Total Eclipse of the Sun: 1778!

Did you know there was a solar eclipse just days before the Battle of Monmouth?

On June 24th, 1778, North America experienced a solar eclipse. As interesting as the celestial events might have been, terrestrial events were moving towards an even more exciting climax.

In the wake of France’s entry into the war, British Commander Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton was ordered to abandon Philadelphia and consolidate his forces in New York. Fearing intercept at sea by the French Navy, Clinton chose to move his combat forces overland, across New Jersey.

After much debate among his commanders, Lieutenant General George Washington decided he could not let Clinton’s march go unchallenged. By the last week of June Washington’s troops were in pursuit of the Crown forces.

As militia and some Continental forces sought to disrupt and delay the British march, the main Continental force closed to within striking distance, and looked for an opportunity to attack an isolated enemy element.

On June 28th, 1778, as the opposing forces jockeyed for position, day turned into night as the moon blocked the sun’s light.

solar-eclipseFortunately, science had progressed to the point that scientists had been able to predict the event, and rather than be seen as an omen of good or evil, the eclipse was greeted with indifference by the troops. Perhaps, at best, the moon delivered some much welcome shade to deliver the troops momentarily from the brutal summer heat.

Certainly when, a few days later on June 28th, 1778, the two armies clashed at Monmouth Courthouse, the last thing on the minds of the troops was the eclipse. They had more pressing business.


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