"Sharp, quirky, and occasionally nettlesome", Walking the Berkshires is my personal blog, an eclectic weaving of human narrative, natural history, and other personal passions with the Berkshire and Litchfield Hills as both its backdrop and point of departure. I am interested in how land and people, past and present manifest in the broader landscape and social fabric of our communities. The opinions I express here are mine alone. Never had ads, never will.
The British and their German Allies advance on the from and flank. Dragoons and the line companies of a royal regiment move against the American lines. British Line infantry in campaign dress and Hessian Jaegers push back the American right flank. George Washington and the NJ battalions execute a fighting withdrawal. (to be continued)
Proctor's Artillery and American Light Dragoons engage the Royalists, who are pressing the center and right flanks of the American position at Monmouth. New York infantry (including a Native American ally) and a company of riflemen reinforce the right flank and the Jersey Brigade holds the center. Major General Lee observes the action, but has not yet been dressed down by Washington for withdrawing from the attack. The Jerseymen, including Ogden's 1st New Jersey, prepare to advance on a strong British position. (To be continued).
I settled with the paymaster, and will shortly enlist as a Jersey Blue in the 1st NJ Regiment (Ogden's). I had a fabulous time as an enthusiastic buff at Monmouth over the weekend, and will now ease into more active participation during the coming year and the daunting but exciting task of acquiring (and financing) a uniform and accouterments. I also regaled numerous participants with dramatic readings from the original of Hannah Ogden's homefront letter (1779).
Since I was not in reenacting garb, I was able to take many pictures. There are a lot of them, so this and subsequent posts will provide the highlights..
1. The American Camp, by the drill field. 2. Battalion drill
3. The officer with the anachronistic but useful microphone portrays my ancestor Col. Elias Dayton, Col. of the 3rd NJ. He provided color commentary of the battle reenactment. Standing next to him is an African American of the 1st Rhode Island battalion, which included a large percentage of free and enslaved black soldiers.
4. A camp following sulter of used clothing displays her wares. 5. Major General the Lord Cornwallis, Commanding the British Rearguard and
sneering at the "Doodles".
6. A Gunner of Proctor's Artillery 7. American dragoons skirmish with the enemy. 8 A Don Troiani portrait quite literally come to life.
9. The 4th Light Dragoons (dismounted) engage with the enemy. 10. Molly Pitcher and Proctors Artillery
The quest for revolutionary war Salisbury Cannon took me to the waters of the Brandywine and the fields of Valley Forge last weekend. At the former I found nothing beside three European gun barrels inside the sadly depleted museum - a victim of state budget cuts- though I did find my way to the "Plowed Hill" where my Ogden and Dayton ancestors held the line in Stirling's Division against the British and Hessian onslaught. However on Sunday a friend and I struck gold, or rather what was occasionally gold painted iron, at Valley Forge.
I made an effort to slip loose the surely bonds of gender and ask for directions at the visitor center, only to be informed by the official I had selected that there were no American made revolutionary cannon at the National Historical Park, nor yet any cannon at all for that matter. My companion commented that had I selected one of the young, buzzcut rangers instead of the sedentary fellow at the tourist information desk, I might have gotten a different response - gender fail - but as it turned out we needn't have been discouraged because the place is swimming in artillery of a decidedly locally made character.
We came upon the 3 gun battery in the picture above at a redan near where Conway's Division encamped in the winter of 1777-1778, and determined that they were of two different calibers (4 or 6 pounders, perhaps) and at least one was a wooden replica (at right), which I believe rules it out as a Salisbury survivor. We ate our lunch and as we wove our way along one way roads through he part on various genealogical errands as well as on the look out for more guns we found many more iron cannon, ranging from light artillery to siege guns and mortars.
