Book Review: Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle


by Mark Edwa & Garry Wheeler Stone

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. Pp. xxii, 600. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806153350

The Battle of Monmouth and the Politics of the Patriot Cause

The authors, respectively professor emeritus of history at Kean State University and former official historian for the Monmouth Battlefield State Park, give us not only an operational account of the events leading to, during, and following the June 28, 1778 battle in central New Jersey, but fit it into the complex politics of the Patriot cause, throwing a great deal of new light on the efforts by some to oust Washington as American commander-in-chief.

During the Continental regulars did surprisingly well, demonstrating considerable professionalism, abetted by a large turnout of militia, and the British did retreat from the field rather than risk another encounter, effectively conceding victory to the Americans. Monmouth, arguably the largest battle in the war, was the last major action in the North, as the British shortly turned their efforts to subduing the South. Despite this, Monmouth is usually regarded as essentially a draw. The battle was certainly not sufficiently decisive to quiet critics of Washington’s leadership, who argued for his replacement, which, the authors argue, prompted the general’s political supporters and loyal subordinated to engineer a propaganda victory to bolster his standing.

Fatal Sunday has a number of excellent personal profiles, most notably of Washington, of course, and also of Maj. Gen. Charles Lee, on whom much blame was placed, not without cause, which led to his court martial and rustication, as well as “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Lafayette, and, on the other side, Sir Henry Clinton.

A major contribution to the literature of the War for Independence, Fatal Sunday, a volume in the Oklahoma “Campaigns and Commanders” series, is an important read for those interested in American military history.

Note: Fatal Sunday is also available in paperback, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-5748-1.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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