How George Washington saved the life of Abraham Van Buskirk’s Son


September 16, 2014
by Todd W. Braisted Also by this Author


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Abraham Van Buskirk was Bergen County’s leading Loyalist at the onset of the American Revolution. A prominent “Practitioner of Physic” with an income of £ 200 per annum, Van Buskirk lived in Teaneck, across the New Bridge from John Zabriskie.[1] Both men were officers in the Bergen County Militia, Zabriskie a lieutenant colonel and Van Buskirk the surgeon.[2]

The Van Buskirk family, like most others in Bergen County and many across the country, had divided loyalties when war came. One of the family even served in the Continental army for a year.[3] For the most part however, the family threw in their lot with King George III, no fewer than sixteen of them from the metro area serving in the army of the crown. Foremost amongst these was Abraham Van Buskirk of Teaneck, commander of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers.[4]

Lt. Col. Van Buskirk entered the service with his son Jacob, who joined his father’s battalion at the age of just sixteen, commissioned a lieutenant on 17 January 1777.[5] Young Jacob would serve throughout the 1777 campaign, stationed primarily on Staten Island. He almost certainly took part in repulsing Major General John Sullivan’s 22 August expedition to Staten Island and in Sir Henry Clinton’s grand forage of Bergen County the following month. The battalion received the public thanks of Sir Henry in each instance.

The great events of the 1777 campaign however did not take place in the New York City area. While battles at places like Saratoga, Brandywine and Germantown raged, the New York area was the land of diversion. Sir Henry Clinton hoped his Grand Forage in Bergen County would work in Sir William Howe’s favor in Pennsylvania, and his October advance into the Hudson Highlands would facilitate Burgoyne’s advance on Albany. In the former case, hundreds of militia were held up from advancing earlier to Washington’s assistance in Pennsylvania; Clinton’s latter attempt failed to do more than cause some nervous moments in Kingston and Albany. Washington likewise realized the value of diversions in his dance with Howe in Pennsylvania. If New York could be threatened from Westchester, Connecticut or New Jersey, valuable British reinforcements might be delayed in joining Howe’s army in Philadelphia.

An offer for just such a threat came from Major General Philemon Dickinson, senior officer in the New Jersey Militia. He commanded over a thousand militia at Elizabethtown, including a company from Bergen County commanded by Captain John Mead.[6] Washington eagerly accepted Dickinson’s offer, writing to him on 4 November 1777:

Your idea of counteracting the intended Reinforcements for Mr. Howe’s Army, by a demonstration of designs upon New York, I think an exceeding good one, and am very desirous that you should improve and mature it for immediate execution, a great shew of Preparatives on your side, boats collected, Troops assembled, Your expectation of the approach of Generals Gates and Putnam, intrusted as a secret to persons who you are sure will divulge and disseminate it in New York; in a word, such measures taken for effectually striking an alarm in that city, and which it is altogether unnecessary for me minutely to describe to you, I am in great hopes may effect the valuable purpose which you expect.[7]

Dickinson had already been active in raiding the island Staten Island. The island’s garrison, principally six battalions of the New Jersey Volunteers along with a German regiment, was already on edge, with a clear view across the kill of a number of boats collecting. Brigadier General Skinner, commanding officer of the New Jersey Volunteers, request galleys to help guard waterway;[8] a galley and the Sloop George were ordered down to the island the middle of November, but it was not enough to deter General Dickinson from sending parties to the island.[9]

Dickinson. Source: New York Public Library
Major General Philemon Dickinson. Source: New York Public Library

One advantage on the British side was the spy system administered by Brigadier General Skinner. Few movements on the New Jersey side took place without his knowledge, faithfully brought by New Jersey Loyalists secretly in British pay. American parties made incursions onto the island several times in November, attempting to kidnap sentries and capture stores, but met only limited success. The island’s garrison made similar raids on the mainland. Knowing that a bigger attack was coming, the Loyalist forces planned to head it off.[10] But it was too late. Before dawn on 25 November, Dickinson and over 1,400 militia landed on Staten Island.

