24 September 2009

The Battle of Short Hills, 26 June 1777

Towards the end of June, 1777, the British were roaming through New Jersey from New Brunswick up through Scotch Plains. On 26 June 1777, between one and three o’clock in the morning, the British army set out in two columns. To the right, under British General Charles Cornwallis, was the English Guards, the Hessian grenadiers (under Colonel Carl Emilius von Donop), mounted jäger companies and part of the dragoons. To the left, under General John Vaughan, accompanied by the Commander, Lord William Howe, were the English grenadiers, the English infantry, the Anspach and jäger companies and the remaining dragoons. The column under Cornwallis marched toward Westfield, while Vaughan’s column moved toward Metuchen Meeting House. (1) Vaughan detached the 28th, 35th and 2nd Hessian Battalions and stationed them at Bonhamtown. (2)


About six o’clock in the morning, before the two British columns could join up, William Alexander, Lord Stirling, was able to get between the columns and fire some shots before retreating. (3) By eight o’clock, the fire upon the British became steadier. Near Oak Tree, Cornwallis met up with about 600 men with three cannon on a hill near some woods. After a show of force by the British, the Americans retreated into the woods. (4)


By ten o’clock, the British would meet with the Americans again. Lord Stirling’s division, with six cannon and somewhere between 1800 and 2500 men, attacked from a hill. Under Lord Stirling were General Thomas Conway’s brigade and Brigadier General William Maxwell’s brigade. Cornwallis sent about 5,000 men – the 1st Light Infantry, 1st British Grenadiers, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Hessian Grenadiers, the 1st Battalion of Guards, Hessian jägers and the Queen’s Rangers – against Stirling’s force. After some losses, the von Minnigerode battalion was able to capture two cannon and the English Guards took one, all three being new French brass 3-pounders. (5) Archibald Robertson claims that the British force lost about 40 killed and wounded in this one action. (6) It was said that Lord Stirling had his horse shot from under him, and that General Maxwell was almost captured, missed by only a “hair’s breadth.” (7)


After the American retreat, Vaughan’s column joined up with the men under Cornwallis who had recently battled the Americans, whence they marched to Westfield, harassed along the entire route by shots from men hidden in the bushes and woods. The army bivouacked overnight in and around the Westfield Meeting House (the present-day Presbyterian Church area), and took up the march again on 28 June back to its former location at Amboy. On this march, the British rear guard was constantly harassed by small parties of Americans. (8)


Among the casualties in the battle were twenty-something men of the combined British-Hessian force who died from the heat out of a total of approximately 70 men dead or wounded, (9) although General Howe claimed only 5 killed and 30 wounded. (10) Among the casualties were Captain John Finch, of the 1st Regiment Foot Guards, who was wounded and died on the 29th and Edward Kerin, 17, of the 22nd Light Company, who was wounded and died on 6 July. General George Washington claimed to have taken 13 prisoners. (11)


The American losses are even harder to pin down. Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen, General Howe’s aide, claimed that 37 wagons of wounded men were taken, estimating that the Americans lost 400 killed and wounded. (12) Washington left no numbers in his letter, while Howe claimed that 63 Americans were killed and near 200 were wounded or taken. British Captain John Montresor claimed 50 Americans were killed and 64 prisoners taken, whilst the Continental Journal of Boston reported 20 Americans killed and 40 wounded. Among the causalities was Ensign James Sproul from New Jersey, who was killed; Captain John Paul Schott, who was taken prisoner; Captain James Lawrie of Colonel Israel Shreve’s 2nd NJ Regiment was taken prisoner, and later died in prison; Captain Ephraim Anderson, also of Shreve’s Regiment was killed; Adjutant Joseph King of Colonel Ephraim Martin’s 4th NJ Regiment was shot through the thigh; Captain Cornelius Hennion and Private John Walters, both of Colonel Elias Dayton’s 3rd NJ Regiment were wounded; Josiah Beach of Colonel Matthias Ogden’s 4th NJ Regiment was shot; Private Christopher Romeo of Martin’s Regiment was missing. John Fell, later a congressman, was taken prisoner. Benjamin Simmons was also killed in the battle. (13)


Other men who participated in the battle, but who are not listed above are as follows: Jepther Lee, Capt. Benjamin Tallmadge, Capt. Cyrus De Hart, Col. Presley Neville, Jonathan Freeman, Maj. Nicholas Ottendorff, Johann Carl Buttner, George Ewing, Col. Lewis Willis, William Grant, Capt. Benjamin Eustis, Capt. Edward Archibald, Capt. Gibbs Jones, Capt. Garthwait, Col, Thomas, Johnathan Terry, Jacob Ludlow, Eseck Ryno, and James Kitchel. Among the combined British-Hessian force at the battle was the infamous Maj. John Andre, Lieut. Von Dincklage and Lord Chewton.




(1) Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Capt. Johann Ewald, Trans. & ed. Joseph P. Trustin, New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1979, 69.

(2) Archibald Robertson: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762-1780. ed. Harry Miller Lydenberg. New York Public Library, New York Times and Arno Press, NY, 1971, 139.

(3) At General Howe’s Side: 1776-1778. Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, NJ 1974, 19.

(4) Ibid., 19.

(5) Ibid., 19.

(6) Robertson, 139.

(7) Muenchhausen, 19.

(8) Ewald, 69.

(9) Ewald, 69; Muenchhausen, 20.

