Benjamin Van Cleave
1773 – 1821
As a child, I witnessed the Battle of Monmouth.
I was born in 1773 so I was only five years old when the Battle of Monmouth took place on June 28, 1778. As the armies approached our town of Freehold, New Jersey, I remember the “confusion of the women & children and their flight to the pine swamps.” In the confusion I tried to return home and almost ran into the British army when the sound of their bugles “drove me back” and I found that no one had missed me.
The next day, my father and uncles guided companies of Colonel Morgan’s riflemen to scout the right flank of the British army.
After the battle, things were terrible. Our family and neighbors returned home to find most of our buildings burnt down leaving only “naked chimneys standing.” My father “had neither a shelter for his family, nor bread for them, nor clothes to cover them save what we had on.” The British army and war refugees continued to roam our area and attack us during the night. So my father was on almost constant service with the militia, often away from home, continually skirmishing with the British.
Luckily, we survived the war. We moved to Pittsburgh in 1785, further west to Cincinnati in 1790, and finally to a family farm near Dayton. I lived there until my death in 1821.