Passage of British after Battle of Monmouth

By William Horner
Originally published by
Moreau Brothers of Freehold, NJ 1932
Reprinted in 1974

Wanton Destruction at Monmouth

Dr. Thomas Henderson was one of the most prominent, influential, and active patriots of Monmouth county. He was a Colonel in the Revolution, Judge, Surrogate, Councillor, Lt. Governor, and, elected to Congress, but declined to serve. He began the practice of his profession at Mt. Pleasant, now Freneau, but later removed to a place on the Mt. Holly Road, about a mile out of Freehold village. The farm is now owned and occupied by M.S. Pine.

The following taken from an old copy of the Jersey Gazette, is believed to have been written by Dr. Henderson after the passage of the British army after the Battle of Monmouth:

"I have been waiting from the time the enemy passed through this country till the present, in expectation some of your correspondents would, through the channel of your paper, have given to the public an account of their conduct to the inhabitants; but not having seen any as yet, and as it has been such as every honest person ought to despise, I take this opportunity of giving a short sketch of it, which, if you think will be any satisfaction to your readers, you may insert in your paper.

"The devastation they have made in some parts of Freehold (township) exceeds, perhaps, any they have made for the distance for the route through this state; having, in the neighborhood above the courthouse, burnt and destroyed eight dwelling-houses, all on farms adjoining each other, besides barns and outhouses. The first they burnt was my own, then Benjamin Covenhoven's, George Walker's, Hannah Solomon's, Benjamin VanCleave's, David Covenhoven's, and Garrit Vanderveer's; John Benham's house and barn they wantonly tore and broke down so as to render them useless. It may not be improper to observe that the two first houses mentioned burnt, adjoined the farm, and were in full view of the place where Gen. Clinton was quartered. In the neighborhood below the courthouse, they burnt the houses of Matthias Lane, Cornelius Covenhoven, John Antonidas, and one Emmons; these were burnt the morning after their defeat.

Some have the effrontery to say, that the British officers by no means countenance or allow of burning. Did not the wanton burning of Charleston and Kingston, in Esopus, besides many other instances, sufficiently evince to the contrary, I think their conduct in Freehold may. The officers have been seen to exult at the sight of the flames, and heard to declare they could never conquer America until they burnt every rebel's house, and murdered man, woman and child. Besides, this consideration has great weight with me toward confirming the above, that, after their defeat, through a retreat of 25 miles, in which they passed the houses of a number well-affected to their country, they never attempted to destroy one. Thus much for their burning.

"To enter into a minute detail of the many insults and abuses those inhabitants met with that remained in their houses, would take up too much room in your paper; I shall, therefore, content myself with giving you an account of Gen. Clinton's conduct to one of my neighbors, a woman of 70 years of age, and unblemished reputation, with whom he made his quarters. [This was Mrs. William Conover, who resided two miles west of the Courthouse on the Burlington road].

"After he had been for some time in her house, and taking notice that most of the goods were removed, he observed that she need not have sent off her effects for safety, that he would have secured her, and asked it the goods could not be brought back again. The old lady objected, but upon the repeated assurance of Gen. Clinton, in person, that they should be secured for her, she consented, and sent a person he had ordered, along with the wagon, to show where they were secreted. When the goods were brought to the door, which was in the latter part of the day, the old lady applied to Gen. Clinton for permission to have them brought in and taken care of, but he refused, and ordered a guard set over the goods. The morning following, the old lady finding most of her goods plundered and stolen, applied to him again for leave to take care of the remainder. He then allowed her to take care of some trifling articles, which were all she saved, not having, (when I saw her, and had the above information from her) a change of dress for herself, or husband, or scarcely for any of her family.

"With regard to personal treatment, she was turned out of her bedroom and obliged to lie with her wenches, either on the floor, without bed or bedding, in an entry exposed to the passing or repassing of all, etc., or sit in a chair in a milkroom, too bad for any of the officers to lie in, else it is probable she would have been deprived of that also. If the first officers of the British army are so divested of honor and humanity, what may we not expect from the soldier?"

Introduction and Preface-Hornor - useful advice in reading chronicled history
Eve of the Battle of Monmouth-Hornor
Battle of Monmouth-Hornor
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