I wanted to pay a visit to the Washington Memorial Chapel, when my ancestor Thaddeus Thompson was said to have had a memorial tablet placed by his daughter Rhoda, one of the last real daughters of the Revolution still alive near the end of the 19th century. We asked after it at the gift shop, and while the volunteers there were initially uncertain whether we would find anything, I was able to say I thought it would be in the chapel itself and sure enough, it was one of just two large brass plaques in gothic script on either wall and had been polished by our guide without her really knowing its history! Old Thaddeus was just one of thousands of men who endured that winter, and was later wounded in the trenches at Yorktown and one of the first veterans to receive a pension for his injuries after the war. Whatever pull his daughter Rhoda had as one of the last tangible links to that era got him his solitary plaque on the church wall.
At the site of Knox's artillery park were a number of 4-9 pounders arranged on their gun carriages and
painted a flat yellow in imitation of bronze although they all were of iron. I am analyzing my images to see whether there are any patterns which will help us determine which batches may have come from the same foundry. I found few distinguishing marks, though one large cannon by the Chapel had what looked like 20 C engraved just before the vent.
We also came upon a monument to Maxwell's New Jersey Brigade, with my ancestors Matthias Ogden in command of the 1st and Elias Dayton in charge of the 3rd NJ regiments. The bronze soldier atop the pedestal is wrapped in a blanket and seems to be wearing woolen stockings.
The enemy never attacked Valley Forge, which is today besieged by an invasive sea of microstegium and excessive herbivory by white tailed deer but is treasured as open space by joggers and sunbathers. I had an absolutely delightful time, even if the answer "Yes, we have no artillery" proved unfounded.
Heather Wilkinson Rojo at "Nutfield
Genealogy" has very kindly recognized Walking the Berkshires with an Ancestor Approved Award. What tickles me most about this honor, aside from the very kind words about my writing style, is the dour faced look of disapproval sported by the matronly mascot of this genea-blogging distinction. That old girl's no Mona Lisa: more American Gothic.
The idea behind the Ancestor Approved Award is to highlight excellent blogging from the genealogy community and challenge those so recognized to list 10 things we have learned in their course of our ancestral research that have surprised, humbled or enlightened us. Here then, are my 10 lessons learned.
1. You've Got a Friend: I think many of us are drawn to genealogy for the thrill of the chase and the opportunity to personalize the past. Our own bloodlines may be the hook, but genealogists tend to be a generous bunch and are just as excited to learn about each other's stories and research as in documenting our own. And we do love a good story. Finding this supportive community online was a pleasant surprise for me when I added genealogy to the rotation of post topics at Walking the Berkshires.
2. God Bless Google Books: Genealogy is not simply a matter of vital statistics. It is more about the lives of the people that these names and dates represent. Applying the skills of the historian, the archeologist, the social scientist and psychologist really animates family history for me. To that end, as a non academic researcher I swear by the gold mine of source material represented by Google Books. Querying this trove has delivered untold data on countless ancestors, the communities in which they lived. In many cases this results in completely new information that changes my understanding of who they were and what they did, Idly searching for information on one of my Revolutionary War era ancestors with Google Books, for example, revealed evidence in Washington's correspondence of a court martial. Among the many happy results were this 11 post series on the Court Martial of Matthias Ogden and a connection to a group of avid reenactors who depict the New Jersey regiment that Col. Ogden commanded.
4. Maybe it Ain't So: There is still no substitute for primary source material. It is amazing how much bad history gets repeated as subsequent authors take at face value the claims made in other texts . Sometimes the silences say more than false claims. A privately printed genealogy of the Walker branch in my mother's pedigree from the early 1900s identifies the revolutionary war service of a collateral relation, but neglects to mention his subsequent and much longer service as an officer in the Pennsylvania Loyalists. The only clue was that his father's will provided for grandchildren in New Brunswick, Canada after the war.
" 5. Ancestor Worship is not Good History: A good genealogist respects good data even while paying respect to one's forebears. We take tours through the intimate details of our ancestor's lives. We look in their underwear drawers and read their private letters. If it turns out that they were more complex human beings with real flaws and contradictions - in other words, that they were human - we have an obligation to treat them fairly and honestly.