Landing in three divisions, Dickinson’s troops probed their way around the island, “having the best guides” including at least one Loyalist prisoner of war forced at bayonet point to lead them.[11] Dickinson’s hope of secrecy for his expedition, communicating his intentions only to senior officers, proved in vain, as “notwithstanding all my precaution, Mr. Skinner received the intelligence at three o’clock in the morning, which frustrated my plan.”[12] Being warned of the attack, the Loyalist and German troops retired into forts, protecting them from any attack. Signal guns were fired and Flags raised to notify New York City that a major attack was under way. Sir Henry Clinton embarked at once for the island, taking with him one or two Royal Navy frigates with their Marines. After eight hours on the island, Dickinson and his troops retired to their boats, skirmishing with detachments of New Jersey Volunteers who sallied from their works. The New Jersey militia escaped to the mainland, and each side sustained only a few casualties.

Dickinson did scoop up several important prisoners, including Lieutenants Jacob Van Buskirk and Edward Earle and Surgeon John Hammell, all of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers. There is no record of precisely how the officers were captured, but they may have all been quartered in a private home that was surprised before they received word of the attack.

Four days after the raid, the captured officers were brought before Governor Livingston and the New Jersey Council of Safety. They were charged with high treason in accordance with the state’s Treason Act of 1776 and ordered to jail in Trenton.[13] This act gave the state power of life and death over those convicted. Livingston proved quite willing to use it, executing two recruiting officers for the New Jersey Volunteers at Morristown on 2 December 1777.[14] Since the Loyalist prisoners had been captured by the state’s militia, they were under the control of Governor Livingston, rather than a Continental Army commissary who had charge of prisoners taken by the standing army. This meant they could be put on trial immediately rather than enjoying a period on parole waiting for an exchange. On 1 December 1777, Livingston wrote to Washington, announcing his intentions:

General Dickenson has sent me two Lieutenants one Surgeon & one Commissary taken Prisoners on Staten Island by a Detachment of our Militia under his Command. As we found them all to be Subjects of this State who had joined the Enemy since that Offence was declared high Treason by our Law, I have sent them to Trenton Gaol to be tried in the County of Hunterdon, where a Court of Oyer & Terminer is to be held about the middle of this month. If your Excellency apprehends any ill consequence respecting our Prisoners will result from our treating them in that manner, I should be glad to be favored with your Sentiments on that Subject; & I doubt not the Council of Safety will do every thing in their Power to manage the matter as your Excellency shall think most conducive to the general Interest.[15]

The state’s newspaper likewise enjoyed reporting the capture and predicament of the Loyalist officers:

A correspondent informs us, that the Council of Safety of this State have committed Lieutenant Jacob Van Boskirk, Lieutenant Edward Earle, John Hammel, a surgeon, and John Brown, who has a warrant as commissary from the enemy. They are all subjects of this State, and joined the enemy since such adherence was declared high treason by our Legislature. They were lately taken prisoners on Staten-Island by our militia, under the command of Major-General Dickenson- Van Boskirk was an associator, and is supposed to have been prompted to this act of treason by his father, who acts as Colonel under the enemy, and commands a battalion of about 200 banditti, collected in Bergen, who eat King George’s beef and pork to very little purpose.[16]

For his part, Washington was simply thankful that Dickinson’s loss was insignificant and no harm came from the expedition, as he wrote Dickinson on 2 December 1777: “…can only say it gives me concern that your Excursion to Staten Island was not attended with success equal to your expectation which, from the Plan you had formed, and the secrecy with which you expected to have executed it, I suppose was pretty Sanguine; but experience shews us that the most trifling incidents will frustrate the best concerted schemes; & as Mr. Skinner had notice of your approach I think you may be satisfied with the small loss you sustained and the Capture you made.”[17] Washington was much more concerned with Governor Livingston’s intention to put Lt. Van Buskirk and the other officers on trial. Writing from White Marsh on 11 December 1777, he informed the New Jersey governor:

In my opinion, trying the Officers, taken by General Dickinson on Staten Island, for High treason, may prove a dangerous expedient. It is true they left the state after such an offence was declared Treason; but as they had not taken the Oaths, nor had entered into our Service, it will be said they had a right to choose their side. Again, by the same rule that we try them, may not the Enemy try any natural born subject of Great Britain, taken in Arms in our Service. We have a great number of them, and I therefore, think we had better submit to the necessity of treating a few individuals, who may really deserve a severer fate, as Prisoners of War, than run the Risque of giving an opening for retaliation upon the Europeans in our Service.[18]

Probably the officer Washington was concerned most about was Major General Charles Lee, who had been surprised and captured by the British at Basking Ridge, NJ in December 1776. Lee had been a British officer and had the specter of being tried for treason over his head during much of his captivity. In fact, Lee had been very well treated during his time as a prisoner, and the idea of trying him was never seriously put forward. Washington of course had no way of knowing that, trusting prudence as the best course of action.

