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The Continental Line, Militia and State Troops

The first call upon New Jersey for continental troops was made upon October 9, 1775, when the Continental Congress recommended that the colony raise "at the expense of the Continent" two battalions, each containing eight companies, while each company be composed of sixty-eight privates. The term of enlistment was for one year at the wage-rate of five dollars per calendar month. In place of bounty each private was allowed one felt hat, a pair of yarn stockings, and shoes, "the men to find their own arms." The Continental Congress provided commissions for captains and subaltern officers. Advertisements issued under the authority of the Provincial Congress were immediately circulated throughout New Jersey calling for recruits, the colony providing two and two-thirds dollars per week for each officer's subsistence, while each private was allowed one dollar per week "whilst in quarters" and one and one-third dollars when on march to join the army. Four muster masters were appointed to carry out the intent of the Provincial Congress.

Throughout the autumn the Continental and Provincial Congresses politely wrangled over the matter of the selection of field officers. The influences of politics had led the Continental Congress to assume the right of appointing New Jersey's field officers. This, the colony contended, should be reserved to itself, in that the service would be expedited by the selection of men of high standing, tending to encourage others of reputation to become captains and subalterns and to stimulate the enlistment of privates. After more discussion the Provincial Congress, upon October 28, recommended the names of those fitted for field officers of the First or Eastern Battalion and the Second or Western Battalion. This organization was known as the First Establishment of the continental troops "Jersey Line." Of the First Battalion William Alexander, titular Lord Stirling, was colonel, while William Maxwell was colonel of the Second Battalion.

By the 10th of November, 1775, six of the sixteen companies of both battalions had been recruited and were sent for garrison duty in the protection of the upper Hudson Valley. November 27 the remaining companies of the two battalions were barracked in New York City, where they were shortly joined by the companies which had been in the Highlands. Early in January three companies of the continental line assisted the First Battalion of the Middlesex County militia in intimidating the Tories of Long Island. Until May, 1776, Colonel Stirling's battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel William Winds, lay at Perth Amboy and Elizabethtown.

Although it was with difficulty that arms and clothing could be secured for the Second Battalion, preventing it from reporting to General Schuyler in Albany, the Continental Congress, upon the 10th of January, 1776, called upon New Jersey to furnish a third battalion of eight companies, each consisting of seventy-eight privates. As in the First and Second Battalions the term of enlistment was for one year. The recruiting officer under the direction of the Provincial Congress was ordered to enlist "none but healthy, sound, and able bodied freemen not under sixteen years of age," and "that no apprentice whatsoever be enlisted within this Colony without the consent of his master or mistress first obtained in writing." The colonel of the Third Battalion, First Establishment, was Elias Dayton. Of the eight companies four were stationed at Staten Island and four at Perth Amboy. Upon the 3d of May the First and Third Battalions left New York City upon the Canadian expedition, being later joined by the Second, which, finally, had been equipped. As early as February 2, 1776, the Provincial Congress had urged the chairmen of the county committees to collect and send arms to Burlington or Trenton, while all the blankets in the barracks at New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Trenton, and Elizabethtown were immediately appropriated to the use of the Second Battalion.

After service before Quebec the First and Second Battalions were ordered into barracks at Ticonderoga, and on November 5, 1776, were directed to return to New Jersey and be discharged. After nearly a year's experience in Indian warfare, at Johnstown, German Flats, Fort Dayton, Fort Schuyler, Ticonderoga, and Mount Independence, the Third Battalion returned to New Jersey and, at Morristown, was discharged upon March 23, 1777.

The Second Establishment of continental troops from New Jersey dates from September 16, 1776, when the Continental Congress enjoined New Jersey to furnish four battalions, her quota of eighty-eight battalions to be raised by the various States. Under the new establishment a bounty of twenty dollars was offered to every non-commissioned officer and private, while provision was made for land grants to everyone who enlisted, the land to be distributed according to official rank. Each State was charged with the arming, clothing, and equipping of its battalions. In lieu of the twenty dollars bounty Congress resolved that each non-commissioned officer and private be annually given a suit of clothes, consisting of "two linen hunting-shirts, two pair of overalls, a leathern or woolen waistcoat with sleeves, one pair of breeches, a hat or leathern cap, two shirts, two pair of hose, and two pair of shoes."

