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through the deep sand, and under the blazing midsummer sun. At last he met Lee and the main body all in full retreat. He rode straight at Lee, savage with anger, not pleasant to look at, one may guess, and asked fiercely and with a deep oath, tradition says,
what it all meant. Lee was no coward, and did not usually lack for words. He was, too, a hardened man of the world, and, in the phrase of that day, impudent to boot. But then and there he stammered and hesitated. The fierce question was repeated. Lee gathered himself and tried to excuse and palliate what had happened, but although the brief words that followed are variously reported to us across the century, we know that Washington rebuked him in such a way, and with such passion, that all was over between them. Lee had committed the one unpardonable sin in the eyes of his commander. He had failed to fight when the enemy was upon him. He had disobeyed orders and retreated. It was the end of him. He went to the rear, thence to a court-martial, thence to dismissal and to a solitary life. He was an intelligent, quick-witted, unstable man, much overrated because he was an English officer among a colonial people. He was ever treated magnanimously by Washington after the day of battle at Monmouth, but he then disappeared from the latter's life.
When Lee bowed before the storm and stepped aside, Washington was left to deal with the danger and confusion around him. Thus did he tell the story afterwards to his brother: “A retreat, how
ever, was the fact, be the causes what they may; and the disorder arising from it would have proved fatal to the army, had not that bountiful Providence, which has never failed us in the hour of distress, enabled me to form a regiment or two (of those that were retreating) in the face of the enemy, and under their fire; by which means a stand was made long enough (the place through which the enemy were pressing being narrow) to form the troops, that were advancing, upon an advantageous piece of ground in the rear."
.." We cannot add much to these simple and modest words, for they tell the whole story. Having put Lee aside, Washington rallied the broken troops, brought them into position, turned them back, and held the enemy in check. It was not an easy feat, but it was done, and when Lee's division again fell back in good order the main army was in position, and the action became general. The British were repulsed, and then Washington, taking the offensive, drove them back until he occupied the battlefield of the morning. Night came upon him still advancing. He halted his army, lay down under a tree, his soldiers lying on their arms about him, and planned a fresh attack, to be made at daylight. But when the dawn came it was seen that the British had crept off, and were far on their road. The heat prevented a rapid pursuit, and Clinton got into New York. Between there and Philadelphia he had lost two thousand men, Washington said, and modern authorities put it at about fifteen hundred, of whom nearly five hundred fell at Monmouth.
It is worth while to pause a moment and compare this battle with the rout of Long Island, the surprise at the Brandywine, and the fatal unsteadiness at Germantown. Here, too, a check was received at the outset, owing to blundering which no one could have foreseen. The troops, confused and without orders, began to retreat, but without panic or disorder. The moment Washington appeared they rallied, returned to the field, showed perfect steadiness, and the victory was won. Monmouth has never been one of the famous battles of the Revolution, and yet there is no other which can compare with it as an illustration of Washington's ability as a soldier. It was not so much the way in which it was fought, although that was fine enough, but its importance lies in the evidence which it gives of the way in which Washington, after a series of defeats, during a winter of terrible suffering and privation, had yet developed his ragged volunteers into a well-disciplined and effective army. The battle was a victory, but the existence and the quality of the army that won it were a far greater triumph.
The dreary winter at Valley Forge had indeed borne fruit. With a slight numerical superiority Washington had fought the British in the open field, and fairly defeated them. “Clinton gained no advantage,” said the great Frederic, “except to reach New York with the wreck of his army; America is probably lost for England.” Another year had passed, and England had lost an army,
and still held what she had before, the city of New York. Washington was in the field with a better army than ever, and an army flushed with a victory which had been achieved after difficulties and trials that no one now can rightly picture or describe. The American Revolution was advancing, held firm by the master-hand of its leader. Into it, during these days of struggle and of battle, a new element had come, and the next step is to see how Washington dealt with the fresh conditions upon which the great conflict had entered.
On May 4th, 1778, Congress ratified the treaties of commerce and alliance with France. On the 6th, Washington, waiting at Valley Forge for the British to start from Philadelphia, caused his army, drawn out on parade, to celebrate the great event with cheers and with salvos of artillery and musketry. The alliance deserved cheers and celebration, for it marked a long step onward in the Revolution. It showed that America had demonstrated to Europe that she could win independence, and it had been proved to the traditional enemy of England that the time had come when it would be
profitable to help the revolted colonies. But the alliance brought troubles as well as blessings in its train. It induced a relaxation in popular energy, and carried with it new and difficult problems for che commander-in-chief. The successful management of allies, and of allied forces, had been one of the severest tests of the statesmanship of William III., and had constituted one of the principal glories of Marlborough. A similar problem now confronted the American general.
Washington was free from the diplomatic and