(10) War in the Countryside: The Battle and Plunder of the Short Hills New Jersey, June 1777 by Frederic C. Detwiller, Interstate Printing Corporation, Plainfield, NJ 1977, 14.

(11) Robertson, 258; Detwiller, 13, 14.

(12) Muenchhausen, 20.

(13) Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Vol. XX, 1897. Louise Pearsons Dolliver, Washington, D.C., 1905, 117; Pennsylvania Archives, vol. 8. by Samuel Hazard. Joseph Severns & Co., Philadelphia, 1853, 24; Detwiller, 13, 31.

05 July 2009

The Reverend James Caldwell and the Battles of Springfield and Connecticut Farms

File:James Caldwell American Revolution.jpg




James Caldwell was born in April 1734, in Cub Creek in Charlotte County, Virginia. He graduated from Princeton in 1759, and was ordained the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown in 1762. Caldwell served as Third Battalion of Company No. 1, New Jersey Volunteers during the Revolutionary War, and was also Commissary to the troops in New Jersey. He was known as the “fighting parson.”


On 25 January 1780, Reverend Caldwell’s church was burned down by the enemy. He moved his family to the parsonage at Connecticut Farms (now Union), New Jersey so that they might enjoy a safer life. Unfortunately, this was not to pass.


On 6 June 1780, General Knyphausen crossed over from Staten Island into New Jersey with six to seven thousand German soldiers. (1) The goal was to reach Morristown, where the Rebels had their quarters and supplies. On the seventh, Knyphausen’s command marched to Elizabethtown where he drove the Rebel soldiers back. Stephan Popp, a Hessian soldier present at this time, wrote that they “marched close to Springfield, burned down many houses on the way and destroyed very much. On our side many were also killed and wounded.” (2) They retreated by way of Connecticut Farms. They set fire first to the house of Deacon Caleb Wade, and then the Presbyterian Church. They also set fire to other buildings. The New-Jersey Journal of 14 June reported that Hannah Caldwell, the Reverend’s wife, “with a babe of eight months, and one of three years old, with the housekeeper [Catherine Benward] and a little maid [Abigail Lennington], were left. Mrs. Caldwell having dressed herself, and put her house in order, retired into a back room[….]One of the barbarians advancing around the house, took the advantage of a small space, through which the room was accessable [sic], and fired two balls into that amiable lady, so well directed that they ended her life in a moment.” (3) Hannah was then stripped of part of her clothing and the house pilfered before it was set ablaze. Eleven more houses were also set on fire. (4) The Hessian, Popp, recorded in his diary that three boats of wounded were brought back to New York the following day, while another Hessian soldier, Johann Conrad Döhla, reported over 300 killed and wounded, including the English General Stern and Lieutenant Friedrich Ebenauer of the Jäger corps, both killed. (5)


The British did not take kindly to this defeat, and at the end of the month, they would appear at Elizabethtown, Connecticut Farms and Springfield again. The combined British-Hessian force under Knyphausen, with artillery, was able to push the Americans back to Springfield, but not without losses. It was at Springfield that the Americans ran out of paper wadding to load the bullets into their weapons. Reverend James Caldwell went into the Presbyterian Church and came out with as many Isaac Watts hymnals as he could carry. He ran amongst the troops, handing out the hymnals to them yelling, “Give ‘em Watts, boys!” Caldwell’s heroism and resourcefulness could only last so long; the English and Hessians charged with bayonets and chased the Americans out of Springfield. Springfield was plundered on the orders of the commanding general and was set afire (there were no longer any inhabitants). The Hessian soldier Döhla recorded in his diary, “The first fire was set by the English in the beautiful Reformed Church, which, with its steeple, soon was destroyed by the flames, because it was built mostly of wood. Springfield, of sixty or seventy buildings mostly of wood, in a period of half an hour was laid entirely in ashes. Six American men, whose legs had been shot off, unfortunately were burned to death in a house.” (6) Stephan Popp claimed that about one hundred men perished in the burning of the church, as they were not allowed out of the building. (7) If the fire was set to cover the retreat of the British and Hessians, it was not successful. They were pursued by the Americans to Elizabethtown, and suffered heavy losses. The combined British-Hessian forces lost 400-500 men, mostly on the retreat. The loss of the Americans, in killed and wounded, were 600-700 men.


Caldwell was involved throughout the war in the cause of the Patriots. On 24 November 1781, only about a month after the defeat of the British at Yorktown, Virginia, Caldwell was at Elizabethtown Point, picking up a Miss Murray, who had come from New York, under a flag of truce. After walking her to his carriage, he returned to the boat, to retrieve a package that was left behind. On the return back to his carriage, an American sentinel, named Morgan, challenged him, asking what was in the package. Caldwell attempted to proceed to the proper officer with the package, but as he attempted to move away, the sentinel, just relieved from duty, fired his musket, killing the Reverend Caldwell with two balls. Morgan was arrested and tried for the murder of Caldwell; he was condemned for his crime and executed. (8)



The Reverend James Caldwell and his wife were buried in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown.


Sixty-four years after his death, on 24 November 1845, James Caldwell became the first person in Elizabethtown to have a monument dedicated to him, done so by the Sons of Cincinnati. (9) Hannah was also honored, in a different manner. The seal of union County, New Jersey, features the murder of Hannah Caldwell.





(1) A Hessian Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Stephan Popp. Trans. Reinhart J. Pope, private printing, 1953, page 16.

(2) Popp, 16.


(3) New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Documentary History edited by Larry R. Gerlach, page 312.
(4) Gerlach, 313.