7. Sooner or Later, You Become the Source: Good bloggers are good aggregators. People searching for topics of an historical or genealogical nature are often lead to my blog. On matters having little or no family connection, like the Morro Castle Disaster about which I blogged four years ago, I still get daily hits. Once you go back a half dozen generations or so, the odds of sharing a common ancestor with others doing family history expand exponentially. A post I wrote about my grandfather's experience as a doctor in wartime lead the son of one of the officers he served with to my site, as well as the grand-niece of a man who died on the Liberty Ship later that took my grandfather to the South Pacific.
8. Expect the Unexpected: When searching the 1860 Census Records to try to close a gap in my primary Abbott line, I found that my Gr-great grandfather had an older brother. Since I was at the National Archives, I searched under his name for a Civil War service record, and discovered that he had enlisted in the 9th NY Hawkin's Zouaves. Not only that, but his pension record gave me additional data that helped with my inquiry into his parents, and also revealed where he died out in Montana. A few years later, I was vacationing at Glacier National Park and called up the nearby Old Soldiers Home that had been his final residence and in about 30 seconds found the number and location of his grave.
9. All in Good Fun: Remember, no matter how passionate our interest in the lives of our ancestors, not too take things too seriously. 19th Century Facial Hair and old family photos have tremendous comic possibilities. For me, this prompted a long running and very popular Family Archive Caption Contest.
10. Life is for the Living: The family history at greatest risk of disappearing is being made now, and is still in the minds of those still with us. Every genealogist I have ever known regrets not asking more of those now departed who could have told us more. The memories we make now will enliven the past for those who come after.
And now the fun part. To share the love and pass on this award, Here are 10 worthy genea-bloggers whose fine work has inspired me and who do their family history proud:
George Washington may have been the glue that held the parochial elements of the Continental Army together, but it was a glue backed by court martial as often as by charisma or political sensitivity. As an administrator, Washington relied heavily on courts of inquiry and courts martial to maintain army discipline, and also, where his fractious officer corps was concerned, to monitor and evaluate their performance.
This management style was more in line with British practice than those found in Continental European armies. Lafayette, who almost never disagreed with Washington, told his commander he thought the custom a bad one more suited to the British "love of lawyers...and that black apparatus of sentences, and judgments" than a good institution worthy of revolutionary America.
Lafayette was not alone in observing that this practice was damaging to morale as well as the reputations of officers who could be brought up on baseless charges by their subordinates without legal consequences, and whose reputations suffered even though formally acquitted, Historian Harry M. Ward notes in William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continentals;
"The frequent courts of inquiry and trials unquestionably undermined the morale of the officer corps. General McDougall commented that courts of inquiry "are contrary to my judgment, because they seldom answer any valuable purposes, and often produce mischief.'"
This certainly is evident in the jealousies and intrigues of numerous Continental officers - my ancestors being no exception - over questions of relative rank and allegations about the competence or lack thereof of their rivals and superiors. Lafayette understood the qualities and temperament that made men of his era gentlemen. Such officers bristled with indignation when those inferior in rank and social standing were allowed to bring forward accusations which in civilian life could be legally challenged as defamatory and libelous.
Yet this factor in military trials also had a democratizing quality in a patriot army comprised initially of citizen soldiers with short term enlistments who might well be lead by their neighbors of similar social standing. There was still an officer class, and in some states and units it was dominated by ambitious gentlemen who parleyed their social connections to advance their interests over those of their rivals. Yet it was also an army where a bookseller and a forge owner could rise to General rank and gain admission to Washington's inner circle.
This is not to suggest that the Continental Army was a meritocracy or had a fundamental "leveling" character, except perhaps in comparison to the British military where commissions at the battalion grades were purchased by those with the wealth (and social standing) necessary to afford them. Historian Robert H. Patton observes;
"Americans were the most prosperous people in the world, and also the lowest taxed. In fiscal terms the rebellion was inspired by ambition rather than hardship, by a desire not for financial freedom but for more financial freedom. This push for opportunity spurred people's envy of success, their scorn for failure, and their increasingly dubious view of their compatriots' integrity."
