Monmouth Monday: Centennial of the Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1878

June 28, 1878, marked the centennial of the battle of Monmouth, and the anniversary did not pass without commemoration in the town of Freehold, New Jersey, the original location of Monmouth Courthouse. Local newspapers reported that over 20,000 people attended the various ceremonies, orations, and performances that were held, with local and state politicians, and veterans of the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, and the recent Civil War in attendance. George B. McClellan, former commanding general of the Union Armies and the Army of the Potomac, then serving as New Jersey’s governor, reviewed state troops and participated in the cornerstone laying of the Monmouth Battle Monument. The ceremony was the center of the commemorations that day. Although the 94-foot-tall monument crowned by a statue of “Colombia Triumphant,” would not be completed and dedicated until November 1884, those who attended the centennial events understood the significance of what it would represent. After all, it had only been thirteen years since the end of the previous war—one that was fought to save the republic that those who had bled at Monmouth fought themselves to establish. The symbolism was not lost on Enoch L. Cowart, a veteran of the 14th New Jersey Volunteers, which was trained at Camp Vredenburgh around the old battlefield. On July 4, 1878, an original poem he had written, “Centennial of the Battle of Monmouth,” was published in the Monmouth Democrat. Here is that poem below:

Enoch L. Cowart’s poem published in the Monmouth Democrat

To visit the Monmouth Battle Monument and to walk the ground in which the fighting raged over in 1778, join Emerging Revolutionary War historians Billy Griffith and Phillip S. Greenwalt this November on a bus tour covering the winter encampment at Valley Forge and the Monmouth campaign. More information can be found on our website, http://www.emergingrevolutionarywar.org, or on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/632831987720200/?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A%5B%7B%22surface%22%3A%22page%22%7D%5D%7D

Monmouth Battle Monument, Freehold, NJ

Bicentennial Minutes

Almost fifty years ago, the United States celebrated its Bicentennial, treating July 4, 1976 as the 200th anniversary of its founding. (The next “major” milestone will be the semi-quincentennial, which doesn’t quite roll of the tongue). For just over two years, from July 4, 1974 through October 1976, every night CBS Television broadcast a very short monologue by some public personality, ranging from actors and directors to writers and politicians. (Oddly, I don’t recall any historians, but one hopes with more than 750 episodes at least one made it on camera.) They were a minute long, give or take a few seconds, and served as miniature history lessons (or a long commercial), each timed to an anniversary of some specific event on that day. In some ways, they were “on-this-day-in-history” lessons. So, for example, on May 7, 1976 movie director Otto Preminger described Thomas Jefferson’s May 7, 1776 departure from Monticello to return to the Continental Congress. Similarly, on June 4, 1976 Senator Fritz Hollings very briefly described the first arrival of British ships near Charleston as a prelude to their attack on June 28, 1776. Each began with a musical flourish that told you what was coming and was integrated with some still images, a set, or a location that looked “historical” in the background. The series turned out to be relatively popular and was even nominated for two Emmys in 1975 and 1977.

Continue reading “Bicentennial Minutes”