Point-of-Woods

The site of the battle where Washington relieved Lee of command

By examining available texts and 18th century maps, historians thought they knew where the most significant events of the Battle of Monmouth had occurred. But metal detecting surveys proved that one of the most important areas, the site where Washington relieved Lee of his command, had been sold to  Bell Labs and was about to be developed. Through the work of members of BRAVO (then the Deep Search Metal Detecting Club) and Dr. Garry Wheeler Stone, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist with the State of NJ, the site was registered with the NJ State Museum as an archaeological site and eventually acquired by the state and incorporated into Monmouth Battlefield.

Several years of work by Garry Stone and  the BRAVO members, including mapping, surveying, and artifact plotting resulted in both preserving and rewriting the history of this site.

"Point-of-Woods" was actually on property commonly known in the 20th century as Belle Terre, a once privately owned dairy farm. Metal detecting surveys show that during the Battle of Monmouth, Americans and British fought on this property twice. What follows is  the current interpretation of the battle.

The Americans were retreating from the village toward the Division Brook. Major General Charles Lee left a few battalions behind to slow down the British 16th Dragoons as he made his way to the hill on the east side of the brook. Finding this ground to be indefensible, he crossed the brook to the hill. This appears to be the site at which General Washington rode up and, seeing the troops retreating in disorder, relieved Lee of his command.

The last units to cross the brook were hand-picked battalions under Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Ramsey and Colonel Walter Stewart. At about midday, he ordered Ramsey and Stewart to set up a line of defense in the woods under brigadier General Anthony Wayne's command. The British Guard approached from the north, the Grenadiers from the south and Light Dragoons out front. The Americans fired a volley while the Guards were loading. The Guards were joined by the Grenadiers and charged the American position with cold steel - bayonets drawn and fixed. Little did the Crown forces know that while wintering in Valley Forge, the Continental Army was equipped with French Charleville muskets with bayonets.  In the past, the American lacked a sufficient quantity of standardized arms and bayonets.  As such they could not easily withstand a British bayonet charge.  The typical American tactic was to fire until charged and then withdraw.  Just as important as having these new weapons was learning how to use them.  This is where Baron Wilhelm von Steuben made a significant impact.  He taught the soldiers how to use their bayonets effectively. The British charged and intense hand-to-hand combat ensued in the woods.  The Americans stood their ground long enough to have Washington position his artillery on a nearby hill.  Finally  the Americans  withdrew to the Hedgerow where additional fighting occurred. Stewart was slightly wounded but managed to escape. Ramsey headed toward the Hedgerow but was surrounded. He hacked one of his attackers with his sword, but was fired at by a soldier with a pistol at close range. Although not hit, he received powder burns on his face and surrendered. Stewart returned to his command for the rest of the battle. Ramsey was returned on parole either later that day or early the next.

Later in the afternoon, Wayne chased the retreating British rear consisting of Grenadiers and the 33rd Regiment of Foot at the parsonage farm and orchard. Taking some losses and unable to overtake Wayne, the British turned and marched toward the village. Unwilling to let them leave, Wayne ordered his men to pursue and fire on their rear again. The British formed on the slope and returned fire. After several exchanges of musket fire, the British retreated, leaving Wayne to once again command the Point-of-Woods.

Sources:

Sources: "Discovery of the 'Point-of-Woods'", a paper written by Daniel Sivilich with historical information by Dr. Garry Wheeler Stone.

 

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