equally towards the Hudson's River and Staten Island by the Rariton; I was now at the Juncture when it was necessary to decide ultimately what Course to pursue. Encumbered as I was by an enormous Provision Train &c, to which Impediment the Probability of Obstructions and Length of my March obliged me to submit; I was led to wish for a Route less liable to Obstacles than those above mentioned.
I had received Intelligence that Generals Washington and Lee had passed the Delaware with their Army, had assembled a numerous Militia from all the neighbouring Provinces, and that Gates, with an Army from the Northward, was advancing to join them on the Rariton. As I could not hope that after having always hitherto so studiously avoided a general Action, General Washington would now give into it against every Dictate of Policy; I could only suppose that his Views were directed against my Baggage &ca. in which Part [3] I was indeed vulnerable. This Circumstance alone would have tempted me to avoid the difficult Passage of the Rariton; but when I reflected that from Sandy Hook I should be able with more Expedition and greater Secrecy to carry His Majesty's further Orders into Execution, I did not hesitate to order the Army into the Road which leads thro' Freehold to the Navesink. The Approach of the Enemy's Army being indicated by the frequent Appearance of their Light Troops on our Rear, I requested His Excellency Lieutenant General Knyphausen to take the Baggage of the whole Army under the Charge of his Division, consisting of the Troops mentioned in the Margin.
[inserted in left hand margin: 17th. Light Dragoons
2d. Battn.Lt. Infant.,
Hessian Yagers
1st. & 2d. Brigades British
Kirn's & Loos Brigades
of Hessians
Pennsylvania Loyalists
Maryland Loyalists
Roman Catholic Volunrs:
West Jersey Volunteers

1st Battn. Brit. Grenad.rs.
2d. Ditto
1st. Battn. Light Infan.t
Hessian Grenadrs.
3d. 4th. 5th. Brigds British]

