Come Out with us this time As a Volunteer ...":
Soldiers Serving Without Pay in the Second New Jersey Regiment, 1777‑1780
John U. Rees
© 1993, 2002
(Originally published in Military Collector & Historian,
vol. XLV, no. 4 (Winter 1993), 154-55. )
During the American War for Independence numbers of men served in unpaid positions with various Continental Army regiments. These men were volunteers, often acting as officers "with reputation, without pay," though many also served as non‑commissioned officers or private soldiers in hope of obtaining an officer's commission.1
The Second New Jersey Regiment benefited from the services of at least three volunteers, all of who eventually received commissions. The regiment was first organized in the winter of 1775‑76, serving in the closing stages of the Canadian campaign and with the garrison at Fort Ticonderoga. It was not until early summer of the following year that the first volunteer was recorded. In June 1777 James Paul was entered as a sergeant in Captain James Maxwell's company "By Order of His Excellency Colo [Israel] Shreve," the regiment's commanding officer. Prior to this it seems Paul had been serving in a voluntary position with no connection to any specific regiment. On 2 April 1777 Shreve had written New Jersey Governor William Livingston, "I understand Lt. Jeremiah Smith has Resigned ... If so It is the Desire of most of the officers here that Mr. James Paul should be Appointed an Ensign ... Mr. Paul was the first Sergt. in Capt. Faulkners Company in our Regt. Last Year, and always Behaved well / he Come Out with us this time As a Volunteer [and] has been Imployed by the Gen. [probably George Washington or Israel Putnam] to Go with a flag to Brunswick which [illegible word] he Executed to the Generals satisfaction ..." According to a note written at the bottom of the letter, three days later Livingston noted that "The Arrangement [of officers] having already been already completed The subject matter of the above Letter is now properly [illegible word] by his Excellency General Washington to whom application might accordingly be made." Although his disappointment at not receiving a commission in April 1777 must have been great, James Paul had less than one more month to serve in his position as an unpaid sergeant when his opportunity for advancement arrived.2
On 26 June 1777 Brigadier General William Maxwell's brigade of New Jersey troops, including the Second Regiment, took part in the Battle of the Short Hills. During this action, fought against a larger and better-trained force of British and German troops, Colonel Shreve's regiment suffered numerous losses. Israel Shreve noted that among the casualties was "Ensign James Paul [wounded] in the thigh but [he] Got of[f] and [is] Like to Do well ..." According to muster rolls, Paul was made an ensign in Captain James Maxwell's company immediately after the battle. His commission was not officially awarded until 12 October 1777, perhaps shortly after he rejoined the army. On that date General Maxwell issued a list of promotions which included "James Paul a Volunteer & wounded at sho[r]t hills [who] was promised by his Excellency a Commisn. Dated 1st July 1777." In January 1778, he was promoted to second lieutenant in the same company, then commanded by Captain William Helms.3
While it seems Paul owed his promotion to a battlefield exploit, his impetuous nature led to his downfall. Almost two years after James Paul received his ensign’s commission he was captured in New Jersey. Early in April 1779 Brigadier General Maxwell wrote the commander in chief, "Coll. D' Hart informs me that Lieut. Paul of the 2d Regt. at New Ark who had the watter guard of twelve Men, very imprudently landed on the Bergan shore where the enemy had laid [in] wait for them, and made them all prisoners; I am hartily sorry for this accident. I had cautioned them agains[t] sending partys on Bergan." Maxwell stated in a second letter that Lieutenant Paul "bears a good carracter ..." Paul was not exchanged until January 1780; he retired as of January 1781.4
As seen in James Paul’s case, the quickest way for a volunteer to obtain a commission was to show valor in battle and, perhaps just as important, to be wounded in the process. Two other volunteers served with the Second New Jersey Regiment, both initiating their services without pay during 1778. The first of these, George Walker, is the one about whom the least is known. At some point in the first half of 1778, prior to the 28 June Monmouth battle, Walker was attached to Colonel Shreve's regiment acting as an officer "with reputation, without pay." One source states he was wounded in the side during the action at Monmouth Courthouse. It is possible this incident led to his receiving a commission, though no reason is given for his appointment to ensign in Captain Samuel Reading's company on 12 September the same year. Walker served as a subaltern until November 1783.5
