Oswald, Eleazer

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Oswald, Eleazer

OSWALD, ELEAZER. (1755–1795). Continental artillery officer, journalist. England and Connecticut. Born in Falmouth, England, in 1755, Oswald became sympathetic to the American cause and emigrated to New York City in about 1770. He apprenticed himself to the publisher of the New-York Journal, John Holt, whose daughter he married. He served as a private during the "Lexington Alarm" (19 April 1775) and volunteered to join Benedict Arnold's forces in their march to Quebec, He became Arnold's secretary and commanded the forlorn hope at Quebec, where he was wounded and captured on 31 December 1775. Exchanged on 10 January 1777, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel in John Lamb's Second Continental Artillery, and became famous as an artillerist. He particularly distinguished himself at Compo Hill during the Danbury raid of April 1777. After the battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, he was praised in official orders for his performance. As a result of his failure to be credited with the seniority he felt he deserved, Oswald resigned from the army in 1779.

Oswald then joined William Goddard in publishing the Maryland Journal, in which he printed General Charles Lee's criticisms of General George Washington. This article led to a popular demonstration against Oswald, and he was forced to publish an apology. In April 1782 he started publishing the violently partisan Independent Gazetteer in Philadelphia. Between 1782 and 1787 he also took over Holt's old New York City paper and published it as the Independent Gazette, or New York Journal Revived. He attacked the policies of Alexander Hamilton and challenged him to a duel, but friends adjusted the matter before the confrontation could take place. In 1792 Oswald left his publishing interests in the hands of his wife, Elizabeth, and went to England and then to France. There he was commissioned as a colonel of the artillery and regimental commander in the Republican army, seeing action at Gemape (France). Sent on a secret mission in connection with a contemplated French invasion of Ireland, he reached that country and submitted his report. Receiving no further instructions from his superiors at Vergennes, he returned to the United States. Shortly after reaching New York City, Oswald died of yellow fever, on 30 September 1795.

SEE ALSO Compo Hill;Danbury Raid, Connecticut.


Wheeler, Joseph Towne. The Maryland Press 1777–1790. Baltimore, Md.: Maryland Historical Society, 1938.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles