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Originally published in 1884
Compiled by Willian H. Shaw

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2004

IN the great struggle in which the original thirteen colonies were engaged for their independence from British rule, tyranny and oppression, no section of the territory embraced, was more enthusiastic for freedom from the clutches of the British Lion, than was old Essex County, one of the original municipalities of the then sparsely settled commonwealth. Lying as it did between the two great cities of New York and Philadelphia, (for they were considered great then, but in a different sense from their present greatness), it was as it were, between the upper and the nether millstone, and its products made, to a certain extent, food for whichever army had possession, during that long and eventful struggle.

First Call for Troops. -In the following resolutions from the journal of Congress, October 9th, 1775, is the first call on New Jersey for Continental troops. (From Stryker's "Jerseymen in the Revolutionary War.")

Resolved, That it be recommended to the Convention of New Jersey, that they immediately raise at the expense of the Continent, two battalions of eight companies each, and each company of sixty-eight privates, officered with one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, and four corporals.

That the privates be enlisted for one year, at the rate of five dollars per calendar month, liable to be discharged at any time on allowing them one month's pay extraordinary.

That each of the privates be allowed, instead of a bounty, one felt hat, a pair of yarn stockings, and a pair of shoes: the men to find their own arms.

That the pay of the officers, for the present, be the same as that of the officers in the Continental army ; and in case the pay of the officers in the army is augmented, the pay of the officers in these battalions shall, in like manner, be augmented from the time of their engagement in the service.

A copy of the above resolutions was laid before the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, October 13th, 1775, with the following official letter of transmittal:
PHILADELPHIA, October 12, 1775.
GENTLEMEN-Some later intelligence, laid before Congress, seems to render it absolutely necessary, for the protection of our liberties and safety of our lives, to raise several new battalions, and therefore the Congress have come into the inclosed resolutions, which I am ordered to transmit to you. The Congress have the firmest confidence that, from your experienced zeal in the great cause, you will exert your utmost endeavors to carry the said resolutions into execution with all possible expedition.

The Congress have agreed to furnish the men with a hunting-shirt, not exceeding the value of one dollar and one-third of a dollar, and a blanket, provided these can be procured ; but these are not to be made a part of the terms of enlistment.

"I am, gentlemen,
"Your most ob'd't. humble servant,
JOHN HANCOCK, President.

Forty-eight blanks for commissions were sent at the same time for Captains and subaltern officers of the New Jersey Battalions.

On the 26th of October, 1775, the Provincial Congress, then in session at Trenton, provided a form of enlistment as follows, and at the same time fixed the pay of officers and men, and appointed "Muster Masters."

"I --, have this day voluntarily enlisted myself as a soldier in the American Continental Army for one year, unless sooner discharged ; and do bind myself to conform in all instances to such rules

and regulations as are or shall be established for the government of the said army.

That each of the privates be allowed, instead of a bounty, a felt hat, a pair of yarn stockings, and a pair of shoes : the men to find their own arms,.

That each captain and other commissioned officers, while in the recruiting service of this Continent, or on their march to join the army, shall be allowed two dollars and two-thirds of a dollar per week for their subsistence; and that the men who shall enlist, each of them, whilst in quarters, be allowed one dollar per week, and one dollar and one-third of a dollar when on their march to join the army, for the same purpose.

The Provincial Congress at Trenton, on the same day appointed Elias Dayton, Azariah Dunham, Joseph Ellis or John Mehelm, Esqrs, "Muster Masters," whose duty it was made, to attend to mustering of each company as it was raised, and prepare troops for the service.

All inhabitants of the colony were urgently requested "to be aiding and assisting, as far as their influence extends, in raising the aforesaid levies."

And it is further resolved that each muster-master shall have for his trouble for reviewing each company, such reward as this Congress or Committee of Safety shall judge proper for his service, which the Treasurer of this Colony for the time being, appointed by Congress, shall pay out of the bills of credit to be issued by direction of this Congress, upon an order or orders to him produced from this Congress or Committee of Safety.
Such was the beginning in New Jersey of a revolution that has made America what it is to-day. One interesting point is the large discrepancy between the pay of men and officers in that struggle for independence, and our war of 1861-65 for the preservation of principles rooted and grounded and gained in 1775-83.