The final volunteer, Francis Luse, had served with the 2nd regiment in 1777 as a private in Captain Henry Luse’s company. Francis probably served in his status as volunteer prior to George Walker. It is also probable he was a relative of Captain Luse, a situation not at all unusual in the New Jersey Brigade or the rest Continental Army as well. General William Maxwell's son had served as a lieutenant and captain in the Second New Jersey in 1776 and 1777, while John Shreve, son of the regiment’s colonel, was a subaltern officer in the unit from 1776 to 1781.6
Francis Luse was first listed as a volunteer in Captain Luse's Company in January 1778. He continued to be denoted as such for the next two years, nominally serving under Captain William Helms after Henry Luse retired in 1779. In actuality, Francis was not present with his company after September 1778 when he received a leave of absence. In January 1780 he was stricken from the rolls of Helms' Company having been on leave for over a year. On 17 June 1780, Francis Luse finally received an ensign’s commission in Lieutenant Colonel William DeHart's Company. While he remained on furlough until at least December 1780, Ensign Luse was present with the Jersey troops at the Yorktown siege and served in the army until 3 November 1783.7
Colonel Israel Shreve himself attempted to volunteer his services at Trenton, New Jersey just prior to the Second Battle on the Assunpink, but was refused. The incident took place during the period when the soldiers’ enlistments had run out and Shreve’s regiment had been disbanded prior to a second establishment. On 29 December 1776, "I [Colonel Shreve] set out for the Camp / next Day came up with the Army at trenton As they had that Day Crossd [the] Delaware, this Evening [saw] his Excelency Gen. Washington Offering myself as a Volunteer to Go with the Army But the Gen. Ordered me back to Recrute my Regt. which I did ..." In addition to the likely overabundance of officers as compared to rank and file numbers, another reason why Washington refused the Colonel's help may have been his obesity. According to son John, in 1781 "My father ... [was] very fleshy, weighing three hundred and twenty pounds ..." The colonel himself mentioned his size in a 1780 conversation. Just before the 23 June 1780 Springfield battle Israel Shreve told Lieutenant Colonel Willam Smith that, “he wish'd me to take charge of his regiment that day, that it would probably prove a warm one and as I had youth and activity upon my side I could continue with the regiment let their situation be what it would as for himself he was a heavy man and should the regiment be press'd [by the enemy] he should be obliged [to] leave it.” These are late-war accounts but a passage in one of Colonel Shreve's 1776 letters indicates that while he was quite heavy prior to the war, he lost a great deal of weight campaigning with the army. While the colonel may not have regained his former weight until 1779 or 1780, he still must have been quite heavy throughout his military service, even during the lean years and active campaigns from 1777 through 1779. Israel Shreve’s overly large physical appearance would have been in accordance with the image of a prosperous Quaker farmer, his occupation prior to military service.8
When all is said and done, the presence of voluntary soldiers with the Second New Jersey had a minor effect on the regiment. Despite this, the circumstances of the volunteers’ paths to receiving their commissions shed additional light on one more little known aspect of the Continental Army.
1.H.A. Mayer, “Belonging to the Army: Camp followers and the Military Community during the American Revolution,” PH.D. dissertation (College of William and Mary, 1990), 208‑215, chapter on volunteers.
2.John U. Rees, "A Brief Historical Itinerary of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment 1775 to 1783," (hereafter cited as Rees, "Itinerary of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment"), appendix to John U. Rees, "'I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime ...': An Account of the Services of the Second New Jersey Regiment, December 1777 to June 1779", TMs, copy in the collections of the David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pa. (hereafter cited as Rees, "I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime ..."). June 1777 pay roll of Captain Maxwell's company, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, National Archives Microfilm Publication M246, Record Group 93, reel 59, section 32-2 (hereafter cited as Revolutionary War Rolls). Israel Shreve to William Livingston, 2 April 1777, Israel Shreve Papers, Buxton Collection, Prescott Memorial Library, Louisiana Tech University (hereafter cited as ISP Buxton).