(5) Popp, 16 and A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution by Johann Conrad Döhla, Translated, edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1990, page 128.
(6) Döhla, 131.
(7) Popp, 16.


(8) The Romance of the Revolution: being true stories of the adventures, romantic incidents, hairbreadth escapes, and heroic exploits of the Days of ’76. by Oliver Bell Bunce. Porter & Coates, Philadelphia, 1870, page 258.
(9) Elizabeth: The First Capital of New Jersey. by Jean-Rae Turner & Richard T. Koler. Arcadia Publishing, 2003, page 51.

29 June 2009

The Asgill Affair

After news of Joshua Huddy’s murderous execution reached General George Washington, Washington demanded that the alleged murderer, Captain Richard Lippencott, be given up to the Patriots to face execution. Sir Henry Clinton, who did not approve of the hanging of Huddy, had Lippencott arrested, and ordered him to be tried for murder. General Washington wrote an unkindly letter to Clinton expressing the wishes of himself and the people to have Lippencott turned over to them. Washington’s letter included depositions proving that Huddy was not concerned in the murder of Phillip White. Huddy had confessed, however, that he had killed other Loyalists. Clinton was not moved. Lippencott was tried by court-martial. He argued that he was not subject to court-martial, but instead should be tried by common law, in which case, he could not be tried in New York for a crime committed in New Jersey. Lippencott’s objections were overruled, but as it appeared that he acted under orders of the Board of Associated Loyalists of New York, of which he was bound to obey, he was acquitted. (1)

The people of Monmouth County, New Jersey immediately voiced their displeasure to General Washington. On 4 May 1782, Washington directed Brigadier-General James Hogan to designate by lot a British Captain from among the prisoners who had unconditionally surrendered. Hogan could find no such officer, and Washington asked him to find men made prisoners by convention or capitulation. The British Captains who had surrendered at Yorktown and were quartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania fell under Hogan’s command. (2)



On 26 May 1782, at nine in the morning, thirteen prisoners were assembled at an inn called the Black Bear. The names of these men are as follows: Eld, Perryn, Charles Asgill, Ludlow, Greville, Lawford Mills, Saumarez (later Sir Thomas), Ingram, Samuel Graham, Barclay, Arbuthnot, Hathorn and Whitelocke. They were accompanied by Major Gordon. (3) The men were asked to decide amongst themselves who should be executed in retaliation for Joshua Huddy’s murder. Samuel Graham wrote that the men “unanimously declined, protesting against this breach of a solemn treaty, by which we had come into their power.” (4) The aide-de-camp and the commissary to the Brigadier General left the room and in a short time returned with a drum-boy. The aide-de-camp and the commissary each had a hat in their hand. It was explained to the British prisoners that in one hat were written, on separate pieces of paper, the names of the thirteen captains; in the other hat were also thirteen pieces of paper, one being marked with the word ‘unfortunate,’ while the other 12 pieces were blank. The drum-boy drew a name, while one of the other men drew the other paper. The paper marked ‘unfortunate’ was drawn on the eleventh pick, along with the name of Captain Asgill, who was immediately turned over to a dragoon officer. (5)


On 27 May, Asgill, with Major Gordon, left Lancaster, escorted by a party of dragoons. In a few days time, they arrived in Philadelphia. From there, Asgill was sent to Chatham, New Jersey, and placed under the charge of Colonel Elias Dayton. On 25 August he was paroled to Morristown, New Jersey. (6) During this time, Major Gordon appealed to the French Minister in Philadelphia, the Comte de Rochambeau and numerous influential men in the Colonies. Asgill’s mother, Sarah, wrote to the French Court, asking that they please save her son’s life. The Comte de Vergennes (the French Foreign Minister at the time) was ordered by King Louis XVI to communicate with General Washington that it was his wish that Asgill be spared, under the 14th Article of Capitulation, safeguarding prisoners of war. For about seven months, Asgill’s fate remained in the air. In December, 1782, Congress agreed to allow Asgill to be released to England. He was sent to New York, and embarked for England on the first oppurtunity, ending the new nation’s first international crisis.


Asgill traveled to France to personally thank King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. A decade later, he fought under the Duke of York in Europe, and later became a Major General. Asgill died in London 23 July 1823 and was buried in the vault at St. James's Church Piccadilly.





(1) Memoir of General Graham with notices of the campaigns in which he was engaged from 1779 to 1801. ed. by his son Col. James J. Graham. R&R Clark, Edinburgh, 1862, p. 84.


(2) A History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. By Edwin Salter. E. Gardner & Son, Bayonne, NJ, 1890, p. 188.


(3) Graham, 82.


(4) Graham, 86.


(5) Graham, 87.


(6) Graham, 91, 96.

Joshua Huddy

Joshua Huddy was born in 8 November 1735 in Salem County, New Jersey. In his younger days, he was a troublemaker, being tried for theft and assault among other crimes. He married Mary Borden in 1764, and later moved to Colts Neck (Monmouth County), New Jersey with their two children. He was married again in 1778 to Catherine Hart, a widow who had two children.

In 1779, Huddy joined the Monmouth County Militia, where he served as Captain from March to December. He led many raids and captured Loyalists. He was also accused of executing some of these Loyalists.