It is to be regretted that the localities in which the several companies making up the several battalions were raised have not been given, or, if ever on record, were far beyond the reach of General Stryker.

In the First Battalion of the First Establishment there are quite a number of Essex County names, such as Matthias Halsted, Aaron Ogden, Joseph Morris, Daniel Baldwin, Joseph Meeker, and others. There are Essex County names in each battalion of the First and Second Establishment, but which company, if either, was raised in what is now Essex County is a mystery that will probably never be solved.

February 9, 1780, Congress called upon New Jersey for sixteen hundred and twenty men to fill up the "Jersey Line" for the campaign of that year, and on March 11 of the same year the deficiency was ordered filled by the Legislature, and the Muster Master for Essex County for that call was Colonel Moses Jaques. June 14th following the law was amended by calling for six hundred and twenty-tour men to be raised in the State, forty-five of whom were to be raised in Essex County.

June 25, 1781, the Legislature made another levy of four hundred and fifty men, and appointed Ephraim Marsh, Jr., of Essex County, as one of the recruiting officers, and the bounty authorized at this time to be paid to each recruit was 12 in gold or silver.

In the Third, or last Establishment for troops, Matthias Ogden was commissioned as Colonel of the First Regiment, and Stephen Ball was appointed Surgeon's Mate, but soon after resigned.

State Troops. -October 9, 1779, an act was passed "to embody, for a limited time, four thousand of the militia of this State, by voluntary enlistment." This force was called out on the recommendation of Congress, September 26, 1779, and were to continue in service till December 20, 1779. The quota of enlisted men of each county was made "four times the num her that were apportioned" under the last act. Under this call Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth furnished ten companies of one hundred and sixteen men each, with Asher Holmes as Colonel, Jacob Crane, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Clarkson Edgar, as Major of the Regiment.

December 26, 1780, eight hundred and twenty men were ordered to be raised, to serve until January 1, 1782, and of this number Essex County contributed two hundred and fifty-nine men, in four companies, officered as follows:

  • Captain, John Scudder; Lieutenant, David Woodruff; Ensign, Daniel Baker.

  • Captain, Jonas Ward; Lieutenant, C. Victor King; Ensign, Lemuel Minthorn.

  • Captain, Robert Neil ; Lietenant, Anthony Brown ; Ensign, John Burnett.

  • Captain, John Craig, Lieutenant, Cornelius Williams ; Ensign, John Miller.
December 29, 1781, a call was made on New Jersey for four hundred and twenty-two men to serve until December 15, 1782, of whom Essex County furnished one company, officered as follows: Captain, John Craig; Lieutenant, John Spier; First Ensign, Charles Clark ; Second Ensign, Lemuel Minthorn.

Militia. –Under an amended act of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, passed August 16, 1775, all officers chosen were ordered to be commissioned by the Provincial Congress or the Committee of Safety. Penalties and fines were then exacted for disobedience and refusal to bear arms or absence at muster. Under this plan Essex County was to raise two regiments. In some counties Minute Men had been raised under this act, and subsequently applied to all counties, and Essex County under this arrangement raised six companies.

These companies of militia, called "Minute Men," were "held in constant readiness, on the shortest notice, to march to any place where assistance might be required for the defense of this or any neighboring colony." They were to continue in service four months, and they had precedence of rank over the "common militia" of the Province.

August 31, 1775, it is noticed that the "Minute Men" were directed to adopt for their uniform, hunting frocks, as near as may be, to the uniform of riflemen in Continental service.

