Battles of the American Revolution: New Jersey



The news of the surrender of Charleston reached New York at near the close of May. This intelligence, and the assurance of Tories from New Jersey that the people there were wearied with the struggle and were disposed to submit, seemed to present a favorable opportunity for making a raid into that State by British troops, and setting up the royal standard there. At the beginning of June, General Maxwell, with his New Jersey brigade, was at Connecticut Farms (now the village of Union), a hamlet a few miles from Elizabethtown; and three hundred New Jersey militia under Colonel Dayton occupied the latter place. Against these, Knyphausen sent General Mathews, with about five thousand troops, on the 6th of June, 1780. They passed over from Staten Island to Elizabethtown Point, and the next day took possession of Elizabethtown. The militia there retired before the superior force, when the invaders pressed on the Connecticut Farms, greatly annoyed on their way by the rising militia who hung upon their flanks. At the Farms the British murdered the wife of the Rev. James Caldwell, a very active patriot, who was then in Washington's army. Mrs. Caldwell did not fly, with her neighbors, on the approach of the enemy, but remained, trusting in Providence for protection. When the invaders entered the hamlet, she retired to an inner room with her children, one of them a suckling. A British soldier came through a yard to an open window of the room, and shot her as she sat on the edge of the bed. Two bullets pierced her, and she fell dead to the floor, with her infant in her arms. The babe was unhurt. The nurse snatched it up and ran out of the house, which was on fire. The church and every building of the hamlet became a victim to the flames. There was barely time to drag the body of Mrs. Caldwell out of the burning building into the street, where it lay exposed several hours, until permission was given to her friends to bury the remains.

As the invaders pushed on toward Springfield, they were met by Max-well's troops, and after a brief skirmish, and hearing that forces were coming down from Morristown, they retreated to the coast, where they remained about a fortnight. Meanwhile Clinton had arrived from Charleston. He sent reinforcements to Mathews, and after making a feint upon the Hudson Highlands, he and Knyphausen crossed over and joined the troops at Elizabethtown Point. The feint deceived Washington, who left the command of a considerable force of Continental troops at the Short Hills, between Springfield and Morristown, with General Greene, while he moved with another force in the direction of the Hudson. Early in the morning of the 23d of June (1780), the British advanced toward Springfield, and Greene moved forward to meet them, in battle array. The invaders approached in two columns. Greene was advantageously posted. The British force, about five thousand strong, with cavalry and almost twenty cannon, seemed sufficient to crush any republican army that might oppose them; but after a very severe skirmish, the invaders were defeated. Setting fire to Springfield, they retreated to the shore, and crossed over in haste from Elizabethtown Point to Staten Island, on a bridge of boats. Clinton had lost a rare opportunity for the conquest of New Jersey, and possibly the destruction or dispersion of Washington's army.





Return to Our Country, Vol II