| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH—THE STORY OF CAPTAIN MOLLY
 WHILE the Americans were learning endurance in the hard school of
Valley Forge the British were having a gay time in Philadelphia.
The grave old Quaker town rang with song and laughter as never
before. Balls and parties, theatricals and races, followed each
other in a constant round of gaiety. And amid this light-hearted
jollity Howe seemed to forget all about the war.
Had he chosen he could easily have attacked Valley Forge, and crushed
Washington's perishing army out of existence. Or if he grudged
to lose men in an attack, he might have surrounded the Americans,
and starved them into submission. But he did neither. He was too
comfortable in his winter quarters, and had no wish to go out in
the snow to fight battles.
Those in power in England had long been dissatisfied with Howe's
way of conducting the war. Time and again he had seemed to lose his
chance of crushing the rebellion and now this idle and gay winter
in Philadelphia seemed the last straw. Such bitter things indeed
were said of him that he resigned his commission, and went home,
and the supreme command was given to General Clinton.
Now that France had joined with America, Britain was in a very
different position than before. She could no longer afford to send
out large armies such as Howe had been given to subdue the colonies.
For she had to keep troops at home to protect Great Britain from
 She had to send ships and men all over the world, to repel the
attacks of the French on her scattered colonies and possessions.
Clinton therefore was left with only an army of about ten thousand.
And with this force he was expected to conquer the country which
Howe had been unable to conquer with thirty thousand.
Clinton knew that his task was a hard one. He saw that the taking of
Philadelphia had been a mistake, and that from a military point of
view it was worthless. So he decided at once to abandon Philadelphia,
and take his army back to New York. And on the morning of the 18th
of June the British marched out.
Before dusk that same day the Americans marched in.
A few days later Congress returned,
and the city settled back to its quiet old life once more.
It was no easy task for Clinton to cross New Jersey in grilling
summer weather, with a small force, an enormous baggage train, and
Washington hanging threateningly about his path, harassing him at
every step. That he did accomplish it brought him no little renown
as a soldier.
For some time, following the advice of his officers, Washington
did not make a general attack on the British. But near the town of
Monmouth he saw his chance, and determined to give battle.
General Lee had by this time been exchanged, and was now again
with Washington's army as second in command, and for this battle
Washington gave him command of an advance party of six thousand
men. With him were Anthony Wayne and Lafayette.
On the morning of the battle Lee's division was in a very good
position. It seemed as if the British might be surrounded with ease,
but when Wayne and Lafayette were about to attack Lee stopped them.
"You do not know British soldiers," he said to Lafayette. "We are
certain to be driven back. We must be cautious."
 "That may be so, General," replied Lafayette, "but British soldiers
have been beaten, and may be so again. At any rate, I should like
But for answer, Lee ordered his men to retreat.
At this Lafayette was both angry and astonished, and he hurriedly
sent a message to Washington, telling him that his presence was
The soldiers did not in the least know from what they were retreating,
and they soon fell into disorder. Then suddenly Washington appeared
among them. He was white to the lips with wrath.
"I desire to know," he said, in a terrible voice, turning to Lee,
"I desire to know, sir, what is the reason—whence arises this
disorder and confusion?"
Lee trembled before the awful anger of his chief. He tried to make
excuses. Then Washington's fury knew no bounds. He poured forth a
torrent of wrath upon Lee till, as one of his officers who heard
him said, "the very leaves shook on the trees." Then halting the
retreating troops, he formed them for battle once more. Later in
the day meeting Lee he sent him to the rear.
Soon the battle was raging fiercely. Some of the hottest fighting
took place round the American artillery, which was commanded by
General Knox. The guns were doing deadly work, yet moving about
coolly amidst the din and smoke of battle, there might be seen a
saucy young Irish girl, with a mop of red hair, a freckled face,
and flashing eyes. She was the wife of one of the gunners, and so
devoted was she to her husband that she followed him even to battle,
helping him constantly with his gun. His comrades looked upon her
almost as one of the regiment, and called her Captain Molly, and
she wore an artilleryman's coat over her short red skirt, so that
she might look like a soldier.
Captain Molly was returning from a spring nearby with a
 bucket full
of water, when her husband, who was just about to fire, was killed
by a shot from the enemy. The officer in command, having no one to
take his place, ordered the gun to be removed.
Molly saw her husband fall, heard the command given, and she dropped
her bucket and sprang to the gun.
"Bedad no," she cried. "I'll fire the gun myself, and avenge my
It was not the first time that Molly had fired a gun. She was with
her husband at Fort Clinton, when it was taken by the British. As
the enemy scaled the walls the Americans retreated. Her husband
dropped his lighted match, and fled with the rest. But Captain
Molly was in no such haste. She picked up the match, fired the gun,
and then ran after the others. Hers was the last gun fired on the
American side that day.
Now all the long day of Monmouth she kept her gun in action,
firing so skilfully and bravely, that all around were filled with
admiration, and news of her deeds was carried through the army.
Even Washington heard of them.
Next day he ordered her to be brought to him, and there and then he
made her a sergeant, and recommended her for an officer's pension
for life. But now that her husband was dead Molly's heart was no
longer with the army. Soon after the battle of Monmouth she left
it, and a few years later she died.
All through the long summer day of pitiless heat the battle raged.
Again and again the British charged. Again and again they were thrown
back, and at length were driven across a ravine. Here Washington
would have followed, but the sun went down, and darkness put an
end to the fight.
Washington, however, was determined to renew the battle next day,
and that night the army slept on the field. He himself slept under
a tree, sharing a cloak with
Lafay-  ette. But the battle was never
renewed, for during the night Clinton marched quietly away. When
day dawned he was already too far off to pursue, and at length he
got safely into New York.
This was the last great battle to be fought in the northern states,
and a few weeks later Washington took up his quarters on White
Plains. There for nearly three years he stayed, guarding the great
waterway of the Hudson, and preventing the British from making any
further advance in the north.
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