enemy hove in a tollerable fire ..."1
New Jersey Brigade Casualties
in the Connecticut Farms and Springfield Battles, June 1780
John U. Rees
The New Jersey regiments were in a number of battles and minor actions during the War for Independence; Short Hills (26 June 1777), Staten Island (August 1777), Brandywine (11 September 1777), Germantown (4 October 1777), and Monmouth (28 June 1778), to name but a few. In June 1780 Brigadier General William Maxwell’s New Jersey Brigade took part in two hard-fought engagements near Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Colonel Israel Shreve, 2nd New Jersey commander, called one of those engagements, the 7 June Connecticut Farms battle, “the warmest that has Ever Happened since the war with Our Brigade.”2 Below we look at Colonel Israel Shreve’s descriptions of the two battles and several accounts of New Jersey Brigade casualties during the June 1780 enemy incursion into New Jersey.
Casualties: Connecticut Farms, 7 June 1780
Colonel Shreve to his wife Mary (“Polley”),
Connecticut farms 4 1/2 miles back
of Elizabethtown 14th June 1780
Before this Arives you will have seen Mr. Faulkner I Expect, who will Give you some Account of my welfare. I will Endeavour to Give the particulars of what has happened since the present Alarm ‑ on tuesday night the 7th [actually the 6th] of June between 11 & 12 oClock the Enemy Landed at Elizabethtown point, Our Piquets fired upon them Which Alarmed Camp. Immediately a Light Horseman Arived from Colo.[Elias] Dayton [3rd New Jersey Regiment] who Commanded that they were Landed in force, We Immediately Caled in all Guards about Camp, and Marched towards Elizabethtown and fell in about 2 miles above the town upon the Connecticut farm Road but thought it prudent to Retire a Little up the same being joined by the third Regt. from town, halted at the [Connecticut] farms Meeting house, Leaveing Capt.[Nathaniel] Bowman with his [light] Company [2nd New Jersey Regiment] at a fork of the Road, half a mile below. ‑ on the Enemys Appearance which was a little before sunrise Capt. Bowman fired upon their advance party, and Retired over a small bridge where was but a Narrow pass he being there joined by five [?] Piquet Guards ‑ Disputed the pass for two hours and an half, ‑ some part of the time very near sometimes one party Giveing way, sometimes the other, ‑ at Length a Large Reinforcement from the Enemy Come up and our people Expending thirty Rounds a man, was Obliged to Give way, Covered by the third Jersey Regt. and part of the other three, ‑ however the Combat was Renewed very Briskly, but Obliged to Give way slowly untill we Arived at Springfield Bridge, Where the Militia had Gathered with a peace of Cannon, this pass was so well Defended that the Enemy Gave way although there Numbers was 4 or six to one, and two peaces of Cannon in front was playd upon us Occationally, but Did no Execution ‑ by this time it was past two oClock in the Afternoon the men Got fresh Carthrages and the Militia Came in very fast. ‑ we Crossed the bridge with all Our fource and made a furious Attact, and Drove them some way when their second Line Came up, so much superior to Our fource that we was obliged to Retreat again, which was Done in pretty Good order, though through a shower of Musket shot, we Crossed the bridge and after an hours Dispute maintained our Ground, towards sunset the Enemy Drew of[f] & all Encamped back of Connecticut farms Meetinghouse. in the Evening General Washington Arived with the Army. General [Wilhelm] Kniphausen who Commanded the Enemy secretly Moved off at Midnight to Elizabethtown point, There he yet Remains. ‑ in the above affair the Loss of the Jersey Brigade according to Exact Returns since made was five Rank & file with Ensign [Moses] Ogden [Spencer’s Additional Regiment] killed, ‑ Lieut. [Absalom?] Martin [1st New Jersey,] [Samuel] Seely [1st New Jersey,] [David] Kirk Patrick [Spencer’s Additional] & Ensign Regin [unit unknown]. With twenty Eight Rank and file Wounded, ‑ and Eight Rank & file missing. – Capt. [Isaac] Reeves his Brother and several Others of the [New Jersey] Militia killed, and some Wounded. ‑ Near as we Can find Out the young Count Donop and forty or fifty of the Enemy killed, and Many more Wounded among them for a Certainty [British Brigadier] General [Thomas] Stirling had his Thigh Broke and is said since Dead, ‑ in the Neighbourhood they burnt Eleven houses with all the barns and Other Out houses there unto belonging. Commited several Rapes, plundered Whig & tory Amasingly ...3
Synopsis of Casualties:
Colonel Israel Shreve (2nd New Jersey Regt.):
14 June letter, "... five Rank & file with Ensign Ogden killed, - Lieut. Martin Seely Kirk Patrick & Ensign Regin With twenty Eight Rank and file Wounded, - and Eight Rank & file missing.
