New Jersey Brigade

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New Jersey Brigade

NEW JERSEY BRIGADE. Early in the war, training and unit cohesiveness was difficult for many Continental brigades, there being no comprehensive program in place for a uniform system of tactical formations and field maneuver. This matter, therefore, was left to individual division or brigade commanders. Added to this was the matter of brigade subunits' detached service and the absorption of troops from disbanded units. Despite recruiting shortfalls and desertion, some continuity was achieved at the company and regimental level, with a core of veteran soldiers remaining, many of whom served side by side with the same comrades and officers for the entire war. This leavening of old soldiers was important. In New Jersey, for example, the brigade's composite regiments were augmented by short-term drafts and volunteers in 1778 and 1780, or as companies swelled with soldiers from the disbanded Jersey regiments from 1779 onwards. The advent of Major General Wilhelm Friedrich von Steuben's uniform system of maneuver in 1778 (published in spring 1779) further alleviated the problem of attaining and maintaining cohesive tactical units.

The New Jersey Brigade, originally comprising the First through Fourth Regiments, first served as such beginning in May 1777, and until 1780 was commanded by Brigadier General William Maxwell. Following the 1776 campaign, when three regiments served their single-year enlistment in Canada and New York, four New Jersey regiments were authorized in 1777, all the men signing on for three years or the war's duration. Two others, Forman's and Spencer's Additional Regiments, recruited all or a portion of their men in New Jersey, the latter's unofficial title being the Fifth, later the Fourth, New Jersey. In 1779 Forman's regiment was absorbed by Spencer's, that unit serving with the Jersey Brigade beginning in 1779 until its men were dispersed among the two remaining Jersey regiments in January 1781. As the conflict went on, the numbered Jersey regiments were reduced: in 1779 to three regiments; in 1781 to two; and in the war's final year, one regiment and one battalion.

The brigade served together at the Battles of Short Hills, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Connecticut Farms, Springfield, and Yorktown and in Major John Sullivan's expedition in 1779 against the Iroquois. The First and Third Regiments fought at Staten Island in August 1777, while the New Jersey Light Companies served with the Marquis de Lafayette's Light Division in 1780 and went with Lafayette to Virginia in the spring and summer of 1781.


Rees, John U. "'I Expect to be Stationed in Jersey Sometime …': An Account of the Services of the Second New Jersey Regiment: December 1777 to June 1778." Unpublished MSS. David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pa.

――――――. "'One of the Best in the Army': An Overview of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment and General William Maxwell's Jersey Brigade." Continental Soldier 11, 2 (Spring 1998): 45-53. Also available online at

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New Jersey Brigade

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New Jersey Brigade