During the latter part of September, 1776, the three battalions of the First Establishment were in service in and near Albany. It was decided by the House of Assembly and Council that these battalions be given preference in the matter of re-enlistment. Accordingly John Cleves Symmes and Theunis Dey were appointed commissioners to ascertain the condition of the troops of the First Establishment. Upon the 25th of October, 1776, at Ticonderoga, the New Jersey regiments of the First Establishment were reviewed, the commissioners finding the men "destitute of many articles of dress, supplies of every kind they want, but shoes and stockings they are in the last necessity for, many having neither to their feet." Provisions and arms were plentiful. Under the stimulus of patriotism most of the New Jersey officers and many of the privates re-enlisted. The commissioners appointed to confer with the general officers relative to the advancement of subordinate officers, distinguished for ability, activity, and vigilance, were Theophilus Elmer, of Council, and Abraham Clark, of the House of Assembly.

By the middle of February the officers of various battalions of the Second Establishment had been selected. Of the First the colonel was Silas Newcomb; of the Second Israel Shreve was colonel. The colonel of the Third Battalion was Elias Dayton, Ephraim Martin holding a similar position in the Fourth. These four battalions, known as "Maxwell's Brigade," were under the command of Brigadier-General William Maxwell, who had previously been colonel of the Second Battalion of the First Establishment. To this position General Maxwell had been elected by Congress October 23, 1776.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1777 "Maxwell's Brigade" rendered service of a highly important character. Placed in the division of the American army under the command of Major-General Adam Stephen, of Virginia, the brigade in May was encamped at Elizabethtown, Bound Brook, and Rahway, a portion of the brigade taking part in the battle of the Brandywine, finally encamping at Germantown after desultory fighting in the Schuylkill Valley. During the battle of Germantown the New Jersey brigade, with a brigade from North Carolina, formed the corps de reserve and left wing of the American army, commanded by Major-General William Alexander. After spending the winter at Valley Forge the brigade was detached from the main army. Being joined by six hundred men under Colonel Daniel Morgan, fifteen hundred veterans under General Charles Scott, both of Virginia, one thousand troops under Brigadier-General Anthony Wayne, of Pennsylvania, all commanded by General Lafayette, "Maxwell's Brigade" harassed and impeded General Clinton's force in its retreat through the Jerseys after the evacuation of Philadelphia. Although "sadly in want of clothing" the brigade participated in the battle of Monmouth.

The winter of 1778-79 found the brigade at Elizabethtown, with a detachment of the Second Battalion at Newark and a detachment of the Fourth Battalion at Rahway, while under Major-General John Sullivan, the brigade took part in the Indian campaign of 1779.

Following a rearrangement of the American army, upon May 27, 1778, Congress, on March 9, 1779, resolved that eighty battalions be raised for the ensuing campaign, of which New Jersey's proportion was three battalions. Each battalion was to consist of nine companies, one of which was light infantry. Upon the 9th of June, 1779, the Legislature of New Jersey passed an act for recruiting the three battalions of the State. Large bounties were paid under the provisions of the statute, which were further increased under a call of Congress upon February 9, 1780, that New Jersey supply one thousand six hundred and twenty men to complete her line. The Legislature, upon March 11, 1780, appointed muster officers who were apparently unable to secure required recruits, for the act was amended on June 14th of the same year, the call being for six hundred and twenty-four men. Again in June, 1781, the Legislature endeavored, by the appointment of new muster officers, to supply a deficit of four hundred and fifty men. A bounty of twelve pounds in gold or silver was offered, the troops to serve until the close of the war.

The Third and last establishment of the New Jersey line of the continental troops was undertaken by a committee of Congress during the summer of 1780, the "arrangement" of officers being confirmed by the New Jersey Legislature upon September 26, 1781. Of the Third Establishment there were three regiments, the colonel of the first being Matthias Ogden, the colonel of the second being Israel Shreve, and the colonel of the third being Elias Dayton. During the autumn campaign of 1781 these three regiments took part in the siege of Yorktown, being present at the surrender, and were discharged November 3, 1783.

From time to time New Jersey men enlisted in the continental line of other States; officers of the New Jersey State troops or militia recruited in New Jersey and elsewhere, mustering men under special authority of Congress. Thus Colonel Oliver Spencer, of New Jersey, organized a battalion of Jerseymen during the period of enlistment of men for the Second Establishment. From the fact that this establishment contained four battalions Colonel Spencer's battalion was sometimes known as the Fifth. It contained about one hundred and fifty men. Brigadier-General Forman resigned from the New Jersey militia to accept command of a congressional regiment largely recruited in Maryland. A few Jerseymen joined this regiment. One hundred Jerseymen were in "Lee's Legion" of cavalry, while Jerseymen appeared in Colonel Moses Hazen's regiment, known as the Second Canadian, and in Colonel John Lamb's artillery were to be found men from Burlington, Essex, and Somerset Counties. Colonel Elisha Sheldon's regiment of light dragoons, Colonel Anthony Walton White's regiment of light dragoons, Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin's regiment of artificers, and Colonel Stephen Moylan's Pennsylvania regiment had Jerseymen upon their rosters. The Congress's Own Regiment, the Sappers and Miners, and Colonel James Livingston's regiment also contained men from this State. Such was also the case in Colonel Lewis Weltner's German regiment of Pennsylvania, Pulaski's legion, Colonel Lewis Nicola's invalid corps, and Colonel George Baylor's light dragoons. Colonel Baylor was a Virginian and was General Washington's aid-de-camp during the affair at Trenton.

