|The history of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers is presented in 2 parts. Click below to skip to:|
A History of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers - Part 2 of 2
Meanwhile down South, the N.J.V. serving with the American Volunteers saw more action than they could ever have imagined. Landing in Georgia in February of 1780, they quickly suffered their first loss when Lieutenant RYERSON died of malaria at Savannah.
Advancing Northward to link up with other British troops near Charlestown, they engaged in a "friendly fire" incident during the night when they and the British Legion mistook each other for rebels. Several men on both side were killed and wounded, including Captain FERGUSON.
Linking up with the main army in April, they helped slam the door on the city by routing the rebel cavalry post at Monk's Corner. Moving into the lines around the city, they advanced upon Fort Moultrie, only to be beaten to the capture by the Royal Navy.
Not returning North with the bulk of the army, the American Volunteers roamed the interior parts of South Carolina, raising loyalist militia and engaging in many minor skirmishes with the rebels. Thus separated from the army, they finished the campaign in rags, without pay and down to about ninety men.
An old friend of the 4th battalion, their old Major Robert TIMPANY, was nearby in charge of a corps of South Carolina Militia. TIMPANY, who had been seconded upon the consolidation of the battalion, would be wounded many times down South but lived in Nova Scotia past the age of 100.
The American Volunteers would meet their end atop King's Mountain on October 7th, 1780. Surrounded by over 1000 rebel "back woodsmen" they fought with incredible bravery.
FERGUSON had to simultaneously hold his front and rear with less than 70 men. Realizing that most of the rebels were armed with rifles that lacked bayonets, FERGUSON charged downhill to drive off one column and would then charge downhill in the opposite direction to drive off those attackers.
This they did until reduced to only twenty men who were unscathed and FERGUSON was felled from his horse by numerous rifle balls. Captain RYERSON had his ring finger shot off and would remain a prisoner until the following February.
Up North meanwhile, Captain Jacob VAN BUSKIRK received orders to head the new light infantry company of the 4th battalion. This company joined the light companies of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, New Jersey Volunteers, the 3rd Battalion, DeLancey's Brigade, the Loyal American Regiment and the King's American Regiment.
Known collectively as the Provincial Light Infantry, it was placed under the command of Lt. Col. John WATSON of the Guards. This corps became part of a new Southern expedition, this one commanded by General Alexander LESLIE, and sailed for Virginia in October of 1780.
Operating off of the ships of the Royal Navy, they gathered supplies until ordered urgently to join the army under Lord CORNWALLIS in South Carolina. Arriving in December of 1780, they marched straight to the High Hills of Santee where they would operate as a partisan corps until the following April.
A remarkable occurrence happened on February 27th when a party of twenty men from the 4th's light company under Ensign Richard COOPER fell behind the rest of the battalion to cover the repair of a broken down wagon. They were quickly surrounded by two hundred men under the great rebel partisan Sumpter.
Summoned to lay down their arms, COOPER replied "Light Infantry never surrender!" and ordered his men to form a loose square behind trees. They held off ten times their number until Lt. Col. WATSON doubled back with the rest of the battalion and drove Sumpter off.
COOPER was thanked in General Orders for his gallantry, and he quickly became the toast of the town. In 1782 he would be rewarded with a lieutenancy, after starting the war as sergeant major.
The Provincial Light Infantry was greatly reduced in numbers by casualties by the time they engaged in their hottest action, Eutaw Springs. On September 8th, 1781, they were a part of the British Army that fought and defeated the rebel army of General Nathanael Greene.
Losing over 600 men killed, wounded and taken prisoner out of a force of about 2,000, the army rallied from its initial surprise and retook the ground. The Light Infantry suffered horrific casualties, including Captain VAN BUSKIRK being seriously wounded.
Also engaged in battle on the Crown side was the 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers under Lt. Col. Isaac ALLEN. The 3rd battalion had been in the Southern theater of operations since they captured Georgia in December of 1778. Captain Patrick CAMPBELL, formerly of the 4th battalion, led the 3rd's newly formed light company at the taking of the city, but was killed in the attack.
The Battle of Eutaw Springs would be the Provincial Light Infantry's last action. The companies returned to their corps the following Spring.
The 4th battalion bided their time on Staten Island in 1781, doing garrison duty and making occasional raids. In June of 1781 the entire battalion, joined by 40 men of the first battalion and eight hundred other British, German and Provincial troops, commanded by Brigadier General SKINNER, made an excursion to Pleasant Valley, Monmouth County. The object was to gather cattle, but most had been removed to the interior of the country by the rebels prior to the Crown Forces arrival.
The following month the battalion was strengthened by the addition of three companies from the 2nd battalion. The 2nd battalion had been garrisoning Lloyd's Neck on Long Island for about a year when it was decided to draft them into the first and fourth battalions.
This resulted in the renumbering of the 3rd battalion as the new 2nd, and the 4th battalion as the new 3rd. Thus, the Fourth Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, became the Third Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers.
The new 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, still under the command of Lt. Col. VAN BUSKIRK, was a part of the expedition under Brigadier General Benedict ARNOLD to New London. On September 6th, 1781, detachments of the army landed on the New London and Groton sides of the Thames River in Connecticut.
The Groton side was defended at Fort Griswold by about 200 local militia with heavy artillery. The fort was attacked three times by the British and finally fell to an enraged army who had lost their commanding officer and felt themselves fired upon after the lowering of the American colours. The garrison, including their commander, Colonel Ledyard, was to a great degree put to the bayonet.
The interesting part about this action was that the N.J.V. took almost no part in the encounter. They had been assigned the task of getting the artillery up the hill from the shipping below and did not arrive on the scene until the British were over the walls. It was for this reason they suffered no casualties while the other British regiments were mauled.
This was the last major action of the old fourth/new third battalion. The remaining two years would be spent in garrison duty at various places around New York: Staten Island, Paulus Hook (where they reviewed by Prince William Henry), Brooklyn, New York City, and finally New Town, Long Island.
The French-American victory at Yorktown sealed the fate of British Colonial Rule. The battalions dwindled in size, no longer making up for their losses by new recruits.
Desertion increased, and a decrease in discipline led to numerous crimes being committed by the soldiers. Several were sentenced to death but reprieved on condition of serving 7 years in the army in the West Indies.
The uniform of the regiment at this time and for several years before was a red coat faced blue with white lace. The officers' metal was silver.
The Provincial soldiers faced a difficult choice as the days of British Rule dwindled. They could take their discharge at New York City and attempt to return to their homes, or they could let the British fulfill the terms of their enlistment and receive free grants of Land in Nova Scotia. With most men and virtually all the officers choosing the latter, the corps embarked for the River Saint John in September of 1783.
A bizarre incident allegedly occurred at the end of that month when a party of men under Captain VAN BUSKIRK landed on the shore and killed a soldier of the Royal Fencible American Regiment and wounded another. This incident notwithstanding, the regiment mustered for the last time on October 10th, 1783, when they received their discharge.
The officers had been voted half pay for life by Parliament while all ranks received free grants of land, provisions, their arms, clothing and accoutrements plus items of a civilian nature to begin their new lives in the wilderness.
With little land surveyed and tens of thousands of refugees to settle, the first winter passed chiefly with the families in tents. As time passed, the land was surveyed and the titles granted. The loyalists of America became the colonists of future Atlantic Canada.
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