The following is a draft of an article written by John Fabiano titled "Commanding the High Ground" and subtitled "How a New Jersey Lieutenant Colonel’s Familiarity with the Battlefield Helped Turn the Tide at Monmouth" and was recently featured in the New Jersey Heritage magazine dedicated to the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth. This article continues next week.
Inadequate provisions: The following petition, signed by the four commanders of the Jersey Brigade, attests to the conditions experienced by this State’s military.
"To his Excellency the President of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey.
The Officers of the Jersey Brigade beg leave to represent the a Resolution of Congress was past as long ago as December last requesting the State to procure Cloathing for their Officers and Soldiers and dispose of the same to them at reasonable prices, charging the Supplies of the costs to the States, and that In Consequence thereof, the Several States (Except Jersey) have agreeably to said resolve, put their Officers in Complete Uniforms
Nonetheless the Officers of the Jersey Brigade are Informed, by Mr. Kelsey the purchaser of cloathing for this State, that he has not been Instructed to procure or furnish the Officers with any thing in Consequence of said resolution. The Officers of said Brigade therefore beg leave to remind your Excellency and your honours of the above resolution, as they cannot conceive that the Neglect has been by design, but must have arisen from some other Causes, as they know no reason why the State of Jersey should have less favourable Intentions to its Officers, than the Other States, and Especially when it is at the Expense of the whole. They beg leave further to Observe that an Officer from this Brigade was lately sent to Philadelphia in order to procure cloathing from the Clothier General, and that he Could get none, that said Officer was Informed by some of the members of Congress of this State, that the Officers need not to Expect any Cloathing but what they received through their own State Clothier."
Career change: In the following letter to Moore Furman, Deputy Quartermaster General, David expresses his wishes to aid the patriot cause by joining the Quartermaster Department:
"Agreeable to a resolve of Congress last spring the four New Jersey Regiments were to be reduced to three battalions there will be one Colonel & one Lt. Colonel, Supernumerary. I have called the Brigadier General and field Officers of the Jersey Brigade together and communicated my sentiments. Major Bloomfield has retired some time ago and has begun to practice the law with great success. I wrote General Reed, one of the Committee appointed by Congress for making out the arrangement of the Army of my intentions to retire under the bounty of Congress, which is to receive half pay for seven years and enjoy the same privileges at the close of the War as those were promised that first entered. Those are the terms I expect to leave the Fighting Department and hope the Congress will do me Justice to say I deserve them. Colonel John Cox was here yesterday on his way to Head Quarters and informed me you and he were about to establish a 2nd Etc. Forage Master in each County in this State. That Monmouth wanted one, you had thought of appointing me to that department if I thought proper to retire from the Army. I have contracted my affairs into so small a compass here, that I can leave the army upon the shortest notice. Please to let me hear from you."
Perhaps the anxious events David experienced during the Monmouth Campaign affected him greatly, resulting in his desire to settle down and assist his country differently. Field General Rommel is quoted as saying, "Quartermasters decide the battle before the first shot is fired." David Rhea may have realized this same simple fact. He assumes the role of Assistant Quarter Master for Monmouth County in October 1778.
The following letter from Peter Gordon, Assistant Quartermaster, to Moore Furman, Deputy Quarter Master General at Pittstown, describes the methods David Rhea employed when acquiring supplies from reluctant Tories:
"Since I wrote you last we have been pressed, drove and hurried in every hand, almost out of our senses Col. Biddle Crying out in the greatest distress for Forage. Sending one Express after another. Our Army crying out for Boards. The Commissary calling for provisions when there was none here on hand I mean Flour Distressed situation indeed. I’m sorry I am tho’t to be able to afford them immediate relief but so it was I can only comfort myself that I have done my might Boards I have pressed on as fast as possible and believe Col. Rhea and [Elisha] Lawrence has done the same but there has been such sever Rains that the Teams has met with much difficulty in Crossing the Rivers and Creeks which has lately kept us some back but hope Ere long to give them a full Supply for Col. [John] Cox informs me there was 200,000 feet to be up from Philadelphia in a Day or Two about 60,000 of which has this afternoon arrived. And expect tomorrow morning there will be fifteen or Twenty Boats up with Commissary Stores but can’t find there is any Forage on the way hurrying times indeed, but will try as possible to push all forward.
I have some days ago sent Several Brigades to Lawrence & Rhea to Load with Forage for Camp which find they accomplished. I have also swept all Clean here and made out to Load One Brigade more, which sets off tomorrow morning and expect to send another Brigade off the next day their being a Small Boat Load arrive this afternoon. Col. Rhea writes me he is pushing hard. Both in the Board and Forage way. He wipes up the Tory Brood towards Shrewsbury for when they won’t consent to part with what they can Spare, he takes it without much ceremony and think we must all follow his example before long."
Historically Speaking is a regular column presented by John Fabiano, president of the Allentown-Upper Freehold Historical Society. For information about the historical society, send e-mail to AllntwnUFHistSoc@aol.com.