During my recent visit to the Garden State I visited the site of the Battle of Monmouth with two fellow members of the Caleb’s Crew Hiking Club. Janet is a local historian, and Allan is Allan, so I knew I would have a good time.
Our ‘hike’ was a walk, both at the battle site and at the nearby church. But it was good to be out in the fresh air and amid the colors of fall. And I learned about the Battle of Monmouth, General Washington’s first victory as leader of the newly trained Continental Army. The statue of General Von Steuben reminds me of the like statue at Valley Forge. There at the Pennsylvania park he faces the parade grounds, the area he drilled the troops on two centuries before. At Monmouth he faces the parking lot, which seems a letdown in comparison.
One surprise at Monmouth was a Civil War reenactment. Like many people I’d wonder why a Civil War event is being held in area not known for a Civil War battle, but it turns out Monmouth had been the location of a training and assembly point for troops on the way south. Also, Civil War is the most popular period for reenactment, and not everyone, spectator and reenactor, has the means or time to travel to Vicksburg or Antietam for some commemorative event. These gentlemen chatted with us about reenacting, and the soldier standing is a very distant relation. My ‘people’ came to the US in 1848, like many, many other Irish, and family tradition has it that we were represented at Gettysburg. I could have been talking with my great-great-grandfather as I conversed with the soldiers at Monmouth.