New Jersey Volunteers
New Jersey Volunteers
NEW JERSEY VOLUNTEERS. Cortlandt Skinner, the last royal attorney general of New Jersey, was commissioned a brigadier general of Provincial forces on 4 September 1776, authorized to raise a brigade of six battalions from among the numerous New Jersey Loyalists already organized and organizing to fight the rebels. Although none of the battalions reached its authorized strength of five hundred men each, the New Jersey Volunteers was the largest single Provincial unit raised during the war.
The First and Second Battalions were part of the force that chased Washington as he retreated from Fort Lee, New Jersey, in December 1776, and were successful in raising recruits, especially in Monmouth County. Headquartered at New Brunswick, New Jersey, after Washington's victories at Trenton (26 December 1776) and Princeton (3 January 1777), they retired to Staten Island when William Howe withdrew his forces from New Jersey in June 1777 as a prelude to the Philadelphia campaign. The Second Battalion was converted to artillery on 30 April 1777, accompanied Howe to Philadelphia, fought at Monmouth (28 June 1778), was reconverted to infantry in November 1779, sent into garrison at Lloyd's Neck and Sandy Hook, and disbanded in June 1781.
The five other battalions continued to mount forays into New Jersey from their base on Staten Island, and although initially surprised by rebel Major General John Sullivan's counterraid on 22 August 1777, they managed to defeat the raiders, the Fourth Battalion distinguishing itself in action against the New Jersey Continentals. The number of battalions was reduced to four on 25 April 1778, when the Fifth merged with the First and the Sixth merged with the Third. In late November 1778, the Third Battalion was sent south as part of Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell's expedition to capture Savannah, Georgia (29 December 1778), beginning a long association with the First Battalion of Delancey's Brigade. It extended through the defense of Savannah against Franco-American attack (9 October 1779) and the defense of Ninety Six, South Carolina (May-June 1781), against Nathanael Greene, culminating at the hard-fought battle of Eutaw Springs (8 September 1781), where the Third Battalion suffered 40 percent of its strength killed, wounded, and missing. (It returned to New York in January 1783, after the evacuation of Charleston). The battalions also contributed drafts to two temporary units raised from among the Provincial regiments for service in the south: Major Patrick Ferguson's corps, American Volunteers, that was captured at Kings Mountain (7 October 1780), and the Provincial Light Infantry Battalion that operated in the South from December 1780 until its last battle, at Eutaw Springs.
Back north, a detachment of the Fourth Battalion helped defend Paulus Hook against Henry Lee on 19 August 1779, and the First and Fourth Battalions participated in Baron von Knyphausen's raid on Springfield, New Jersey, during June 1780. The Fourth (renumbered the Third after the disbanding of the Second Battalion) was part of Benedict Arnold's force that raided New London, Connecticut, on 6 September 1781. The two battalions were together at Newtown, Long Island, by the summer of 1782 and—joined by the Third (by then the Second) Battalion from Charleston—sailed on 3 September 1783 from New York for New Brunswick, where they were disbanded on 10 October.
Cortland Skinner rarely led his brigade on active operations. Most of his time was spent coordinating the gathering of intelligence in New Jersey from his base on Staten Island.
SEE ALSO Eutaw Springs, South Carolina; Georgia, Mobilization in; New London Raid, Connecticut; Paulus Hook, New Jersey; Savannah, Georgia (29 December 1778); Savannah, Georgia (9 October 1779); Skinner, Cortlandt; Springfield, New Jersey, Raid of Knyphausen.
Cole, Nan, and Todd Braisted. "The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies." Available online at http://www.royalprovincial.com.
revised by Harold E. Selesky