Granted that there were also significant causal factors relating to matters of local governance and institutions; a shift in global power after the French and Indian War; and the religious upheavals of the Great Awakening, Patton's understanding of the fiscal motivations for the Revolution also applies to many of the patriot officers in the Continental Line. Especially when one's business affairs - and for common soldiers, their families' very subsistence - became undermined by long service for depreciated pay, opportunities for advancement became as cutthroat in Washington's Army as they often are in modern institutions. Ask a professor seeking tenure or a corporate executive under peer review whether these processes are purely objective assessments of their quality on merit alone to see if times have really changed all that much from when Washington was HR manager as well as corporate "Founder" and CinC.
It is interesting to note that a number of former Continental Army officers as well as Congressmen engaged extensively in land speculation after the war, and that many - including General Knox the former bookseller, General Greene the forge owner, and my ancestor Captain Aaron Ogden - lost their fortunes thereby. Even Thomas Jefferson faced financial ruin. There was no institution in the early Federal period that was too big to fail, although there were certainly candidates put forward at the time - most notably slavery. There was a bail out, however. Hamilton's federal bank assumed the war debts of the various states and was a major factor in bringing them into the federal Constitution.
Connections clearly mattered to numerous officers and gentlemen in Washington's Army, as did financial accomplishments. As General Greene wrote candidly in 1778; "Without wealth a man will be of no consequence. Mark my words for it - patriotism and every sacrifice will soon be forgotten." Not all who served were motivated by these things, nor were such desires in officers incompatible with patriotism and personal bravery.
There is probably a research opportunity here for scholarly inquiry into the winners and losers of these officer squabbles over rank, particularly at their courts of inquiry and courts martial. Two of the clear losers - Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr - went on to later notoriety which in Arnold's case seems, in part, to have been motivated by jealousy over the preferential advancement of those he considered less entitled than he to promotion. I would propose the hypothesis that these outcomes may be predictable based on socio-economic status, patronage, kin relationships and differences in local and regional bases of support. I may have to test this theory in the ranks of the 1st New Jersey battalion of the Continental Line, and if so, you may be sure I will share what emerges in a subsequent post.
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.
According to a number of local histories and the Ogden Family Genealogy; a source known as "Salisbury Memorial" contains the following account of a dinner among enemy officers gone wrong.
"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
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.
From time to time, my posts on the American Revolution and the part played in it by my Ogden and Dayton ancestors have exposed how political maneuvers and personal connections had at least as much significance as battlefield prowess in determining rank and status in Washington's army It was a time, after all, of big fish in small ponds, when one's personal interests were often conflated with one's public responsibilities. Robert Morris, the "Financier of the Revolution", unabashedly conducted his own private transactions on the very ships he engaged in his official capacity to import war material (with Congress conveniently underwriting the transportation expenses).
It was how things got done in a time when the ability to amass wealth was both admired and desired by ambitious men who served the rebellion, be they in Congress, as procurement agents, or in the military. Personal relationships and the ability to curry favor, in addition to delivering battlefield results, were the keys to advancement in the Continental Army. Those who were inept at both were gradually weeded out, while those whose pride or principles prevented them from playing politics became alienated and marginalized. Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold are prominent examples of this latter class of officer, but as our recent examination of the court martial of Colonel Matthias Ogden reveals, such resentments extended to junior officers as well as those of high rank.
Perhaps these individuals found the politics of patronage distasteful: the 18th-century equivalent to the vulgar, yet apt observation of one of my uncles that "it's not who you know; it's who you blow." Perhaps they lacked the skill and sensitivity to practice the art effectively, as clearly was the case with George Olney, whose distaste for excessive drinking at Washington's table lead to an undiplomatic refusal to hoist a glass with the General. There are plenty among us, lord knows, who are much happier as our own bosses and would self-destruct in an hierarchical corporate structure. Unless entrusted with an independent command, however, that opportunity rarely exists in the military, and Washington's army was no exception.
