Friday, November 20, 2015

Wounded Warriors: New Jersey Continental Army Officers Describe their Injuries

Revolutionary War officers were expected to lead from the front and to demonstrate personal courage and unreproachable valor on the battlefield.  During the course of the war, a significant number of the officers in the New Jersey Line were wounded or killed in action.  Some of those who survived their injuries left first-hand accounts of their experiences, documented in their contemporary correspondence, memoirs and applications for pensions and other considerations based on wartime disabilities.

Maj. Joseph Bloomfield of 3rd NJ Regiment was wounded in the arm at Brandywine.  A letter from him written to Colonel Elias Dayton of October 11th, 1777 while at Pitts Grove, Salem County, NJ survives in the Gilder Lehrman Collection (#: GLC01450.455).  

Bloomfield told Dayton that this letter was his first opportunity to write since the battle nearly a month before, but that he hoped to rejoin Dayton once he was able to ride without pain.  His escape from Brandywine and convalescence had proved quite an ordeal for the young Major, who recounted that he had been unable to ride to Chester, Pennsylvania during the retreat from Brandywine due to loss of blood, and crossed the Delaware River at Marcus Hook to avoid being captured.

"...My wound was not dressed till late Saturday night, being 52 hours after I received it, 23 hours of the time it bled, which with the Inflamation of my arm brought on a violent fever that - lasted fourteen days, when the swelling subsided & the wound began to heal - [illegible] 2d ins: 12,00 of the Enemy came over to the Jerseys in order to take Billingsport, the motley crew of militia to the amot. of 350 [inserted: under new castle] pretended to make a stand about 50 yards from Dr. Otto’s where I then lay, but, whilst I was preparing to move my quarters, the militia retreated (Helter - Skelter) and your major in the midst of them, The Enemy playing their artillery incessantly, [struck: having] [inserted: at] the same time their Infantry had almost surrounded us, but the militia eminently distinguished themselves by the swiftness of their heals (many but running my horse which I galloped briskly) till they got over [inserted: Mantis] Bridge which they took up & 3 or 400 yds from it made a stand - for my part I took into the Pines, part of the Enemy followed the road I took five miles - the day after I hired a wagon & came to this place. The healing of my wound being not a little retarded by my late retreat in which I suffered a good deal of pain in riding, & my arm not being dressed for three days - Though this wound is now in a fair way of healing. Yet I cannot bend my arm or stir my fingers without great pain -Dr. Harris who attends me says it is probable it will be Six or Eight months before I have the use of my arm, which discourages me very much…"

Bloomfield's wound proved slow to heal.  While he did eventually rejoin his unit at was present at the Battle of Monmouth, he left the army early in 1779. 

Staff officers were especially vulnerable as they performed their duties.   New Jersey Brigade-Major Aaron Ogden of the 1st NJ, in his 3rd person memoir, described how he was wounded during a British Raid on Elizabethtown, NJ, in February, 1779 :

"Major Ogden was sleeping in the same room with General Maxwell who commanded the Brigade, when the Field Officers of the Day rode up to the General's quarters, and informed him that one of the pickets had heard the rowing of many boats, round Bergen Point up Newark Bay.  Major Ogden knowing there was no picket on the road leading from the salt meadows on this bay, volunteered his services to reconnoitre that road. On approaching the house next to the meadows, he observed it in a light, & slackened the pace of his horse.  The night was remarkably dark and he found himself, without perceiving it among British soldiers and among the reach of a British Sentinel who ordered him to dismount.  Major Ogden, determined at all hazards to alarm the garrison, immediately wheeled and put spurs to his horse expecting a shot, but in this he was disappointed, and instead of a shot he received from another sentinel, a thrust with a bayonet into his Chest, below the short ribs.  He had strength nevertheless to reach the garrison, about two miles distant, and give to it the alarm.  On his return General Maxwell observed "that the pitcher that often goes down the well, will come back broken at last."  However by frequent copious bleedings inflammation was prevented, and Major ogden recovered from his wound, which well nigh proved fatal to him."