In September, 1780, an attempt was made by a party of Refugees (the term Refugee was used by Loyalists who operated independently of the British Army, but still claimed British protection) to capture Huddy at his home in Colts Neck. A party of six Refugees, under the command of an audacious mulatto slave named Colonel Tye, (1) made their way to Huddy's home. When they arrived, Huddy was in the house with a servant girl, named Lucretia Emmons. Huddy would attempt to defend himself against the band of Refugees. The servant girl loaded the muskets in the house and handed them to Huddy. Huddy moved from window to window, firing at the Refugees to make it appear to them that a number of men were defending the house. He was able to wound several of the Refugees, including Colonel Tye, who was shot through the wrist. (2) The Refugees had enough and set fire to the house. Huddy, seeing his predicament, called out that he would surrender if the Refugees would help him extinguish the fire, to which they agreed. Angered that one man had caused so much trouble, the Refugees took Huddy off as a captive, closely followed by the roused neighboring militia. The Refugees, with Huddy, reached Black Point (between the Shrewsbury and Navesink Rivers on the Rumson peninsula) slightly ahead of the militia, and embarked on boats which they had hidden earlier. When the militiamen reached the riverbank, they fired upon the Refugee boats. In the ensuing confusion, Huddy escaped, jumping off the boat. As he swam for the shore, he was shot from the riverbank in the thigh. Huddy raised his hand and shouted: ‘I am Huddy! I am Huddy!’ by which his compatriots brought him safely to shore. (3)
Two years later, on 1 February 1782 Huddy, then a 47 year-old artillery company officer, arrived in Toms River, New Jersey to defend the Blockhouse there. (4) The Tory newspaper, Rivington’s Royal Gazette, of New York, wrote that on 20 March 1782, “Lieutenant Blanchard, of the armed whale boats, and about eighty men belonging to them, with Captain Thomas and Lieutenant Roberts, both of the late Bucks County Volunteers, and between thirty and forty other Refugee loyalists, the whole under the command of Lieutenant Blanchard, proceeded to Sandy Hook under the convoy of Captain Stewart Ross, in the armed brig ‘Arrogant,’where they were detained by unfavorable winds until the 23d.” (5) About midnight of the 23rd this party landed near the mouth of Toms River (probably near present-day Ortley Beach). Garret Irons, who was on patrol, ran seven miles to the Blockhouse to alert the twenty-five or twenty-six defenders. (6) By daylight of the 24th , the Loyalist force reached the Blockhouse. Lieutenant Blanchard demanded the surrender of the Blockhouse and those inside, which was refused. The Loyalist force then stormed the Blockhouse. In the ensuing action, the Patriots had nine men killed, and twelve captured; the rest made their escape. Rivington’s Royal Gazette reported that the Rebels had killed a Major of the militia, two Captains and one Lieutenant. On the Loyalist side, Rivington’s reported two killed – Lieutenant Iredell, of the armed boatmen, and Lieutenant Inslee, of the Loyalists – and Lieutenant Roberts and five others wounded. (7) The Loyalists burned all of the dozen or so houses in the village except for two. They also burned the Blockhouse, the tavern, the blacksmith shop, and the salt warehouses together with a saw-mill and grist-mill. Huddy had escaped into the countryside, but was found later that day with two other Patriots hiding in a nearby mill. Huddy and the two other Patriots, Daniel Randolph and Jacob Fleming, were taken prisoner aboard the Arrogant, and brought back to New York.

Huddy was housed in the infamous Sugar House Prison in New York until 8 April 1782. (8) At that time, Huddy, Randolph and Fleming were removed to a sloop (a small sailing boat) and placed in irons. On the 9th, they were transferred to the British man-of-war Britannia, under a Captain Morris. (9) On the 12th, Captain Richard Lippencott, a Loyalist, came aboard the ship claiming he had orders from the Board of Associated Loyalists of New York to hang Huddy. Lippencott took a rope from Captain Morris and proceeded with his captive to the Highlands. At Gravelly Point, a gallows was erected and a barrel placed under it. Huddy made out his will on the barrel before stepping upon it. A label was attached to his breast, which read: “We, the refugees, having long held with grief the cruel murders of our brethren, and finding nothing but such measures daily carrying into execution; we therefore determine not to suffer without taking vengeance for the numerous cruelties, and thus begin, having made use of Captain Huddy as the first object to present to your view, and determine to hang man for man while there is a refugee existing. UP GOES HUDDY FOR PHIL. WHITE.” (10) Huddy’s body was left hanging on the shore until the afternoon, when it was taken to the house of Captain James Greene of Freehold. Huddy was buried at the Old Tennent Church with military honors.


Huddy’s murder led to what is known as the Asgill Affair, which will be explained in the following post.







(1) Titus was a slave of John Corlies of Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. He escaped in November, 1775, and changed his name to Tye. Tye fought in the Battle of Monmouth, 28 June 1778, and afterwards launched raids, mostly in Monmouth County, against Patriots.

(2) Tye’s wound later caused lockjaw, which killed him. The Jersey Coast and Pines. By Gustav Kobbé. Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, 1970, p. 24.
(3) Kobbé, 24.
(4) A blockhouse is a small fort, one building, usually in an isolated position. The one Huddy was defending protected the village of Toms River and the salt works near by. “The post into which the rebels had thrown themselves was six or seven feet high, made with large logs, with loop-holes between and a number of brass swivels on the top, which was entirely open, nor was there any way of entering but by climbing over. They had, besides swivels, muskets with bayonets and long pikes for their defence.” The date of his arrival is cited from The War at the Shore 2007: Commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the Revolutionary War in Ocean County 1776 – 1783. [pamphlet] Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, 2007. The description of the Blockhouse is from A History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. By Edwin Salter. E. Gardner & Son, Bayonne, NJ, 1890, p. 205.
(5) Salter, 205.

