The Revolutionary War Diary of
Chaplain Andrew Hunter,
New Jersey Brigade, Continental Army
The original manuscript diaries of Reverend Andrew Hunter are held in the rare book library at Princeton University, which was Hunter’s alma mater, class of 1772. The Reverend was my husband’s 5th great-uncle on his mother’s side, and I discovered his diaries quite by accident while researching our family tree. The Princeton Library graciously microfilmed the diaries for me, which I then transcribed, with assistance from Professor John Murrin of Princeton’s Department of History.
An earlier Andrew Hunter was born about 1640 in Londonderry, Ireland. His family had lived in Ayrshire, Scotland, for many centuries before that. That Andrew’s son, Hugh Hunter, married Isabella Semple; they had five children. Around 1742, four of their five children came to America. One son, Reverend Andrew Hunter, a Presbyterian minister, settled in Princeton, New Jersey.
Another son, David Hunter, settled in York County, Pennsylvania, married Martha McIlhenny in 1745, and had six children, one of whom, born in 1752, would become our Revolutionary War diarist. In 1760, David Hunter applied for a tavern license in the town of York, and was a captain in the 3rd York County royal colonial troops, serving with General Forbes in the expedition against Fort Duquesne in the French and Indian Wars. He moved to Virginia in 1765 and bought 560 acres around Martinsburg, now in West Virginia, but mysteriously disappeared in the summer of 1776, and his family never saw or heard from him again. His fate was not known until nearly a century afterward, when, on the destruction of an old house in the valley of Virginia by Union soldiers, a paper was discovered concerning him. It was a writ of habeas corpus, issued in the name of “George III Rex”, by authority of the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, directing the sheriff of Berkeley County to bring the body of David Hunter to the capitol at Williamsburg. Captain Hunter was an American patriot, and Lord Dunmore, last of the British colonial governors of Virginia, was notorious for his cruelties and injustice to the colonists. (Source: Hunter Family Records by William M. Clemens, 1914, William M. Clemens, Publisher, New York.)
Captain Hunter’s son, Andrew, had earlier moved to Princeton and been adopted by his uncle and namesake, likely for the financial and educational benefits the latter could provide in New Jersey. The soon-to-be Revolutionary War diarist graduated from Princeton University in 1772. An early and ardent patriot, he was one of the leaders of the Greenwich, New Jersey “tea party” of December 1774, and was commissioned a chaplain of the New Jersey Brigade when the colony went to war the following year. About the same time, Andrew married Ann Stockton Riddell. They had two children, Anne and Andrew, the latter of whom was expelled from Princeton University in 1794! Ann died in 1793, and in 1794, Andrew married Mary Stockton, daughter of Richard Stockton, the Declaration of Independence “signer.” Mary was born in 1761, at “Morven”, the Stockton family home in Princeton, and she died in 1846. After the Revolutionary War ended, Andrew returned to New Jersey, where he taught and became active in local politics. Later, he taught in Washington, DC, and died there in 1823. Andrew and Mary had five children, including David Hunter, who became a leading Union general in the Civil War.
This transcription presents two of Andrew’s diary volumes, the first covering the New York Campaign, from July 22 through November 24, 1776, and the other recording events of the Sullivan Expedition, from June 18 through October 1, 1779. Whether he maintained any other wartime diary volumes is unknown. Hunter had a remarkable ability to describe his experiences and observations in words that make them quite real for us today, more than two centuries later. He also conveys to us how important faith in God was to our forefathers, not only by his actions as a minister, but also through his comments on the soldiers themselves. Whether describing the trees and plants or telling us about the battles, soldiers, Indians and other people he encountered, Andrew Hunter’s Revolutionary War diary gives us the opportunity to look through a window in time and imagine firsthand what it was like to live through that conflict.
The transcription that follows essentially duplicates the diary volumes as written by Chaplain Hunter. In particular, idiosyncratic spelling, grammar, capitalization, and sentence structure, all of which are highly typical of the period, have all been maintained. For reader convenience, superscript text has been silently drawn down to the baseline. Where editorial clarification has been added, it appears within brackets. When personal and place names are thusly clarified, such appears only for the first mention of a particular name.
It is my hope that this diary will inspire the reader to learn more about the Revolutionary War and the founding fathers of our country.
Part I: The New York Campaign of 1776
Part II: The Sullivan Expedition of 1779
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