A History of the 2nd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers
The story of this battalion is uniquely different from its sister units in that it served the majority of its useful years not as infantry, but rather as artillery men. The inception of the corps can be traced to its commander, Lieutenant Colonel John MORRIS, joining the refugees from Monmouth County on the first arrival of the British fleet off New York in late June of 1776.
MORRIS, a half-pay lieutenant of the 47th Regiment of Foot who had previous military service, convinced Brigadier General SKINNER and the British that he could raise a battalion, and therefore declined serving under Elisha LAWRENCE. With the British entry into New Jersey in late November of 1776, his plans commenced.
MORRIS competed directly with Elisha LAWRENCE in seeking recruits from his home area of Monmouth County. As quickly as he raised men they were thrown into action. On 2 January 1777 four of his men were killed in battle and as many as thirty others captured near Monmouth Court House in Freehold.
The next month they worked in conjunction with the British 26th Regiment of Foot in surprising a large body of militia between New Brunswick and Perth Amboy. In addition to the troops at New Brunswick, there was a detachment in garrison at Sandy Hook, providing a guard for the important light house there.
This would be the sum of their operations while in garrison at New Brunswick until 30 April 1777 when they were ordered to New York to commence immediate service with the Royal Artillery Regiment.
Attaching the 2nd battalion to the Royal Artillery was a stop-gap measure designed to make up for a shortfall in regular artillery men from England. It was suggested that Sir William HOWE, the British Commander in Chief, might raise a new Provincial regiment of 300 men to fill this need. Needing the men for immediate service though, HOWE could not wait for the amount of time it would take to recruit that many men.
The 2nd battalion, roughly the number of 300 men, was therefore chosen as a mark of honor for their service to that point. They would have to learn the trade of artillery on the job, as the bulk of the battalion set sail in July of 1777 with HOWE and thousands of British, German and Provincial soldiers to do battle with Washington and capture Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Campaign was a successful one, both for the British and the 2nd battalion. While losing perhaps only one man total through the bloody battles of Brandywine and Germantown, they were swarmed with new recruits, many of them deserters from the Continental Artillery at Valley Forge.
Others were Loyalists from the lower counties of New Jersey on the Delaware, while a whole company under Captain Donald CAMPBELL was added from Major William STARK's corps of New Hampshire Volunteers. Despite the name, this company had been raised in Philadelphia, being added to the NJV in January of 1778.
The men enjoyed their stay in comfortable quarters in Philadelphia. Their main duties, when not being instructed in the artillery exercise, involved gathering and stacking firewood, sometimes forming detachments to make incursions for this purpose in the countryside.
They formed a part of the army under Lieut. Colonel MAWHOOD that located and destroyed two militia outposts at Quintin's and Hancock's Bridges in South Jersey. Some of the men were given to the different British brigades to help serve the battalion guns attached to them. They were augmented later in the spring by the rest of the battalion from New York, minus Lieut. Colonel MORRIS who was in ill health.
With the evacuation of Philadelphia, the battalion marched with the Royal Artillery back to New York. Before reaching Sandy Hook, their point of embarkation to the city, they fought in the largest encounter of the war, the Battle of Monmouth.
The past year's training came into great use, as the artillery was engaged heavily throughout the contest. An indication of the fierceness of the fighting and their forward role in it is their loss of four men killed serving the guns while the Royal Artillery lost none. Monmouth would prove the last time they would fight with the entire battalion present.
Once returned to New York, the men were divided up among every outpost on the lines and every brigade in the army. While the men did their duty, it proved of little service to the officers. Since the men were doled out in fives and sixes, these detachments were too few in number to be commanded by a commissioned officer.
With no other duties to attend to, the officers' chief function was to sit on whatever court martial might present itself, an unglamourous duty indeed and hardly one for which they would have signed on.
The duty with the artillery would continue through 1779 and lead to a bizarre incident involving Brigadier General SKINNER and Lieut. Col. MORRIS. SKINNER had lost touch with the battalion while in Philadelphia and had exerted little control over them after their return.
Wishing to correct that, he asked for bi-monthly states of the battalion which MORRIS refused, claiming he was not under SKINNER's command. MORRIS was eventually placed under arrest and tried for disobedience of orders, found guilty and sentenced to minor punishment. Even this, though, was remitted by Sir Henry CLINTON, who had replaced HOWE as Commander in Chief.
The 2nd battalion was finally given its freedom from the artillery in November of 1779 and was once again allowed to consolidate and act as a battalion of infantry.
To their dismay, the many months of artillery service had bled them of manpower. Virtually no recruiting had been done since Philadelphia, and there were no men to replace the many desertions, deaths and discharges that had occurred since.
When they made their way to their various posts on Long Island (Jericho, Jerusalem and finally Lloyd's Neck), they barely numbered 150 officers and men. Thankfully for them, they were able to recruit a goodly number of Rebel deserters (and possibly a few prisoners of war) to help bolster the ranks.
The officers themselves were an interesting mix. They included Captain Lieutenant John deMENEZIES from Portugal, Lieutenant Samuel Richard WILSON who joined the battalion in 1779 from the Roman Catholic Volunteers and Ensign & Adjutant James B. LeGRANGE, the actor son of a prominent New Jersey Huguenot family who spent part of the war performing in a military theater company in New York City.
While at Lloyd's Neck the battalion saw little or no action. Their main duties there were to provide guards for the various woodcutting parties and shipping. For the latter duty they served as marines on board various armed brigs and sloops of the Quarter Master General's Department, a task performed by NJV from almost every battalion at some point during the war.
For more action there was always the post at Sandy Hook, where a detachment from the 2nd battalion did duty after June of 1780. Often going out in small parties with armed refugees into Monmouth County, they proved a great nuisance to the countryside, occasionally capturing prisoners, the most notable of whom was Captain Joshua Huddy.
Taken by a party commanded by Lieutenant Josiah PARKER, Huddy would be exchanged, only to be captured again and hanged in 1782 by Captain Richard LIPPENCOTT of the Associated Loyalists, formerly an officer in the 1st Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers who had several kin in the 2nd battalion.
The post at Lloyd's Neck was due to be turned over to the Associated Loyalists in June of 1781. With no further need of Provincial forces there, the 2nd battalion commenced its march to Brooklyn, where they would be ferried across to Staten Island. Once there, their career as a battalion was finished, and they were drafted into the 1st and late 4th battalions, one company to the former and three to the latter.
Lieut. Colonel MORRIS would finish the war uneventfully upon half pay, not having really commanded the battalion since 1777 due to the artillery duty and his later illness. Some of his fellow officers would join him on half pay, while Samuel Richard WILSON, disgraced by a court martial in 1780, found a home in the Royal Garrison Battalion, and Ensign LeGRANGE joined the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot.
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