To William Colfax, of Connecticut, but who, after the Revolution, settled in New Jersey, came the distinguished honor of being lieutenant and then captain of the commander-in-chief's guard.

Known by the names of the "Life Guard" and "Washington's Bodyguard," it first consisted of one hundred and eighty picked men from every State, the motto of the organization being "Conquer or Die." During the encampment at Valley Forge the guard was reorganized, one hundred men being annexed thereto "for the purpose of forming a corps to be instructed in the maneuvers necessary to be introduced into the army and to serve as a model for the execution of them."

It was upon the 3d of June, 1775, that the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, sitting in Trenton, provided a "plan for regulating the Militia of this Colony," "being apprehensive," says the resolution, "that all pacific measures for the redress of our grievances will prove ineffectual." The plan of organization embraced features which would recommend it to popular approval. One or more companies composed of men between the ages of sixteen and fifty were to be formed in each township and corporation. Each company was to contain eighty men between the ages of sixteen and fifty, and was to have the choice of its captain, two lieutenants, and one ensign, the officers to appoint sergeants, corporals, and drummers. Upon the organization of companies into regiments the company officers were to select a colonel, lieutenant-colonel, major, and adjutant.

Turning to the organization of the militia, the first allotment of regiments and battalions among the counties was made upon the 16th of August, 1775. The militia of Bergen composed one regiment, as did the militia of Salem; Essex, Middlesex, and Somerset each two regiments; Sussex two regiments and one battalion; Burlington two regiments with a company of rangers in the Township of Egg Harbor; Morris two regiments and one battalion; Monmouth three regiments; Hunterdon four regiments; Cape May one battalion; Cumberland two battalions; and Gloucester three battalions. Details of military government of precedence, and of equipment were provided for under a series of resolutions. The call of the Continental Congress for organization of minutemen, who, in New Jersey, were to hold themselves in constant readiness on the shortest notice to march whenever and wherever their assistance might be required, did not pass unheeded. Four thousand able-bodied militia divided into companies of sixty-four men, officers included, were directed to be immediately enlisted in the several counties, of which Hunterdon was to furnish eight companies; Essex, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Morris six companies; Somerset, Sussex, and Burlington five companies; Bergen and Gloucester four companies; Salem and Cumberland three companies; and Cape May one company. Ten battalions were to be formed of the sixty-two minute companies under officers selected by the township or company committees of correspondence. To each county was allotted one battalion, except in the cases of Gloucester and Salem, which were united, while the companies in Cumberland and Cape May were to be considered independent companies of light infantry and rangers. To the minutemen were given "precedency of rank of the common Militia of the Province," while their service was limited to the space of four months. The Continental Congress recommended, as a uniform, hunting frocks similar to those worn by riflemen in the continental service.

In the meantime a portion of the leading men of the colony had become acquainted with one who for years was destined to spend much of his military life in New Jersey--General George Washington. Appointed by Congress commander-in-chief of the army, he left Philadelphia upon June 23, 1775, with a military escort, on his way to the environs of Boston. With General Washington, who rode on horseback, were Generals Lee and Schuyler, Thomas Mifflin, and Joseph Reed. When near Trenton they were met by a courier who brought with him the news of the battle of Bunker Hill. The next day found General Washington in Newark, where, upon the 25th, he met a committee of the Provincial Congress of New York, who conducted him to Hoboken. That afternoon, being Sunday, he crossed the river to New York City, and thence by way of Kingsbridge, New Haven, Wethersfield, Springfield, and Watertown, he reached Cambridge upon Monday, July 3.

For the purpose of effectively supporting the military establishment a sum of œ10,000 was directed to be raised at once by the several counties of the colony. In the meantime, before adjournment, the thanks of the Congress were extended to the Counties of Morris, Sussex, and Somerset for their exertions in raising minutemen.

