Major General Charles Lee to George Washington, 30 June 1778

At 7 o’clock on 27 June 1778, Maj. Gen. Charles Lee sent a letter to George Washington informing Washington of Lee’s troop movements near the town of Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey. On the following day, 28 June, the Battle of Monmouth took place. Lee had been ordered to attack the rear of the British troops as they withdrew from Monmouth Courthouse. Washington and the rest of the American troops, positioned behind the lines of confrontation, were unexpectedly faced with retreating American soldiers under the command of Lee and the pursuing British forces under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. The Americans regrouped and fought, winning the day in their first direct confrontation with British troops. However, Lee was accused by Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne and Brig. Gen. Charles Scott with retreating without warning when he should have fought and thereby bringing the entire Continental army under threat.

When Lee first approached Washington on the day of the battle, in the midst of the disorder of the momentary retreat, he explained to Washington that confusion over orders and a mistake by Brigadier General Scott had caused the retreat and reminded Washington that Lee had not been in favor of the attack from the beginning. Washington reportedly responded that Lee should have obeyed orders despite his personal feelings. Lee’s letter, below, is his first written response to what he perceived as a severe slight from General Washington. Lee misdated this letter of June 28 as July 1, an error that Washington conspicuously noted in his reply.

Original manuscript images of Lee’s letter to Washington at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Page 2

Also see the introduction to Washington’s correspondence with Lee.

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