Two views of Washington relieving Charles Lee from command during the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778.
Washington had ordered General Charles Lee to lead a frontal assault. At first Lee was so reluctant to take part in the attack that Washington gave command to Lafayette. Lee then had a change of heart and requested Lafayette to cede command, which he did. Washington ordered Lee to attack what he thought was a retreating enemy. But after only one volley Lee ordered a retreat. Seeing this, Lafayette informed Washington. Lee’s troops retreated directly into Washington and his troops, who were advancing, and Washington dressed him down publicly. Lee responded with insubordination for which he was arrested. However there is some evidence, collaborated by the British leaders, that had Lee followed Washington’s orders it would have been a disaster for his command and could have led to a crushing defeat for the American Army. Some historians now feel that America won its independence in spite of Washington’s military leadership rather than because of it.
Top painting by Emanuel Leutze and bottom by H Charles McBarron Jr