Throughout the month of October, 1777, the delay incident to collecting œ10,000 apportioned to be raised by the former Congress had given to the leaders of the new movement much anxiety. This, together with the preparation of an estimate of expense necessary for the defense of the colony, had been debated, but upon the 24th of October the Congress agreed to purchase for the use of the colony three thousand stand of arms, ten tons of gunpowder, twenty tons of lead, one thousand "cartouche boxes," two medicine chests, two thousand blankets, four hundred tents, with necessary furniture, canteens, and knapsacks, and voted fourteen hundred pounds subsistence money at one shilling per man per day en route to their destination, and four thousand pounds for payment of troops for one month when in service, three hundred pounds for axes, spades, and entrenching tools, five hundred pounds for procuring a train of artillery, and one thousand pounds for the erection of a saltpeter works, the latter sum to be distributed as a bounty for merchantable product made in New Jersey before January 1, 1777. Thirty thousand pounds proclamation money in bills of credit was ordered struck, a course necessitated by the refusal of the Continental Congress to loan money to the colony after a strongly worded application.

A new militia ordinance passed by the Provincial Congress upon the 28th of October, 1775, shows that the most active preparations were being made for war. Men enlisting were required to provide themselves with "a good musket or firelock, and bayonet, sword, or tomahawk, a steel ramrod, worm, priming wire, and brush fitted thereto," together with cartridge box, cartridges, twelve flints, and a knapsack. On alarms the "minutemen" were ordered to proceed to the homes of their captains, while from the militia provision was made for the organization of companies of light horse.

Although the expedition against the Long Island Tories in February, 1776, was ended almost as soon as it was begun, the militia of Middlesex, Essex, and Somerset Counties responded promptly to the call of the New York committee of safety. The minutemen upon this occasion were under the command of Colonels Nathaniel Heard and Charles Stewart. Upon the 29th of February, 1776, the minutemen were "dissolved and incorporated in the militia of the districts where they resided."

Upon the 13th of February, 1776, the Provisional Congress, upon the recommendation of the committee of safety of Pennsylvania, decided to add to the equipment of the colony a train of artillery of twelve field pieces, and to increase the issue of paper bills from thirty thousand pounds to fifty thousand pounds.

In the early summer of 1776 the perilous situation of the City of New York led the Continental Congress to call for thirteen thousand eight hundred militia, of which New Jersey's quota was thirty-three hundred. Upon the 14th of June the Provincial Congress directed that the troops to be raised in the colony be divided into five battalions, each consisting of eight companies with seventy-eight privates to the company. The period of service was limited to December 1, 1776. Joseph Reed having declined the brigadier-generalship, Nathaniel Heard was selected for the position. In the formation of the five battalions one was composed of three companies from Bergen, three from Essex, and two from Burlington under the command of Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt. Four companies from Middlesex and four from Monmouth completed another battalion, of which the colonel was Nathaniel Heard. A third battalion contained four companies from Morris and four from Sussex, Ephraim Martin being colonel, while Colonel Stephen Hunt was in command of a battalion consisting of three companies from Somerset and five companies from Hunterdon. Silas Newcomb was the colonel of a battalion with two companies from Burlington, two from Cumberland, two from Gloucester, and two from Salem. Apparently no provision was made for recruiting men from Cape May.

The Provincial Congress, on July 18th, in accordance with a request of the Continental Congress, resolved to enlist two thousand men to take the place of troops detailed to form the Flying Camp. The two thousand militia were to be organized in four battalions, each company to consist of sixty-four men. Under the arrangement one battalion included two companies from Bergen, three from Essex, and two from Morris under the colonelcy of Edward Thomas. For another battalion Somerset furnished two companies, Sussex two companies, and Hunterdon four companies, with Mark Thompson as colonel. Middlesex's three companies, Monmouth's three companies, and Salem's two companies composed a third battalion with Samuel Forman as colonel, while Colonel Charles Read's battalion consisted of three companies from Burlington, three from Gloucester, and one from Cumberland. Under a method that lasted throughout the war one-half the militia was in constant service on a basis of monthly classes.

By acts of March 15, 1777, and April 14, 1778, the militia was further regulated, the latter statute creating two brigades, Middlesex, Somerset, Essex, Bergen, Morris, and Sussex forming one brigade, the remaining counties of the State the other. In 1781, on the 8th of January, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Brigades were created. The Upper Brigade included the militia of the Counties of Bergen, Essex, Morris, and Sussex, and of those parts of Middlesex and Somerset lying on the northern and eastern side of the Raritan and its South Branch. The Middle Brigade included the remaining portions of Middlesex and Somerset and the Counties of Monmouth, Hunterdon, and Burlington. The Lower Brigade comprised Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May. Throughout the duration of the war artillery companies and troops of horse were organized under the direction of the governor or the Legislature.