19 June letter, "I have had but two men killed, Eight wounded, and three Missing ..."4
Private Henry Johnson (2nd New Jersey Regt.):
“… about Sun Rise We Etacted them [with] the Jersey Berguade [brigade] and there was a Bout five thousand of them / we kept up a a [sic] hot fire about fore hours and in the atact was wounded Col[onel] Ogden and was wounded six or seven lieutenants and was kiled Liet Ogden of the forth Reg[imen]t and a number of Soldiers kild and wounded and I got a Wound in the head very Bad …”5
A 20 June 1780 "Return of the kill'd, wounded, missing and deserted, since the 6th: instant," listed Maxwell's Brigade as having had 1 subaltern and 6 privates killed, 3 subalterns and 35 privates wounded, and 11 privates missing since 6 June.6
Casualties: Springfield, 23 June 1780
Israel Shreve was less effusive about the 24 June engagement:
Camp 24th June 1780
Yesterday the Enemy again Came out in force when a sevear skirmishing Ensued ‑ My Regt was Once Engaged very warm for some time but Retreated in Good Order in the face of the Enemys firing with the Loss of one man killed with a Cannon shot out of Johns [the Colonel's son] Plattoon. the Enemy Got Possession of the town of Springfield & burnt one Prisbiterian Church and about 30 houses, one Continental Brigade with ours, Commanded by General [Nathanael] Green and the Malitia Commanded by General [Philemon] Dickinson, ‑ Our Whole Loss but trifleing the Enemys Much more, they Retreated to Elizabethtown with the Greatest precipitation with a fire in their Rear all the way. ‑ I am then once more Preserved from Extreme Danger ‑ Am in Good health and John. ‑ I Receivd yours by Bowman have not forgot I have a famaly and wish it in my power to Do more for them which I hope will soon happen but am Quite Out of mony at this time No pay for six months. ‑ I am with Every Respect Due from an Indulgent Husband to a Loveing wife your Husband
Synopsis of Casualties:
Lt. Colonel William S. Smith, Spencer's Additional Regiment:
"... one of their shot took out two men from the Centre platoon" of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment.8
Colonel Israel Shreve, 24 June 1780:
"My Regt. ... Retreated in Good Order ... with the Loss of one man killed with a Cannon shot out of Johns [John Shreve, the colonel's son] Plattoon ... Our whole Loss but trifleing ..."9
According to a "Return of the Killed, Wounded, & Missing in the Action of the 23rd June 1780 Springfield," losses in Colonel Dayton's 1st New Jersey were 2 privates killed, 1 subaltern and 6 privates wounded, and 4 privates missing. The 2nd Regiment had 1 private killed, 1 sergeant and 2 privates wounded, and 2 privates missing. Spencer's Additional Regiment had only 1 sergeant wounded.10
Casualties: Final Analysis
7 June 1780
Israel Shreve's account:
Killed Wounded Missing 1 lieutenant 1 ensign 8 rank and file 5 rank and file 3 lieutenants 28 rank and file
(2nd New Jersey Regiment: 2 killed, 8 wounded, 3 missing)
Henry Johnson's account:
Killed Wounded 1 lieutenant 1 colonel 6 or 7 lieutenants
"a number of Soldiers kiled and wounded," Johnson himself suffered a head wound.
7 June total: 6 killed, 32 wounded, 8 missing.
23 June 1780
Israel Shreve's account: 1 man killed, "Our whole Loss but trifleing ..."
William S. Smith's account: 2 men in the 2nd Regiment "took out" by a cannon shot.
"Return of the Killed, Wounded, & Missing in the Action of the 23rd June 1780 Springfield":
1st New Jersey, 2 killed, 7 wounded, 4 missing.
2nd Regiment had 1 killed, 3 wounded, 2 missing.
Spencer's Additional Regiment, 1 wounded.
23 June total: 3 killed, 11 wounded, 6 missing.
1.William S. Smith to George Washington, 10 November 1780, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, (Washington, DC, 1961), series 4, reel 82 (misdated 1781) (hereafter cited as GW Papers).
2.Israel Shreve to Mary Shreve, 19 June 1780, Israel Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection, Prescott Memorial Library, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana (hereafter cited as Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection).
3.Israel Shreve to Mary Shreve, 14 June 1780, ibid.
4.Israel Shreve to Mary Shreve, 14 June and 19 June 1780, ibid.
5.Henry Johnson to Mr. and Mrs. Lambert Johnson, 13 June 1780, Henry Johnson Letters, 1778-1780, Collection 429, Henry Johnson letters, 1778-1780, Library and Archives, Monmouth County Historical Association, Freehold, N.J.. Transcribed by James L. Kochan, May 1990, transcriptions verified and revised by John U. Rees, January 2002.
6."Return of the kill'd, wounded, missing and deserted, since the 6th: instant," 20 June 1780, GW Papers, series 4, reel 67.
7.Israel Shreve to Mary Shreve, 24 June 1780, Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection.
8.William S. Smith to George Washington, 10 November 1780, GW, series 4, reel 82 (misdated 1781.
9.Israel Shreve to Mary Shreve, 24 June 1780, Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection.
10."Return of the Killed, Wounded, & Missing in the Action of the 23rd June 1780 Springfield," GW Papers, series 4, reel 67.