(6) The War at the Shore 2007.

(7) Salter, 206. Of those casualties, the following have so far been identified by the author: Major John Cook, killed; Captain Ephraim Jenkins, killed; Daniel Randolph, captured; Jacob Fleming, captured; Moses Robbins, wounded. George, John and Joseph Parker were all with Huddy at the Blockhouse; their fate is thus far unknown.

(8) New York City contained many sugar houses. During the British occupation, the sugar houses were used as prisons. Many men died from the squalid conditions in these prisons, as well as the prison ships stationed off of New York City. The Sugar House Prison was the most infamous prison in New York.
(9) Randolph and Fleming were soon exchanged for two Tories: Captain Clayton Tilton and Aaron White.
(10) Phillip White was a Tory who met his death attempting to escape the Patriots about a week after Huddy’s capture. Lippencott claimed White was murdered by the Patriots, and in return, Huddy would be killed. The quote was taken from Salter, 185-186.

18 June 2009

Greenwich Tea Party

Everyone knows of the famous Boston Tea Party of 16 December 1773. New Jersey also had a “Tea Party” about one year later. But first, Boston -

The American colonists had successfully protested and had repealed the hated Stamp Act of 1765; they also were able to get the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 repealed (in 1770), save for the tax on tea. The anger of the colonists was further inflamed in 1773, when the Tea Act was passed, effectively allowing the East India Company to have the lowest priced tea in the Colonies. Protests arose anew. When the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in Boston Harbor in November 1773, the Sons of Liberty did not allow the tea to be unloaded from the ship. Governor Thomas Hutchinson, refusing to back down, did not allow the Dartmouth to leave the harbor without paying the duty. Two other tea ships arrived in the harbor during this period, and they were treated likewise. On the night of the 16th, a number of men (the exact number is uncertain) boarded the three tea ships, some of them dressed as Indians, and, over the course of about three hours, dumped all 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

About a year later, sometime between 12-14 December 1774, the brig Greyhound, under Captain J. Allen, sailed into the Cohansey River with a cargo of tea. Most likely, the brig had been refused entry first to Philadelphia. The tea was unloaded secretly at Greenwich, and then stored in the cellar of a house occupied by Dan Bowen on Market Square. (1) The residents soon found out about the tea, and a temporary committee was established to watch over it until the fate of the tea was determined. A committee was selected to meet in Bridgetown. The meeting occurred on 22 December 1774. Some members of the committee wished to immediately destroy the tea. Men from nearby towns met at the home of Richard and Lewis Howell (presently the Governor Howell Plantation on the Roadstown-Shiloh Road) and then moved on to the Fithian home, where the men from Greenwich awaited them. (2) The men then marched to Market Square and forced entry into the storehouse. They passed the chests of tea from the house to a neighboring field, where they piled the broken chests and tea before setting it ablaze. Like the men at the Boston Tea Party, some of the men at the Greenwich Tea Party also dressed as Indians.



The Rev. Philip Vickers Fithian, who is supposed to be one of the tea burners, wrote in his journal the next day, “Last night the tea was, by a number of persons in disguise, taken out of the house and consumed with fire. Violent and different are the words about this uncommon maneuver among the inhabitants. Some rave, some curse and condemn, some try to reason; many are glad the tea is destroyed, but almost all disapprove the manner of the destruction.” (3) The names of other men associated with the tea burning in Greenwich can be found on the monument there, erected in 1908: Ebenezer Elmer, Timothy Elmer, James Ewing, Thomas Ewing, Joel Fithian, Lewis Howell, Richard Howell, James B. Hunt, John Hunt, Andrew Hunter Jr., Joel Miller, Alexander Moore Jr., Ephraim Newcomb, Silas Newcomb, Clarence Parvin, David Pierson, Stephen Pierson, Henry Seeley, Josiah Seeley, Abraham Sheppard, Henry Stacks, Silas Whitekar, and others. Local tradition also includes the names of Enos Ewing and Isaac Preston with the tea burners. (4)

Many of these men were active participants in the war which followed. According to the research of Frank D. Andrews, the following men served thusly:

Ebenezer Elmer served in the army for the entire war. In 1800 he began six years’ service as a Congressman from New Jersey. He died 18 October 1843.

Timothy Elmer, who was the brother of Ebenezer, also entered into the service of the army in 1776. He did not live long enough to see the peace reached; he died 16 May 1780.

Thomas Ewing (who was the brother of James), like Timothy Elmer, entered the army immediately; also like Timothy, he did not make it to the signing of the peace treaty. Thomas died 7 October 1782.

Joel Fithian, a cousin of the Rev. Philip Vickers Fithian, served in the battle of Princeton & elsewhere. He died 9 November 1821.

Philip probably joined the men at the tea burning. He secured a position as chaplain in the army, but sickness swept through his battalion in September, which affected him. Philip died 8 October 1776.

Lewis Howell joined the army in 1776 and was present during the British retreat through New Jersey in June 1778, but he died on 28 June 1778 – the day of the Battle of Monmouth – at only 24 years of age.

