It was a stroke of ill luck - and rather untimely - that Col. Matthias Ogden (1st NJ Continentals) and Captain Jonathan Dayton (3rd NJ) were captured in their beds by a band of loyalists from Staten Island comprised of some of their former townsmen. Not only were they taken unawares, spirited across the channel in the dark of night and then conveyed to occupied New York, but this took place when the three-year enlistments of many of the rank and file had nearly run out. In fact, the New Jersey Line mutinied in January, 1781 in their winter Quarters at Pompton, NJ, and a contributing factor to the way events transpired seems to have been an absence of senior commanders, including the captured Col. Ogden.
Not only that, but when Ogden and Dayton were seized there was every likelihood of a reestablishment of the continental battalions by order of Congress for the coming year. In fact, New Jersey's battalions were reduced in the Spring of 1781 from three regiments to two, while both Colonel Ogden and Captain Dayton were still held prisoner in New York. It is notable that neither man was declared a supernumerary and both were retained in the new establishment (although in Captain Dayton's case, not necessarily in his old position, as shall be seen).
Various references in contemporary newspapers and journals establish that the prisoners were taken promptly from Staten Island to New York on November 5th, the day after their capture. That they gave their paroles is fairly certain, but where and how each was housed prior to their exchange is unclear. I have found no record of Jonathan Dayton's comings and goings while a prisoner, but there is a widely repeated anecdote concerning Matthias Ogden while in New York that, while difficult to verify, certainly fits his character.
"Family tradition states that on one occasion of Col. Matthias Ogden being taken prisoner by the British, at Elizabethtown, Nov. 5, 1780, he was removed to New York, and on arriving at headquarters was placed on parole, and invited to join the officers' mess. Shortly afterwards a new detachment arrived from England, and one of its officers at dinner asked the company to charge their glasses, and proposed the following toast: 'Damnation to the Rebels!' Col. Ogden has risen with the rest, and on hearing these words, flinging his glass and contents in the face of the British officer, he exclaimed; 'Damnation to him who dares propose such a toast in my presence!' They were both placed immediately under arrest, and a challenge was sent, which the officer in command refused to allow Col. Ogden to accept. The mess apologized to Col. Ogden for the rudeness of their fellow officer, and invited him to resume his place at their table. He was treated with the utmost courtesy thereafter."
Of such stuff are legends made.
Col. Ogden and Captain Dayton are said in a loyalist account by one of their captors - John "Smith" Hatfield - to have been exchanged for "a British Captain and 96 rank and file."
Other sources claim that Ogden was exchanged in April, 1781, returning to command of the reorganized 1st New Jersey. They indicate as well that Jonathan Dayton, following his release, went to the reorganized 2nd New Jersey which was now commanded by his father Col. Elias Dayton, formerly of the disbanded 3rd battalion. That is the way that Heitman records their subsequent service, but other contemporary records suggest a different time line and service record.
Stryker cites a muster role taken at Dobb's Ferry on August 1, 1781 for the New Jersey Brigade. Apparently this muster lists Col. Ogden as "still a prisoner of war" at this late date, but Stryker places him at the head of his regiment on August 19th in time for the Yorktown Campaign during which he certainly was present, as his name is mentioned during that period in Washington's correspondence.
There is also a British intelligence report from June 17, 1781 that indicates Lt. Col. William De Hart commanded in the absence of Colonel Elias Dayton, who had been sick for a number of months and was only infrequently in camp. If this refers to the 2nd New Jersey battalion only, that is one thing, but it would seem to refer instead to the Jersey Brigade which Dayton commanded after General Maxwell's resignation the previous summer. If Col. Ogden had been present, he and not Lt. Colonel De Hart would have commanded the Brigade.
One can only conclude that either Colonel Ogden was paroled and released from captivity in April but not yet formally exchanged until August, or some other error must account for his POW status as of August 1st according to the regimental return.
It would be interesting to see that August 1st, 1781 muster roll for Captain Dayton as well. His record during the Yorktown campaign is not as straightforward as it has seemed to later historians. For one thing, Stryker offers a detailed roster of the New Jersey troops at Yorktown (pg 37) that places Dayton as captain of a company in the 1st New Jersey, not the 2nd. Furthermore, the detachment from his company that operated as part of Lt. Col Barber's battalion of light troops under Lafayette was reportedly lead by Lt. John Blair and left for Virginia months before Dayton's supposed release.
It should be observed that Stryker's roster is his own construction, and I understand that there may exist a contemporary one that differs from in in many respects. Until such time as I can review that evidence, it appears that Dayton rejoined the New Jersey Continentals following his captivity as a Captain in the 1st New Jersey rather than the 2nd. In this he was quite fortunate, to be retained in the new establishment - and apparently accommodated in another regiment - while still a POW and with other officers then serving with the army declared supernumerary.
Captain Dayton is also thought to have participated in Lafayette's light infantry attack on Redoubt Number 10 at the siege of Yorktown, in which Barber's Battalion attacked in support, but Col. Dayton's Brigade with the rest of the NJ Line was assigned elsewhere and did not take part. He may have done so as an unattached volunteer, as this was everyone's moment for glory and staff officers who wanted to go out with a record of wartime bravery were eager for a chance to go "once more unto the breech" for death or glory. Alexander Hamilton, who asserted his prerogative to lead the assault with his New York light troops instead of Barber with his Jerseymen, had left Washington's staff earlier in the year to seek just such a fighting command (and after clashing with the Commander in Chief).
Both Matthias Ogden and Jonathan Dayton were fortunate sons, and fortunate indeed that they were able to secure their paroles and exchanges in time to participate in the Yorktown campaign with places kept waiting for them in the reorganized New Jersey Line. They were young gentlemen who placed personal honor above personal safety, be it in their choice of billet in country frequented by loyalist raiders, or when raising a glass with their captors. They got by on their wits, and on the connections they cultivated to aid their advancement. In this war, as in business, it often paid to work the angles.