Ogden, Matthias

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Ogden, Matthias

OGDEN, MATTHIAS. (1754–1791). Continental officer. New Jersey. John Ogden emigrated from Hampshire, England, to Long Island about 1640. In 1664 he established himself at Elizabethtown, New Jersey. His descendants were prominent in the province. Robert (1716–1787), father of Matthias, was a member of the king's council, speaker of the legislature in 1763, delegate to the Stamp Act Congress (New York City, 1765), and chairman of the Elizabethtown committee of safety in 1776.

Matthias and Aaron Burr left the college at Princeton after the Battle of Bunker Hill, joined the Boston army, and as unattached volunteers accompanied Arnold's march to Quebec. Ogden made the first attempt to present Arnold's surrender summons at Quebec and "retreated in quick time" after an eighteen-pound shot hit the ground near him. He was wounded in the attack on the city that started 31 December 1775. Having served as brigadier major in this expedition, he became lieutenant colonel of the First New Jersey Continentals on 7 March 1776 and assumed command of the regiment on 1 January 1777. As part of General Lord Stirling's division his regiment performed well in slowing the British advance on "the plowed hill" in the Battle of the Brandywine on 11 September 1777. During the Valley Forge winter quarters, he was in the brigade of William Maxwell. In the Battle of Monmouth of 28 June 1778, he took part in the initial action under Charles Lee. At the latter's court-martial, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Harrison testified that in attempting to find out why Lee was retreating, he came on Ogden's regiment, which was near the rear of the column. "He appeared to be exceedingly exasperated," Harrison testified, "and said, 'By God! they are flying from a shadow.'" He was captured at Elizabethtown on 5 October 1780 and exchanged in April 1781. He fought at Yorktown in September-October of 1781.

Colonel Ogden proposed a plan for the capture of Prince William Henry, the future William IV, when the sixteen-year-old prince was in New York City. According to General William Heath, the rebels learned on 30 September 1781 that the prince had arrived five days earlier with Admiral Digby and was lodged in the mansion of Gerardus Beekman in Hanover Square. Washington approved Ogden's plan of leading forty officers and men into the city on a rainy night to land near the mansion and kidnap Digby and William. The plan was compromised, however, and had to be abandoned.

On 21 April 1783 Ogden was granted leave to visit Europe and did not return to the army. Louis XVI honored him with le droit du tabouret, (the right of the stool) which permitted him to sit in the royal presence. He returned to the United States with news of the Treaty of Paris. Congress breveted him brigadier general on 30 September 1783.

After the war Ogden had many business interests, including land speculation, the minting of coins, and the practice of law. He died of yellow fever in 1791.

SEE ALSO Brandywine, Pennsylvania; Digby, Robert; Maxwell, William.


Ogden, Matthias. "Journal of Major Matthias Ogden, 1775." Edited by A. Van Doren Honeyman. In Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, new series, 13 (1928): 17-30.

Thayer, Theodore. As We Were: The Story of Old Elizabethtown. Elizabeth, N.J.: Grassman Publishing, 1964.

Trudgen, Gary A. "Matthias Ogden, New Jersey State Coiner." The Colonial Newsletter 28 ( June 1988): 1032–1051.

                            revised by Harry M. Ward