Richard Howell, the twin brother of Lewis, joined the army in 1775, in time to join the expedition to Canada. He served at a number of other battles including Monmouth. He was involved in helping the cause of independence until the end of the war. He died 28 April 1802. As a side note, Richard’s granddaughter, Varina, married Jefferson Davis on 26 February 1845. When Davis became the first and only President of the Confederate States of America in 1861, Varina became First Lady. She lived until 1906.

James Booth Hunt (brother of John) enlisted in the army in 1776. He died 5 August 1824.

Andrew Hunter, Jr. received an appointment as chaplain in1776. He served until the end of the war, and was at the Battle of Monmouth. He died 24 February 1823.

Joel Miller served in the army at Princeton and Monmouth, among other battles. He died 8 December 1827.

Silas Newcomb joined the militia, and later the Continental army.

David Pierson joined the army in 1776 and served until at least 1780.

Josiah Seeley also joined the army in 1776. He died 1 October 1832.





(1) The Burning On Market Square Greenwich, New Jersey December 22, 1774.
Article taken from The History of Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland Counties, New Jersey, by Sheppard and Cushing, p. 1

(2) The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County. Frank D. Andrews. Vineland, NJ, 1908. Republished by the Cumberland Co. Historical Society, 1974, p. 9

(3) The Burning On Market Square Greenwich, New Jersey December 22, 1774, p. 2

(4) The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County, p. 14

05 June 2009

The First Stars and Stripes

Flag Day is 14 June. This day commemorates the resolution of the adoption of the United States flag in 1777 by the Second Continental Congress. But how did we get our flag? Who made it? When did it first fly? These questions are shrouded in mystery, myth, and legend.

The first known use of thirteen stripes on an American flag is found upon the flag of the Philadelphia troop of Light Horse in 1775. Abraham Markoe, a Danish man, and the first captain of the Light Horse, is known to be the designer of the flag. (1)


An earlier striped flag was used by the Sons of Liberty, a non-military group. In 1767, the group used a flag with nine vertical stripes (five red and four white). It is probable that the nine stripes represented the nine Colonies that were in attendance at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 in New York. By 1776, this flag had 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and turned to the horizontal.


The white stars and blue field were found on George Washington’s personal flag, which was with him where ever he went. The flag was blue, with 13 six-pointed stars. Some suggest that both the stars and stripes come from the coat of arms of the Washington family. (2) This seems to be a fanciful myth, however, as the colors do not match, and many other flags having nothing to do with George Washington contained stars or stripes. A fine example of this is the British East India Company flag, which would have been familiar to Americans at the time. As a matter of fact, a banner looking exactly the same as the British East India Company flag was chosen as the first U.S. flag and is known as the Continental Colors or the Grand Union flag. (This flag was raised by General Washington over his army in Cambridge, MA in January, 1776.)

As the new United States and Great Britain continued the war, the Union Jack of the Continental Colors needed to be replaced on the flag of the new nation.

To replace the Continental Colors, on 14 June 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress adopted the resolution which read: "Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation."

There exists no proof of who designed the field and stars of our flag. The resolution of Congress merely mentioned that the union had 13 white stars on a blue field; the position and shapes of these stars was left to the imagination. In the most propagated myth of the flag, Betsy Ross was the maker of the first flag. The story even goes as far as to say she created the design of the flag, and her name is still affixed to that flag design today.

William Canby, a grandson of Betsy Ross, read a paper to the Pennsylvania Historical Society in March 1780 which claimed that Betsy Ross designed the flag at her house and upholstery shop at present-day 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia, PA. As Mr. Canby put it, Betsy was “sitting sewing in her shop one day with her girls around her, [when] several gentlemen entered. She recognized one of these as the uncle of her deceased husband, Col. George Ross, a delegate from Pennsylvania to Congress. She also knew the handsome form and features of the dignified, yet graceful and polite Commander in Chief, who, while he was yet Colonel Washington had visited her shop both professionally and socially many times[….]They announced themselves as a committee of congress, and stated that they had been appointed to prepare a flag, and asked her if she thought she could make one, to which she replied, with her usual modesty and self reliance, that ‘she did not know but she could try; she had never made one but if the pattern were shown to her she had not doubt of her ability to do it.’ The committee were shown into her back parlor, the room back of the shop, and Col. Ross produced a drawing, roughly made, of the proposed flag. It was defective to the clever eye of Mrs. Ross and unsymetrical, and she offered suggestions which[…]were of sufficient importance to involve an alteration and re-drawing of the design, which was then and there done by General George Washington, in pencil, in her back parlor. One of the alterations had reference to the shape of the stars. In the drawing they were made with six points. Mrs. Ross at once said that this was wrong; the stars should be five pointed; they were aware of that, but thought there would be some difficulty in making a five pointed star. ‘Nothing easier’ was her prompt reply and folding a piece of paper in the proper manner, with one clip of her ready scissors she quickly displayed to their astonished vision the five pointed star; which accordingly took its place in the national standard. General Washington was the active one in making the design, the others having little or nothing to do with it.” (3) Rachel Fletcher, daughter of Betsy Ross, Sophia B. Hildebrant, granddaughter of Betsy Ross and Margaret Donaldson Boggs, niece of Betsy Ross all supplied affidavits stating similar stories that Elizabeth Claypoole (Betsy Ross) had told them before her death. There is little more evidence to support this claim.