The New Jersey Brigade, for example, never had more than four battalions during the war and two of these were commanded by my ancestors Matthias Ogden and Elias Dayton. Another regiment (Spenser's Additional Continental Regiment) was lead by one of Ogden's brothers-in-law. Col. Ogden's little brother Aaron was initially paymaster of the 1st New Jersey regiment, although he was appointed before Matthias joined the battalion. In Col. Dayton's case, his son Jonathan owed his appointment as paymaster in the 3rd New Jersey to the skillful art of patronage practiced by the father.
In the spring of 1776, the newly established 3rd New Jersey was diverted from its march to the relief of the faltering Canada Expedition to help General Schuyler's Northern Department secure the Mohawk Valley. Col. Dayton subsequently repaired old Fort Stanwix and renamed it for his boss. The General was clearly touched by the gesture, and fully aware of the politics involved for all concerned as evidenced by this letter to Colonel Dayton:
German Flats, August 8th, 1776
I thank you for the honour you have done me in calling the fort (Stanwix) by my name. As I cannot, consistent with delicacy, announce this to Congress, would it not be right for you to do it, and to General Washington?
It does not appear to me from the Resolutions of Congress, that I am empowered to appoint paymasters to the regiments. I shall soon be informed of their intention; & if the appointment is in me I shall certainly confer the office to your son.
Adieu, my dear Colonel; I am, with every friendly wish, your obedient and humble Servant,
The new name of the fort didn't stand the test of time, but Ensign Jonathan Dayton was subsequently promoted on August 26th, 1776 to paymaster in his father's regiment. Apparently whatever influence Col. Dayton may have had with General Schuyler or others in a position to be helpful to his interests, was sufficient to bring about the desired advancement for his son.
There is no evidence that young Dayton, or Aaron Ogden for that matter, served with anything less than distinction in the field. True, there were concerns raised by his political opponents after the war that Jonathan Dayton may have been involved with the illicit and rampant "London Trade" under flag of truce with Royalist Staten Island, and hence with occupied New York. Both father and son had been tasked at various times with obtaining intelligence and running spy networks across the narrow channel, and if this put one or another of them in position to benefit personally from any associated smuggling activity, at least it may be said of them that they were in good company with the likes of Robert Morris.
Nonetheless, public profiteering continued to bedevil Jonathan Dayton after the war when he entered politics. As Speaker of the House he engaged in speculation with public funds. He was accused of bringing home more than his district's fair share of the bacon, with over $1,000 secured in monthly pensions for former army officers in Elizabeth (many of whom were close friends and relations). But then, Elizabeth for reasons of power and patronage as well as patriotic sentiment had a very high percentage of such officers in the service to begin with. His ultimate downfall was his too close association with Aaron Burr and his imperialist adventures, but he was still around to welcome his old comrade in arms Lafayette on his triumphal American tour (though the physical strain and exposure of the visit proved too much for Dayton as he died shortly thereafter).
The Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is out with a plethora of posts on forgotten cemeteries, including 2 from me regarding the Christopher Williman graveyard that recently came to light in SC.
The venerable History Carnival has its March (Olympics edition) at Disability Studies, Temple U, with a post from my Matthias Ogden Court Martial opus regarded one of those called to testify at his trial: Captain (or is it Major) John Polhemus.
If Colonel Matthias Ogden were stung by the rebuke he received in Washington's General Orders for "gaming", he certainly did not go out of his way to avoid the eye of his commander in chief in the weeks and months that followed.
On April 17th, 1779, barely a fortnight after the results of his court martial were made known to the Army - acquitted on three counts, guilty on the fourth - his name heads the list of officers from the 1st New Jersey in a "Memorial from the Officers of the Jersey Brigade to the Legislature" protesting the meager pay of the troops in the strongest terms. Almost 50 officers from the three New Jersey battalions signed this document - none more than the 21 who did so in Ogden's regiment.
