A History of the 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers
The 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers was one of six battalions raised in New Jersey by Brigadier General Cortland SKINNER. Each battalion was raised in a different geographic region.
In November of 1776, a Loyalist by the name of William LUCE received permission to raise a battalion. LUCE was captured by the Rebels almost immediately and so command was instead given to a prominent young man by the name of Edward Vaughn DONGEN.
DONGEN was from Essex County which bordered both Bergen County and Staten Island. His second in command was a wealthy Loyalist from Acquackanonk, named Robert DRUMMOND.
DRUMMOND was instrumental in helping the British in their invasion of New Jersey. When CORNWALLIS' army got to Second River (the modern Passaic), it was DRUMMOND who found them a proper place to cross, thereby enabling them to continue their pursuit of Washington's retreating army.
DRUMMOND was also adept at recruiting, enlisting over 125 men. The men were primarily from Essex County, many of them of Dutch ancestry, while some others were Huguenot.
The battalion suffered as all other battalions of NJV were at the time- they were attempting to recruit, train and serve while being on the outposts of the army. Picture enlisting in the army and immediately being thrown on duty and perhaps even into combat.
Initially there was not even clothing to give the men, and they had to serve until April of 1777 in whatever they wore from home. However, in April they received their first uniforms, green coats faced with white.
For the next year the NJV and many other Provincials would be known by their enemy simply as "The Greens."
Throughout 1777 the battalion took part in numerous raids throughout the countryside. These mostly originated from Staten Island, which became the home to the NJV for many years.
In one raid, up to Bergen County, the battalion had its first officer wounded, Captain HUDNUT, who the paper said had received a bayonet to the groin.
The cumulative effect of these raids led Continental General John Sullivan to propose an attack to wipe out all the NJV.
In August of 1777, with 2000 Continentals and Militia, mostly from New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, Sullivan attacked Staten Island. Many officers and men of the 1st and 5th battalions were quickly captured.
The 3rd and 6th Battalions had received timely intelligence from a New Jersey Refugee and were able to throw themselves in some old fortifications, thereby avoiding many losses.
Upon the Rebels falling to plunder and otherwise retreating, the NJV were ordered to attack them wherever they could be found. They found them embarking in boats back to the Jersey shore and attacked several times.
In one of these attacks, Lt. Col. DONGEN was shot and mortally wounded. He did not know it at the time, but his wife had been forced to flee into the swamps by the attack with their three year old son, where she was ravished.
DONGEN died three days later, August 24, 1777, and within three hours his son was likewise dead from exposure and fright. They were buried together at Trinity Church, New York City.
The battalion quickly had some revenge by being a part of Sir Henry CLINTON's September Grand Forage into Bergen County. These two events though, as well as numerous other skirmishes, significantly reduced the number of soldiers in all the battalions.
To make them more useful and reduce the number of excess officers, the brigade was reduced from 6 battalions to 4. The 1st and 5th were combined into one, as were the 3rd and 6th. The merger of the 3rd and 6th battalions produced a "new" 3rd battalion.
The men were no longer mostly from Essex. The 6th had been raised in Hunterdon County, in the western part of the province. The command of the new 3rd was given to Lt. Col. Isaac ALLEN, a Trenton lawyer who had been the commander of the 6th.
ALLEN was no doubt the finest commander among the different battalions of NJV. For the rest of the war, the unit would maintain an excellent record of discipline. It had by far the fewest number of desertions and was involved in more large actions than any of the other battalions.
In September of 1778 they were further strengthened with two more companies of men. These came from the West Jersey Volunteers, a unit raised earlier that year while the British Army was in Philadelphia. These men came from Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland Counties, making the 3rd the most diverse battalion of NJV.
120 men of the battalion had the honor of serving under the celebrated Captain Patrick FERGUSON in their last raid into New Jersey. They, along with some men of the 1st battalion and the 5th Regiment of Foot (British), caught the famous Pulaski's Legion while asleep at Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
Using only bayonets, they killed and wounded as many as 50 officers and men, losing only a few men wounded, including Ensign CAMP, who was himself bayoneted in the thigh.
The theater of war shifting to the South, the 3rd battalion was a part of the expedition under Lt. Col. Archibald CAMPBELL. CAMPBELL was the first British officer, as he put it, to tear a star and stripe from the American flag.
CAMPBELL was sent to capture Georgia, but his plan was almost ruined by a member of the 3rd battalion!
One of the transport ships that carried men of the unit, the Neptune, got separated from the fleet and arrived off of Savannah weeks before any others. One of the NJV deserted and told the Rebels what was coming their way.
It mattered little, as Lt. Col. CAMPBELL and the army quickly arrived and took the city after a short battle on 29 December 1778.
While short in duration, and few in casualties on the British side, the 3rd battalion lost its light infantry commander, Captain Patrick CAMPBELL. He was replaced by Captain Peter CAMPBELL, no close relation.