Lt. Colonel Francis Barber of the 3rd NJ was acting as Inspector of Lord Stirling's Division during the Battle of Monmouth when he was shot through the body.  Barely a fortnight later, he was running agents from his  Elizabethtown, New Jersey bedside and providing Washington with intelligence on the enemy.  In a letter written on October 9th, 1778 to Major General William Alexander "Lord Stirling", Barber rather casually describes his convalescence while focusing on his efforts to protect the town in the absence of the New Jersey regiments.

 "My Lord, When Colo Dayton received Orders to March for Second-River, I was, unhappily, under the necessity of remaining in Town, on account of my wound, which continues to discharge small pieces of Rib. I collected a number of Stragglers and Invalids of the Brigade and a few militia of the towns with these. I have kept guard from day to day. I was induced to this from a desire to lessen the Fears of the good people of the place as also to alarm the Country should the Enemy commence an Expedition against this Quarter where I think there remains so capital an object..."

 Barber was wounded twice more during the war, receiving a slight head wound at Newtown in August, 1779 while serving as General Sullivan's Adjutant General for the expedition against the Iroquois,  and then as commander of a Light Infantry Battalion in 1781 he took a facial wound in the storming of Redoubt 10 during the Siege of Yorktown.   He survived to the very end of the war, when he was struck and killed when a tree that was being felled by a work detail crushed him and his horse as they were passing beneath.

Captain Daniel Baldwin of the 1st NJ was among the many casualties sustained by New Jersey regiments during the Battle of Germantown.  to President James Madison.   Baldwin was struck in the leg by a musket ball during the assault on the Chew House "Cliveden", and his leg was subsequently amputated.  Both he and his wife Phebe later  petitioned President Washington by letter for assistance.

"’tis an injury that none can feel but the Sufferer" Phebe stated in her letter of 1790 "...As it remains in your power, I pray Sir, you will cause the payment to be made querterly instead of yearly as allmost one half of the Money remains in the hands of the Brokers by the time it becomes due. I write without the knowledge of my husband but pray that you Sir, as Father of the People, will do every thing in your power, to keep us from Suffering in a Land of Plenty."

Captain Baldwin was still seeking presidential assistance two decades later, when he wrote to President Madison.

Newark, May 29, 1809.
Tho’ I have not the pleasure of being personally acquainted with you—yet, being a Soldier of ’76, and beleiving you to be the friend of such, I take this method to make myself known, and beg you to excuse the liberty.
I had the honor of bearing a Captains commission in the first New-Jersey Rigiment, during the Revolutionary War; and of sharing in the hottest conflicts and troubles of my country, from the walls of Quebec, to the commencement of peace. At the bloody affair of Germantown, I lost most of my men, with my left leg; on the stump of which, with the help of a stick, I am still able to make a slow march.
According to a late law, the Secretary at War was invested with power to issue land warrents, for a limited season, to persons who had claims on the estates of deceased Soldiers.As such, I have taken out letters of administration, upon the estates of Some of my Soldiers, who fell at the Battle of Germantown, and who were indepted to me for monies lent. One of them, a Martin Hurley, was wounded at Germantown; and taken prisoner by the British, and hung on the commons at Philadelphia: His will he left to my Leiutenant; which, together with my letters of Administration, I have sent to Mr. Rodney, attorney General. I have taken my measures according to law, and to the direction of G. Dear-bourn, which promised a speedy and favorable issue to my just demands. I was at the great trouble and expence of going to Washington, in hopes of having it speedily accomplished. But it still remains unsettled, notwithstanding all I have done. And now, Sir, as the last resourse; having lost all my old fellow officers, who often stood by me in the hour of distress—I appeal to you, as the first magistrate, and patron of this country, and solicit your friendship: Aid me to obtain my just demands, and to provide for a large and growing family, who have nothing to depend upon but the scanty pension given me for the blood I spilt—And you shall have our prayers for your prosperity and happiness."

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