It was soon followed by a much more lengthy (it would be fair to say "long winded") letter from General William Maxwell, the commander of the Jersey Brigade, and a second letter from a number of junior officers of the 1st New Jersey, including Captain Aaron Ogden (the Colonel's brother) and Ensign Asher Levy.
"There is nothing, which has happened in the course of the war that has
given me so much pain as the remonstrance
you mention from the officers of the 1st. Jersey Regiment. I cannot
but consider it as a hasty and imprudent step, which on more cool
consideration they will themselves condemn. I am very sensible of the
inconveniences under which the officers of the army labor and I hope
they do me the justice to believe, that my endeavours (sic) to procure them
relief are incessant. There is however more difficulty in satisfying
their wishes than perhaps they are aware; our resources have been
hitherto very limited; the situation of our money is no small
embarrassment, for which, though there are remedies, they cannot be the
work of a moment."
He was also a shrewd politician, as demonstrated in the following excerpt from a letter to President of Congress dated May 11th, 1779:
This is an affair which Congress will no doubt view in a very serious
light. To me it appears truly alarming. It shows what is to be
apprehended, if some adequate provision is not generally made for the
officers. I have frequently taken the liberty to suggest my sentiments
of what ought to be done. The subject was particularly discussed in my
late interviews with the Committee of conference. A repetition would be
needless. I shall observe that the distresses in some corps are so
great, either where they were not till lately attached to particular
states, or where the states have been less provident, that officers have
solicited even to be supplied with the cloathing (sic) destined for the
common soldiery coarse and unsuitable as they were. I had not power to
comply with the request.
The patience of men, animated by
a sense of duty and honour will support them to a certain point, beyond
which it will not go. I doubt not Congress will be sensible of the
danger of an extreme in this respect, and will pardon my anxiety to
I view the conduct of the officers concerned in the present
instance as highly blameable (sic); and I have signified my disapprobation. I
trust the mode will not be thought too mild, when our situation is
considered. The causes of discontent are too great and too general and the ties
that bind the officers to the service too feeble to admit of rigor.
Their letter to me in which they undertake to justify their
conduct was embarrassing.
I thought it best to take no direct notice of it; because I must either have done too much for our
circumstances, or too little for the nature of the proceeding. I
contented myself with writing the letter to General Maxwell of the 10th."
Washington assigned the Jersey Brigade to General Sullivan for the upcoming campaign against the Iroquois. While he seems by mid-April at the latest to had the Jersey men in mind for this assignment, there probably was in this decision both the recognition that they had been until lately among the best he had, and that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" and so hopefully they would be too busy fighting on the frontier to be airing their grievances back home. Politics were hardly absent under Sullivan, but no such letters were dispatched from Iroquoia to cause the Commander in Chief fresh pain.
Of the officers of the 1st New Jersey who were called to testify at Ogden's trial, there is only evidence that one of these, Captain John van Angeln/Anglen, went on Sullivan's expedition, and he was on detached service acting as Commissary of the 3rd Brigade (Hand's) rather than Captain of the 7th company in the 1st New Jersey which was now under Captain Peter Voorhies. On August 10th at Fort Wyoming, he was charged at court martial for "brutally assaulting" Sergeant Lewis Rieskly of the German Regiment and sentenced to be severely reprimanded in Sullivan's General Orders. A portion of this reprimand reads:
"[The Commander] can never suffer Officers to beat and abuse their Fellow Soldiers wantonly; Blows should never be given Given but except when they are necessary to the Preservation of order and Discipleing (sic) and...Unaccountable with these Marks of Malevolence and Cruelty which, were Apparent in the Whole of Captain van Angler's Behaviour, which renders his Conduct still more Criminal was that [the victim] was a Con Commissioner Offr"
Had this happened under Washington's eye, there is little doubt that he would have been cashiered for such ungentlemanly conduct. As it was, he resigned on January 1st, 1781 and did not continue in the next establishment of the battalion, and received an invalid's pension prior to his death in 1812.