Strong evidence does exist, however, that Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Jersey (and author of "The Battle of the Kegs"), was responsible for the design the first Stars and Stripes. At the time that the flag resolution was adopted, Hopkinson was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board's Middle Department. He also helped design the Great Seal of the United States for the government, along with designs for other seals and symbols. Hopkinson later submitted a letter to the Continental Admiralty Board asking “whether a Quarter Cask of the public Wine will not be a proper & reasonable Reward for these Labours of Fancy and a suitable Encouragement to future Exertions of a like Nature.” His request was turned down since the Congress regarded him as a public servant. (4) Furthermore, after resigning from the Naval Board in August 1778, Hopkinson wrote a letter to the Board of Admiralty regarding his design for that board’s seal as well as the design of “The flag of the United States of America” and other seals and currency designs. The inclusion of the flag, listed as “the great naval flag of the United States” on his account for payment (he asked for $2,700 compensation), (5) was disputed by no one at the time, as far as the historical record can tell. The record, therefore, points to Francis Hopkinson as the designer, and leaves Betsy Ross as the American myth.

The first use of this new flag in battle occurred about a month and a half after the resolution was passed. On 2 August 1777 the British approached the American-held Fort Stanwix in New York. Colonel Marinus Willett, present at the fort, wrote, “The fort had never been supplied with a flag. The necessity of having one, upon the arrival of the enemy, taxed the invention of the garrison, and a decent one was soon contrived. The white stripes were cut out of ammunition shirts furnished by the soldiers; the blue out of the camlet cloak taken from the enemy at Peekskill; while the red stripes were made of different pieces of stuff procured from one another and the garrison.” (6)


The new flag definitely flew at the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania on 11 September 1777, and at all battles thereafter. And though the design has changed slightly over the years, the stars and stripes remain on the flag, which still flies in battle to this day.



(1) History of the Flag of the United States of America. George Henry Preble. James R. Osgood & Co., Boston, MA, 1882, p. 251, 256.

(2) History of the Flag of the United States of America, p. 260.

(3) Paper read before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (March 1870), entitled The History of the Flag of the United States, by William J. Canby.

(4) Our Flag. Joint Committee on Printing, United States Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 1.

(5) National Geographic Magazine vol. 32. Judd & Detweiler Inc., Washington, D.C., 1917, p. 298-299.

(6) History of the Flag of the United States of America, p. 276.

02 June 2009

David Bushnell

David Bushnell is credited with designing the first submarine used for military purposes in 1776. He is also the architect behind a humorous attack against the British shipping in the Delaware River in early 1778.

Bushnell was born in Saybrook, (now Westbrook) Connecticut, in the year 1742. He graduated from Yale in 1775 and set to work on submarine warfare.

Sergeant Ezra Lee was the man who first used Bushnell’s submarine, called the Turtle because of its shape, in battle. Lee was interviewed by Charles Griswold, Esq. in the early nineteenth century. Lee provided Griswold with this description of the Turtle. According to this interview, Lee described the Turtle as being made of several pieces of large oak timber fitted together in the shape of a “round clam.” It was held together with iron bands, and the seams were corked before the whole machine was covered in tar to prevent water from seeping into the machine. The operator would enter from the top, by moving a metallic piece which opened upon hinges. Six pieces of thick glass were placed at the top of the machine so light could enter. About seven hundred pounds of lead were fixed to the bottom of the Turtle so that it may remained balanced. Two hundred pounds of this lead could be released to increase the buoyancy of the machine. “But to enable the navigator when under water, to rise or sink at pleasure, there were two forcing pumps, by which water could be pressed out at the bottom; and also a spring, by applying the foot to which, a passage was formed for the admission of water.” (1)

Steering was done by a rudder, whose tiller passed through the inside of the machine. “But not the least ingenious part of this curious machine, was that by which the horizontal motion was communicated to it. This object was effected by means of two oars or paddles, formed precisely like the arms of a wind-mill, which revolved perpendicularly upon an axletree that projected in front; this axletree passed into the machine at a water joint, and was furnished with a crank, by which it was turned : the navigator being seated inside, with one hand laboured at the crank, and with the other steered by the tiller.” The oars were about a foot long and about four inches wide. Two similar, though smaller, paddles were located near the top of the machine to assist in the ascension of the machine. (1)

The operator of the machine would attack by affixing its magazine to the target ship. A piece, separate from the machine, but of similar make and shape, was filled with over one hundred and thirty pounds of gunpowder, a clock and a gun lock. This piece was then affixed to the back of the machine, above the rudder, “by means of a screw, one end of which passed quite into the magazine, and there operated as a stop upon the movements of the clock, whilst its other end entered the machine. This screw could be withdrawn from the magazine, by which the latter was immediately detached, and the clock commenced going. The clock was set for running twenty or thirty minutes, at the end of which time, the lock struck, and fired the powder, and in the mean time the adventurer effected his escape.” (1)


David Bushnell had trained three men, including his brother Ezra, in the operation of the Turtle. Ezra Bushnell became sick during this campaign, however, and David Bushnell had to go to his second choice as operator, this being Sergeant Ezra Lee. The British ship Eagle, of 64 guns commanded by Captain Duncan and bearing Admiral Howe’s flag, was lying off Governor’s Island south of Manhattan during the campaign of 1776. On the night of 7 September 1776, about 11, two or three whaleboats towed Bushnell’s Turtle as close to the British fleet as they felt safe before Lee entered the machine and operated it on his own.