Under the Head of Baggage was comprized not only all the Wheel Carriages of every Department, but also the Bát Horses; a Train which, as the Country admitted but of one Route for Carriages, extended near 12 Miles. The indispensible Necessity I was under of securing these is obvious, and the Difficulty of doing it in a most wood Country against an Army far superior in Numbers, will, I trust, be no less so.
I desired Lieutenant General Knyphausen to move at Day-break on the 28th., and that I might not press upon him in the first Part of the March in which we had but one Route, I did not follow with the other Division till near 8 o'clock. Soon after I had marched, Reconnoitering Parties of the Enemy appeared on our left Flank, The Queen's Rangers fell in with and dispersed [4] some Detachments among the Woods in the same Quarter. Our Rear Guard having descended from the Heights above Freehold into a Plain near three Miles in Length and about one Mile in Breadth, several Columns of the Enemy appeared likewise descending into the Plain, and about Ten o'Clock they began to Cannonade our Rear. Intelligence was at this Instant brought me that the Enemy were discovered marching in Force on both our Flanks. I was convinced that our Baggage was their Object; but it being at this Juncture engaged in Defiles which continued for some Miles, no Means occurred of Parrying the Blow but attacking the Corps which harrassed our Rear, and pressing it so hard as to oblige the Detachments to return from our Flanks to its assistance.
I had good information that General Washington was up with his whole Army, estimated at about 20,000; but as I knew there were two Defiles between him and the Corps at which I meant to strike, I judged that he could not have passed them with a greater Force than what Lord Cornwallis's Division was well able to engage; and had I even met his whole Army in the Passage of those Defiles, I had little to apprehend, but his Situation might have been critical.
The Enemy's Cavalry, commanded it is said by Mr. la Fayette, having approached within our Reach they were charged with great Spirit by the Queens Light Dragoons. [5] They did not wait the Shock but fell back in Confusion upon their own Infantry.
Thinking it possible that the Event might draw to a general Action, I sent for a Brigade of British, and the 17th. Light Dragoons from Lieutenant General Knyphausen's Division, and having directed them on their Arrival to take a Position effectually covering our right Flank, of which I was most jealous; I made a Disposition of Attack in the Plain, but before I could advance, the Enemy fell back and took a strong Position on the Heights above Freehold Court House. The Heat of the Weather was intense, and our Men already suffered severely from Fatigue; but our Circumstances obliged us to make a vigorous Exertion. The British Grenadiers with their Left to the Village of Freehold, and the Guards on the Right of the Grenadiers, began the Attack with such Spirit that the Enemy gave way immediately. The 2d. Line of the Enemy stood the Attack with greater Obstinacy, but were likewise completely routed. They then took a third Position, with a marshy hollow in the Front, over which it would have been scarcely possible to have attacked them; however, Part of the 2d. Line made a Movement to the Front, occupied some Ground on the Enemy's left Flank, and the Light Infantry and Queen's Rangers turned their Left.
[struck: In this Situation, tho' we were a little exposed [6] to a Cannonade from some commanding Ground on our left Flank, I was determined to keep the Position in hopes of Reinforcement to enable me to support the Right, but it was quitted before my Orders reached them.]
By this Time our Men were so overpowered with Fatigue that I could - press the Affair no farther, especially as I was confident the End was gained for which the Attack had been made.
I ordered the Light Infantry to rejoin me, but a strong Detachment of the Enemy having possessed themselves of a Post which would have annoyed them in their Retreat, the 33d. Regiment made a Movement towards the Enemy, which with a similar one made by the 1st. Grenadiers, immediately dispersed them.
I took the Position from whence the Enemy had first been driven after they had quitted the Plain, and having reposed the - Troops till Ten at Night; to avoid the excessive Heat in the Day, I took the Advantage of the Moon light to rejoin Lieutenant General Knyphausen who had advanced to Nut Swamp near Middletown.
Our Baggage had been attempted by some of the Enemy's Light Troops, who were repulsed by the good Disposition made by Lieutenant General Knyphausen and Major General Grant, and the good Countenance of [7] the 40th. Regiment, whose Picquets alone were attacked, and one Troop of the 17th. Light Dragoons. The two Corps which had marched against it (being, as I have since learnt, a Brigade on each Flank) were recalled, as I had expected, at the beginning of the Action.
It would be sufficient Honor to the Troops barely to say that they had forced a Corps, as I am informed, of near 12,000 Men, from two strong Positions; but it will I doubt not be considered as doubly creditable, when I mention that they did it under such Disadvantages of heat and Fatigue, that a great Part of those we lost, fell dead as they advanced without a Wound.
Fearing that my first Order had miscarried, before I quitted this Ground I sent a second for a Brigade of Infantry, the 17th. Light Dragoons, and 2d. Battalion of Light Infantry to meet me on the March, with which additional Force, had General Washington shewn himself the next Day, I was determined to attack him, but there not being the least Appearance of an Enemy, I suspected he might have pushed a considerable Corps to a strong Position near Middletown, I therefore left the Rear Guard on its March, and detached Major General Grant to take Post there, which was effected on the 29th.-The whole Army marched to this Position the next Day, and then fell back to another near Navesink, where I waited [8] two Days in the hope that Mr. Washington might have been tempted to have advanced to the Position near Middletown, which we had quitted, in which Case I might have attacked him to Advantage.
During this Time the Sick & wounded were embarked, and Preparations made for passing to Sandy Hook Island by a Bridge, which by the extraordinary Efforts of the Navy was soon completed, and over which the whole Army passed in about two Hours time, the Horses and Cattle being previously transported.
Your Lordship will receive herewith a Return of the Killed, Wounded, Missing &ca of His Majesty's Troops on the 28th. of last Month. That of the Enemy is supposed to have been more considerable, especially in killed.
The Loss of Lieutenant Colonel Monckton, who commanded the 2d. Battalion of Grenadiers, is much to be lamented.
I am much indebted to Lord Cornwallis for his zealous Services on every Occasion, and I found great Support from the Activity of Major General Grey, and Brigadier Generals Mathew, Leslie, and Sir William Erskine.
I beg Leave to refer your Lordship for any other Particulars which you may wish to be informed of, [9] to Colonel Paterson, who will have the Honor of delivering these Dispatches, and whose Services in this Country, entitle him to every Mark of your Lordship's favor.
I have the Honor to be,
Your Lordships,
Most obedient and
Most humble Servant.
H. Clinton
George Germain
&ca, &ca, &ca.
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People: Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1730?-1795

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsContinental ArmyBattleBattle of MonmouthInfrastructureBuilding ConstructionDeath

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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