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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies

Major Figures
Brigadier General Cortland Skinner

Cortland SKINNER, the last attorney general under the Royal Government of New Jersey, was commissioned a brigadier general on 4 September 1776, empowered to raise a regiment (actually a brigade) of six battalions, called the New Jersey Volunteers. The 1st battalion of this corps was already forming, with many more Loyalists only awaiting the arrival of British troops in New Jersey before joining them.

SKINNER was successful in raising his battalions, all six being commissioned by December, but was disappointed in that none of them reached their authorized strength. He was further frustrated by Washington's victories at Trenton and Princeton, which captured several of his commissioned officers and others with warrants, including one attempting to raise an Irish battalion for SKINNER.

With his headquarters at New Brunswick during the British occupation there, he also attempted to reorganize the Monmouth County Militia, having himself a commission from Royal Governor William FRANKLIN as major general of militia.

SKINNER picked George TAYLOR for the task, giving him a commission as colonel. TAYLOR was left on his own when the 1st and 2d NJV were removed from the county, and he himself was eventually forced to flee to Perth Amboy and later Sandy Hook.

With the British evacuation of New Jersey in June of 1777, SKINNER removed to what would become his personal headquarters on Staten Island. While not terribly skilled in military maneuvers, he was expert in setting up intelligence networks in New Jersey.

For the remainder of the war he occasionally planned (but seldom led) raids into New Jersey, but was primarily responsible for gathering all intelligence out of the state and forwarding it on to the office of the British Adjutant General, responsible for secret service matters. SKINNER knew the planning for most Rebel raids on Staten Island before they happened, the big exception being Sullivan's raid in August of 1777, when he narrowly escaped capture. He personally rallied many of the scattered parties of NJV that day and organized the counter attacks that prevented any more captures.

He was also present in New Jersey during the battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield in June of 1780, and lead 1,000 men on a forage raid to Pleasant Valley a year later. During his tenure he was also given command of Staten Island from time to time and also of Paulus Hook in 1782.

SKINNER was a strong supporter of his corps, but had serious conflicts with several of the officers under him. His most bitter rival was Lieut. Colonel Joseph BARTON of the 5th and later 1st battalion. BARTON made himself obnoxious to Skinner by making an enemy of Lieut. Colonel Elisha LAWRENCE and the officers loyal to him. BARTON had replaced LAWRENCE in the command of the 1st battalion only due to the fact that he was exchanged first, both of them having been made prisoner during Sullivan's raid.

The military career of Brigadier General SKINNER ended in 1782 when he left for England to settle his affairs and retire from public service. He left two of his sons serving as subalterns in the 1st battalion, as well as other relatives serving in the regular British army. These officers would continue their military service into the next century, some rising to the rank of general.

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