Stringent Measures. -October 28, 1775, the Congress of New Jersey passed more stringent measures in relation to the militia. Men capable of bearing arms who were "requested" to enroll themselves by the first military ordinance, were now "directed" to do so. They were directed, with all convenient speed, to furnish themselves with "a good musket or firelock and bayonet, sword or tomahawk, a steel ramrod, worm, pruning-wire and brush fitted thereto, a cartouch-box to contain twenty-three rounds of cartridges, twelve flints, and a knapsack." They were also directed to keep "at their Places of abode one pound of powder and three pounds of bullets." Fines, if not paid, were ordered to be collected by warrants of distress, levied on the goods and chattels of the offender. In case of an alarm the "Minute Men" were directed to repair immediately to their captain's residence, and he was to march his command instantly to oppose the enemy. Companies of light-horse were ordered to be raised among the militia.

Troops Called to New York. -In February, 1776, the Committee of Safety of New York called upon the Provincial Congress for a detachment of militia to assist in arresting tories in Queens County, Long Island, and on Staten Island, New York, and on the twelfth of that month three hundred men from Essex County were ordered out for that purpose, with the following officers commanding: Colonel, Nathaniel Heard; Lieutenant-Colonel, Edward Thomas; Major, John Dunn.

Many of the "Minute Men," as such, having entered the Continental Army, the battalions thereof became so reduced that on February 29, 1776, they were ordered to be dissolved and incorporated in the militia of the districts where they resided.

June 3, 1776, the Continental Congress "Resolved, That thirteen thousand eight hundred militia be employed to re-enforce the army at New York." "Resolved, That the Colony of New Jersey be requested to furnish of their militia three thousand three hundred men."

According to this resolve, an ordinance was passed June 14, 1776, by the Provincial Congress, to raise the number of men required. This force was ordered to be divided into five battalions, consisting of eight companies of seventy men each, and the service was limited to December 1, 1776. A bounty of 3 was allowed to each man who should enlist in this brigade.

The first battalion consisted of eight companies, three of which were from Essex County. This battalion was officered as follows: Colonel, Philip Van Cortland; Lieutenant-Colonel, David Brearly; Major, Richard Dey; Surgeon, John Condit; Surgeon's Mate, John Hammel; Chaplain, Andrew Hunter.

Troops Requested for Washington's Army. - July 16, 1776, Congress requested the Convention of New Jersey to supply with militia the places of two thousand men of General Washington's army who had been ordered to march into New Jersey to form the flying camp. On July 18 an ordinance was passed detaching that number from the militia for that purpose. It was resolved that the two thousand militia should compose four battalions, consisting of thirty companies, of sixty-four men each. They were to be held for one month only from the time of their joining the flying camp. Of this brigade Essex County furnished three of the seven companies composing the first battalion. This battalion was officered as follows: Colonel, Edward Thomas; Lieutenant-Colonel, Ellis Cook ; Major, John Mauritius Goetschius; Adjutant, Samuel Hayes; Surgeon, William Winouts.

March 15, 1777, an act was passed for the better regulation of the militia. It organized the force more strictly than formerly, defined the duties and powers of officers, &c. This was still further improved by an act of April 14, 1778, which divided the militia into two brigades, of which the Essex men formed a part of the first.

March 18, 1780, this act was amended, and bounties ranging from five hundred dollars (Continental money), for the colonel, to sixty dollars for the private, were ordered paid for actual service for one month.

January 8, 1781, the militia were formed into three brigades instead of two, and the Essex County men were in the Upper Brigade, or those lying on the northern and eastern side of the Raritan, and of the south branch of the same.

June 27, 1781, the Governor of the State was authorized to call out a part of the militia, and continue them in service three months, for the purpose of co-operating with the Continental army. Such men were exempt from service for nine months next ensuing.

The good service performed by the militia of this State, in which the men from Essex County bore a prominent part, are fully recorded in history. They were in the battles of Quinton's Bridge, Hancock's Bridge, Three Rivers, Connecticut Farms, Van Nest's Mills, Long Island, Trenton, Assumpink, Princeton, Germantown, Springfield, and Monmouth. In all these places they performed efficient service in the Continental line.

History of Essex County

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