Isaac Morrison was no longer in command of his old company, either, but whether his Germantown wound prevented him resuming command or there was some other reason why he was supplanted is not clear. He moved to Kentucky after the war. John Polhemus, whose commission as Major on January 4th, 1778 may have been very brief, as he is believed to have been declared a supernumerary officer that year, was likewise not part of the 1st New Jersey when it went against the Iroquois.
Quite possibly, Morrison, Van Angeln and Polhemus were not even serving with the regiment at the time of the trial, and they certainly were not involved with its subsequent maneuvers. As for Ensign Asher Levy, he never made it to Sullivan's expedition either, because he was in jail as a suspected Tory.
Asher Levy , whose name sometimes appears as Asher Lewis, holds the distinction as the only Jewish officer in the Jersey Line - perhaps even the only known Jew in the ranks. His grandfather Asher (Asser) Levy was the only Jew who remained in New Amsterdam when Peter Stuyvesant surrendered to the British. Ensign Levy was born in 1756 and his family in New York were loyalists. He enlisted in the 1st New Jersey on September 12, 1778 and resigned June 14th, 1779 (Heitman says July 14th, 1779). The timing of his resignation is very interesting in the aftermath of the trial of his Colonel at which he was called to give evidence. According to Oscar Reiss' "The Jews of Colonial America";
"He was jailed in Burlington, New Jersey, on the suspicion of being a Tory. Levy escaped on March 25th, 1780, but he was recaptured and escaped again on August 9th, 1780. he went to his family in New York who were Tories. There he married Margaret Mary Thompson and moved to Philadelphia, where he died in 1785."
Perhaps Asher Levy did have Tory sympathies. Perhaps he was a convenient scapegoat as the person with the lowest status who may have crossed his Colonel at trial. If Captain van Angeln was sent on detached service as 3rd Brigade Commissary after the trial, this may indicate that he could no longer serve under Colonel Ogden after his testimony. Or it may indicate that he had already been supplanted as supernumerary by Captain Voorhies. By as Ensign Levy resigned from the service and was imprisoned some time after, it has to be considered that his testimony had been damaging to Colonel Ogden and may have related to the charge of gaming for which he was convicted.
As for the other officers of the New Jersey Line who were involved in the trial, Lt. Colonel D'Hart continued under Col. Shreve in the 2nd New Jersey and continued with the regiment when it was consolidated with the3rd battalion in 1781. More information continues to come to light about his service, indicating that he stayed with the 1st NJ until late 1778 before transferring to the 2nd. He also was briefly arrested at Yorktown and scheduled for court martial, but whether the cause these charges were dropped three days later. Whether this indicates a conflict with Ogden or not can only be speculated, but it is curious that the Dayton's New Jersey Brigade had been combined into a single battalion not a week before D'Hart's arrest, placing him once again under Matthias Ogden.
Major Conway rejoined the 1st New Jersey as Lt. Col. under Mathias Ogden on Sullivan's Expedition, transferring from Dayton's 3rd New Jersey with a commission dated July 5th, 1779. He served until the reestablishment of the New Jersey Line on January 1, 1781. From this it would seem that his testimony at Ogden's court martial did not injure their professional relationship.
There is much more I would like to know about this episode in my ancestral past and this period of history, and many more leads to explore. The surviving primary source material in Washington's letters for the court martial of Matthias Ogden offered a basic framework to begin this inquiry. Tracking down leads and developing explanations in this series for how events transpired has been a grand hunt, but as is always the case in uncovering new data there are always more questions to ask, more hypotheses to refine.
There is no simple explanation for why Isaac Morrison brought charges against his Colonel and others testified at his trial. Nor is there a clear case to be made that Ogden was falsely charged on the points where he was acquitted, or for what subsequently became of those who gave evidence. There are strong indications that in an officer corps that was united only in its grievances about relative rank, status and pay, some of these men to resent and later accuse their Colonel who seemed to have things always break his way. It is an old story, as familiar from office politics today as it was in Washington's army. For now, let that suffice.