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Rediscovering George Washington
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Battle of Monmouth


It is often remarked that great artists can be lousy human beings. Generals and statesmen, on the other hand, cannot excel at their work if they lack human excellence, because so much of that work consists of inspiring their soldiers and citizens by example.

As at the battle of Princeton eighteen months previous, General Washington had occasion to demonstrate this maxim at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. Marching on a British force of 10,000 with one part of his army, he encountered the other part in chaotic retreat and under hot-blooded pursuit by the enemy. Washington berated the officer who had allowed this chaotic retreat to begin, before suddenly taking charge in a way to end it. Marquis de Lafayette, a French ally serving on his staff, recorded later that Washington, at this dangerous moment in the war, "seemed to arrest fortune with one glance.... His presence stopped the retreat.... His graceful bearing on horseback, his calm and deportment which still retained a trace of displeasure...were all calculated to inspire the highest degree of enthusiasm.... I thought then as now that I had never beheld so superb a man." At the end of the day the British fled in defeat.