The county organization of the militia shows the command to have been vested in Major-General Philemon Dickinson, with Bergen County, Colonel Theunis Dey; Burlington County, First Regiment, Colonel Joseph Borden, Second Regiment, Charles Read; Cape May County, Colonel John Mackay; Cumberland County, First Battalion, Colonel Silas Newcomb, Second Battalion, Colonel David Potter; Essex County, First Regiment, Colonel Elias Dayton, Second Regiment, North and South Battalions, Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt; Gloucester County, First Battalion, Colonel Israel Shreve, Second Battalion, Colonel Joseph Ellis, Third Battalion, Colonel Richard Somers; Hunterdon County, First Regiment, Colonel Isaac Smith; Second Regiment, Colonel Nathaniel Hunt, Third Regiment, Colonel David Chambers, Fourth Regiment, Colonel John Mehelm; Middlesex County, First Regiment, Colonel Nathaniel Heard, Second Regiment, Colonel John Wetherill, Third Regiment, Colonel John Duyckinck; Monmouth County, First Regiment, Colonel Nathaniel Scudder, Second Regiment, Colonel David Brearley, Third Regiment, Colonel Samuel Breese; Morris County, Eastern Battalion, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr., Western Battalion, Colonel Jacob Drake; Salem County, Western Battalion, Colonel Samuel Dick, Eastern Battalion, Colonel John Holme; Somerset County, First Battalion, Colonel William Alexander, Second Battalion, Colonel Abraham Quick; Sussex County, First Regiment, Colonel William Maxwell, Second Regiment, Colonel Ephraim Martin, Third Battalion, Colonel John Cleves Symmes.

From the militia of the State, from time to time, occasion required that volunteers be called into service to repel raids, protect the sea coast, and perform a variety of duties upon territory which was continually the theater of strife. The volunteers liable for duty in New Jersey and in adjoining States were known as "State Troops," or as "New Jersey Levies" and "Five months Levies." As early as February 13, 1776, the Provincial Congress resolved that "two complete artillery companies be raised," one to be stationed in the eastern part of the colony and the other in the western portion. Of the eastern company, which previous to the affair at Trenton was merged into Colonel Thomas Proctor's regiment of artillery, Frederick Frelinghuysen was the captain, while Samuel Hugg was captain of the western company.

The crisis of the Revolution during Washington's retreat through the Jerseys necessitated an urgent call for volunteers to serve from November 27, 1776, until April 1, 1777. Under the act for raising four battalions Matthias Williamson was created brigadier-general, provision being made for thirty-two companies. Bergen, Essex, and Morris formed one battalion with Jacob Ford, Jr., as colonel; Somerset, Sussex, and Hunterdon comprised another battalion with David Chambers as colonel; another battalion came from Middlesex, Monmouth, and Burlington, Charles Read being colonel; while David Potter was the colonel of the battalion from Gloucester, Salem, and Cumberland.

A new company of artillery was established September 24, 1777, the command being given to Captain Joshua Huddy, performing effectively in Monmouth County. To serve from June to December, 1779, one thousand militia were called out for defense of the frontiers of the State, while on the 9th of October, 1779, four thousand men were called into the field to serve until December 20 of that year. Under the details of organization one regiment from Bergen, Morris, Somerset, and Sussex had for its colonel Henry Van Dike; a regiment from Essex, Middlesex, and Monmouth was commanded by Asher Holmes; another regiment from Hunterdon and Burlington had John Taylor for its colonel; while the colonel of the regiment from Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May was Nicholas Stilwell.

During the latter half of the year 1780 six hundred and twenty-four were called for in defense of the frontiers. Under Major Samuel Hayes about two hundred and fifty men were stationed in Bergen and Middlesex, north of the Raritan River; about the same number under Colonel Asher Holmes were in Monmouth and Middlesex; while Major Samuel Westbrook had about one hundred men in Sussex. In 1780 the Legislature made the utmost endeavor to complete the continental line by calling out six hundred and twenty-four men on June 14 and eight hundred and twenty men on December 26. In 1781 the force in Sussex County was increased owing to Indian raids, while upon December 29th of that year four hundred and twenty-two men were called out for a year's service. On the latter call the Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May companies were directed to do "duty on land or water."

New Jersey as a Colony and as a State One of the Original Thirteen By Francis Bazley Lee Associate Board of Editors William S. Stryker, LL.D.: William Nelson, A.M. Garret D. W. Vroom: Ernest C. Richardson, PH.D. Volume Two; The Publishing Society of New Jersey; New York MDCCCCII (1902): transcribed by Fred Kunchick

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