This started the battalion's most exciting time. They continued serving in Georgia throughout the year 1779.
In September, a large French fleet appeared off Savannah, and was later joined by a large force of Continentals and Militia from South Carolina. The French commander demanded the surrender of the city to the King of France, but the 2600 British, Loyalist and Hessian troops refused and withstood a siege of over three weeks.
With Hurricane season rapidly upon them and the French fleet needing to leave, the Allied army assaulted the city, where they were repulsed with massive losses. The NJV were in a redoubt all to their own, on the front left of the line, where they were attacked by South Carolina Continentals. This repulse enabled the British to turn their attention to the conquest of South Carolina.
Sir Henry CLINTON arrived in February of 1780 with a large army from New York. This army, joined by troops from Georgia, would besiege Charlestown. Part of the troops from Georgia included the light infantry company of the 3rd battalion. They were a witness to the fall of the city on 12 May 1780.
The rest of the battalion marched in July of 1780 to garrison Augusta, Georgia, well into the interior of the province, and on the South Carolina border. After a short stay there, they continued on to Ninety Six, South Carolina, where they would earn their greatest laurels.
Almost immediately they were thrown into action in their new locale. Colonel Alexander INNES of the South Carolina Royalists promptly led the 3rd's light company into an ambush at Musgrove's Mills. Every officer of the company was wounded, and many of the men were killed or likewise wounded.
Back at Augusta, the sick of the unit, who had been left behind under Major DRUMMOND, were all captured, killed or wounded by an attack on that place in September. The battalion, then at Ninety Six, rushed back to assist the defenders of the town, and were able to drive the attackers off.
Lt. Col. ALLEN shared command at Ninety Six with Lt. Col. John Harris CRUGER of the 1st Battalion, DeLancey's Brigade. CRUGER himself was the finest officer in his unit, thereby giving the post two excellent officers.
Numerous raids were made around the post, with some losses on both sides. Ensign CAMP, who had been wounded at Egg Harbor, had been captured and murdered on Christmas Eve of 1780.
With the defeats at King's Mountain and Cowpens, the British were thrown quickly on the defensive in South Carolina. Lord CORNWALLIS had taken most of the British army into North Carolina and later Virginia, leaving South Carolina open to attack. One by one the British outposts fell to Rebel partisans such as Sumter, Marion, and others.
The Continental army was ably led by General Nathanael Greene, who wished to personally lead the taking of Ninety Six. Sensing what was to happen, the British ordered the post evacuated. The problem was, none of the orders ever reached the garrison.
Between May and June of 1781, the post of Ninety Six was closely besieged by a large force under Greene. The garrison itself only consisted of perhaps 600 men, all Americans. These men were from the 1st DeLancey's, 3rd NJV and some South Carolina Militia.
Timely British reinforcements arriving in Charlestown enabled the British commander Lord RAWDON to lead a relief force to Ninety Six. Unable to halt their advance, Greene decided to storm Ninety Six.
In a desperate attack, the force was repelled by a gallant sortie from the fort by the light companies of the NJV and DeLancey's. Greene quickly raised the siege and left the area.
The outpost, after this gallant defense, was evacuated in July of 1781 and all the Loyalists of the interior moved towards Charlestown.
It was in this area, at Eutaw Springs, where the battalion fought its last and bloodiest battle.
In September 1781 General Greene attacked an interior British force that included the NJV. The British were further hampered by having almost a third of their men off on rooting parties, looking for food. These unarmed detachments lost scores of men captured.
Greene's force smashed into the British camp, where Isaac ALLEN and the NJV held the center of the line. On the point of collapse, the British and Loyalists rallied and threw back Greene's army. The battalion had lost 40% of the men they had present that day, killed, wounded or captured.
The battalion was so weakened from these major battles over the previous year that they spent most of the next year in garrison in Charlestown. This was also a result of the war drawing to an end, as Lord CORNWALLIS and his army had been captured at Yorktown. There were 18 men of the battalion present at that surrender, mostly escaped or exchanged POW's.
The battalion returned to New York in January of 1783, being somewhat bolstered by some men of the Volunteers of Ireland, a regiment that had been drafted at Charlestown. They remained on Long Island, withering away from men starting to desert home, until the final peace was announced later that year.
Most of the Loyalists were unable to return home, due to their property being confiscated or laws passed against them. Wishing to remain under British rule, they were resettled, troops and civilians alike, in other parts of the British empire.
For the 3rd battalion, this meant a journey to the Saint John River in Nova Scotia (later New Brunswick). The battalion received a grant of land in King's County, New Brunswick, where they would take up civilian lives.
One last important thing to note is that there was a further reduction of the NJV in 1781. The 2nd battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. MORRIS, was drafted into the 1st and 4th battalions. This had the effect of the 3rd battalion being renumbered as the 2nd, and the 4th as the 3rd.
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