3.Total casualties of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment at the Battle of Short Hills, 26 June 1777 were: 2 (known) wounded, 4 missing, 4 captured, 1 killed. Total known losses for the entire Monmouth Campaign, 17 June 1778 to 6 July 1778 are as follows: 12 (possibly 13) wounded, 7 missing, 9 captured, 2 killed, 1 dead (possibly killed in action) and 1 dead of fatigue. "Losses in the New Jersey Brigade at the Battles of: Short Hills (June 26, 1777); Brandywine (September 11, 1777); Germantown (October 4, 1777)," and "Losses of the New Jersey Brigade in the Monmouth Campaign June 17, 1778 to July 6, 1778," appendices to Rees, "I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime ...". Israel Shreve to Dr. Bodo Otto, 29 June 1777, ISP Buxton. John U. Rees, "'We ... wheeled to the Right to form the Line of Battle': Colonel Israel Shreve's Journal of 1777," The Brigade Dispatch, Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution, XXII, 1 (Spring 1991), 7‑16 (hereafter cited as Rees, “Shreve's Journal of 1777”). "Promotions to be made in the 2d. New Jersey Regt. Commandd By Coll. Shrieve ... Given in Camp at Towaminsing Township the 12th Day of Oct. 1777 Wm. Maxwell B.G.," Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 57, section 21‑3, target 14. "A Listing of the Field Officers, Commissioned Officers and Staff of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment December 1777 to May 1779", appendix to Rees, "I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime ..." (hereafter cited as Rees, "Field Officers, Commissioned Officers and Staff of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, 1777 to 1779").
4.William Maxwell to George Washington, 6 April 1779; Maxwell to Washington, 9 April 1779, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, (Washington, DC, 1961), series 4, reel 57 (hereafter cited as GW Papers). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution ‑ April 1775 to December 1783 (Baltimore, Md., 1982), 430 (hereafter cited as Heitman, Historical Register).
5.William S. Stryker, The Battle of Monmouth, William Starr Myers, ed., (Princeton, N.J., 1927), 290. Rees, "Field Officers, Commissioned Officers and Staff of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, 1777 to 1779." Muster and pay rolls for Captain Reading's company, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 59, sections 31‑1 and 31‑2. Heitman, Historical Register, 565.
6.Muster and pay rolls for the companies of Captains Luse and Helms, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 59, sections 31‑1 and 31‑2. Doyen Salsig, ed. and annot., Parole: Quebec; Countersign: Ticonderoga, Second New Jersey Regiment Orderly Book of 1776 (Cranbury, NJ, 1980), 46. "Personal Narrative of the Services of Lieut. John Shreve of the New Jersey Line of the Continental Army," Magazine of American History, vol. 3, no. 2 (1879), 564‑578 (hereafter cited as “Personal Narrative of John Shreve”). Rees, "Field Officers, Commissioned Officers and Staff of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, 1777 to 1779." Heitman, Historical Register, 360.
7.Rees, "A Listing of the Non‑Commissioned Officers and Privates of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment of 1778," Muster and pay rolls for the companies of Captains Luse and Helms and Lt. Col. William DeHart, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 59, sections 31‑1, 31‑2 and 32‑1. William S. Stryker, The New Jersey Continental Line in the Virginia Campaign of 1781 (Saddle River, N.J., 1970), 40.
8.Rees, Shreve's Journal of 1777, 7 to 16. “Personal Narrative of John Shreve,” 576. William S. Smith to Washington, 10 November 1780 (misdated 1781), GW Papers, series 4, reel 82. Shreve to Mary Shreve, 25 May 1776, ISP Buxton, "I now Live well but have become almost a slim man, having Lost at Least 4 or 5 Inches in thickness, and am Obliged to have my Jackets taken in ...". Rees, "Itinerary of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment." William Y. Thompson, Israel Shreve ‑ Revolutionary War Officer, (Ruston, La., 1979), 3 to 5.