Bushnell, in a speech before the American Philosophical Society on June 8, 1798, stated that Lee “went under the ship and attempted to fasten the wood-screw into her bottom, but struck, as he supposes, a bar of iron. Not being well skilled in the management of the vessel, in attempting to move to another place, he lost the ship, and after seeking her in vain for some time, he rowed some distance and rose to the surface of the water, but found daylight had advanced so far, that he durst not renew the attempt.” (2)

Lee himself, in the aforementioned interview with Mr. Griswold, stated that he “applied the screw, and did all in his power to make it enter, but owing probably in part to the ship’s copper, and the want of an adequate pressure, to enable the screw to get a hold upon the bottom, his attempts all failed; at each essay the machine rebounded from the ship’s bottom, not having sufficient power to resist the impulse thus given to it. He next paddled along to a different part of her bottom, but in this manœuvre he made a deviation, and instantly arose to the water’s surface on the east side of the ship, exposed to the increasing light of the morning, and in imminent hazard of being discovered.” Lee attempted to dive one more time, but by then had lost sight of the Eagle. As he headed back up river, he realized his compass did not work and he would need to ascend. As day was dawning, this would be a problem for Lee; the British would be able to spot him. The British soldiers at Governor’s Island did spy him, and they sent out a barge to inspect the curious vessel. Lee, not wanting the Turtle to be caught, released the magazine in hopes that the British would approach and be killed by the explosion. The British, however, rowed away from the magazine and Bushnell’s Turtle. The magazine eventually drifted into the East River, where it exploded. (3)
The Turtle was eventually sunk by the British near Fort Lee, New Jersey, as it sat upon its transport ship. Thomas Jefferson later wrote to Bushnell, inquiring about the machine. Bushnell responded to Jefferson that he had salvaged the machine, but later destroyed it. The Connecticut River Museum, in Essex, Connecticut, houses a replica of the Turtle.

This was not David Bushnell’s only foray into marine warfare during the Revolution. In early 1778, Bushnell unleashed another of his experiments on the British.

In late December, 1777, Bushnell filled several kegs with powder, and set them to explode upon touching anything. He set them afloat in the Delaware River, above Philadelphia. Bushnell said, “We set them adrift, to fall with the ebb upon the shipping. Had we been within sixty rods, I believe they must have fallen in with them [the British ships] immediately, as I designed; but as I afterwards found, they were set adrift much too far distant, and did not arrive until after being detained some time by the frost; they advanced in the daytime in a dispersed situation and under great disadvantages. One of them blew up a boat with several persons in it, who imprudently handled it too freely, and thus gave the British that alarm which brought on the ‘Battle of the Kegs.’” (4)
Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister, of the German troops assisting the British (known as Hessians), was in Philadelphia during this “Battle of the Kegs.” He wrote the following to his superior in Germany, Friedrich Christian Arnold, freiherr von Jungkenn: “The severe cold, which lasted from the 1st to the 3rd of January [1778] and froze the Schuylkill [River] over solidly and the Delaware [River] from the banks nearly to the middle, let up on the 4th, and on the 5th the high tide brought ice-floes. The rebels then threw barrels filled with combustibles into the Delaware, hoping to set our ships on fire. However, trees placed in front of our ships prevented any damage being done. The sight of some fifty of these little machines exploding one by one was as beautiful as the enemy’s designs were destructive.” (5)

Finally, a letter from Philadelphia dated 9 January 1778 and published in the Pennsylvania Ledger on 11 February, gives the following humorous account: “Both officers and men exhibited the most unparalleled skill and bravery on the occasion; whilst the citizens stood gazing as solemn witnesses of their prowess. From the Roebuck and other ships of war, whole broadsides were poured into the Delaware. In short, not a wandering chip, stick, or drift log, but felt the vigour of the British arms. The action began about sun-rise, and would have been compleated with great success by noon, had not an old market woman coming down the river with provisions, unfortunately let a small keg of butter fall over-board, which (as it was then ebb) floated down to the scene of the action. At the sight of this unexpected reinforcement of the enemy, the battle was renewed with fresh fury–the firing was incessant till the evening closed the affair. The kegs were either totally demolished or obliged to fly, as none of them have shewn their heads since. It is said his Excellency Lord Howe has dispatched a swift sailing packet with an account of this victory to the court of London. In a word, Monday, the 5th of January, 1778, must ever be distinguished in history, for the memorable BATTLE OF THE KEGS.” (6) It is supposed that the great Francis Hopkinson, author, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and probabe designer of the first U.S. flag, wrote this letter. Hopkinson later wrote a ballad (to the tune of Yankee Doodle) titled “Battle of the Kegs.”

David Bushnell died in 1824 in Georgia at the age of eighty-four.




Notes:

(1) This description was furnished from an interview by Charles Griswold, Esq. of Ezra Lee, the operator of the Turtle, which was published in The American Journal of Science, vol. II, no. 1, 1820, p. 95-98.

(2) Submarine Warfare, Offensive and Defensive. Including a Discussion of the Offensive Torpedo System, Its Effects Upon Iron-Clad Ship Systems, and Influence Upon Future Naval Wars. By Lt.-Commander J.S. Barnes, U.S.N. D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1869, p. 23.

(3) The American Journal of Science, p. 100.

(4) Submarine Warfare, Offensive and Defensive, p. 24.

(5) Letters from Major Baurmeister to Colonel von Jungkenn Written During the Philadelphia Campaign 1777-1778. Ed. Bernhard A. Uhlendorf & Edna Vosper. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1937, p. 45.

(6) Naval Documents of the American Revolution Vol. 11. ed. Michael J. Crawford. Department of the Navy, Washington, DC, 2005, p. 78.