Washington may have run across Jacob Van Buskirk while the Continental Army occupied Bergen County in November 1776. A letter from Jacob’s mother to her husband after he had joined the British was examined by Dr. Byron G. Van Horne of the Bergen County Historical Society nearly 100 years ago, and probably described the period just before the fall of Fort Lee. He described it thus: “I was shown a letter written to [Abraham Van Buskirk] by his wife in which she stated that part of Washington’s army had been encamped on their farm; some of their property was destroyed and some live stock taken, but that on application to General Washington (of whom she speaks in the highest terms), a corporal and guard of soldiers had been stationed on the place for their protection, from which time they had not been molested.”[19] Van Buskirk’s house was soon after plundered by Continentals under General William Heath of a large quantity of spirits, liquors and furniture, both his own and the property of a New York City Loyalist named Oliver Templeton who had sought refuge there the previous summer.[20]

Livingston, despite his quick acquiescence to Washington’s wishes, could not have been pleased with the commander-in-chief’s decision. The governor had an immense dislike of those who retained their allegiance to King George, and in particular those from Bergen, which he referred to in 1777 by saying: “I hope by…vigorous measures…we shall soon reduce that almost totally revolted County of Bergen to the obedience of the States.”[21] Their fate – should he have his way – he confessed to Washington the previous October: “A Tory is an incorrigible Animal: And nothing but the Extinction of Life, will extinguish his Malevolence against Liberty…”[22] Indeed, Governor Livingston had already specifically requested another New Jersey Volunteer officer in confinement, Lt. Col. Joseph Barton, be turned over to his authority: “…if Colonel Barton should be turned over to the civil power of this State (he having joined the Enemy last Winter, & having done infinite Mischief before his Departure) we should hang him.” He also requested that Washington show no leniency to yet another New Jersey Volunteer officer, Lt. John Troup, who had been taken prisoner near Pompton over the summer of 1777. [23]

Unaware of Livingston’s intentions or Washington’s interposition, the British became indignant merely at the fact of their officers being thrown in a common jail, rather than given the softer treatment allowed gentlemen in captivity. Those Continental Army and militia officers then in British custody were generally on parole housed amongst the inhabitants on Long Island, with some even allowed to walk the streets of the city. They expected their own officers to be given the same courtesy should they fall into enemy hands. Unaware of the jurisdictional protocol, British Brigadier General John Campbell wrote to Major General Dickinson with his concerns:

I have heard with surprise of the treatment, that his Majesty’s Officers taken on this Island the 27th Ultmo. have received since in your power; I am credibly informed that Lieut. Jacob Buskirk, Lieut. Edward Earle, and Surgeon Hammel of his Majesty’s 4th Battn. of New Jersey Volunteers, and Mr. Brown a Deputy Commissary, are now confined like Felons in the common Jail of either Princeton or Trenton: I desire to know whether my Information is right? and whether such Treatment has the Sanction of Authority, and is intended to be continued? That, in case, Officers of equal Rank, who were taken on this Island the 22nd Day of August last, may be selected to undergo like Treatment, however repugnant to the Humanity of Britons to inflict it: But I’m in Hopes, that either my Information is wrong, or these Officers have been thus used without proper Authority.[24]

For those Continental officers held by the British, “like Treatment” would have meant being thrown into “the provost” which was the jail where common civilian prisoners, soldiers awaiting court martial, and prisoners of war being punished or considered dangerous were kept. It was not a desirable place. It also was unnecessary, as the ordeal of Lt. Van Buskirk and his comrades, at least its most dangerous phase, was coming to an end. The new year would start with transfer of the prisoners from the state’s control to that of the Continental Army. It had to happen quickly, lest the state’s laws be used against it and the prisoners actually set free, as explained from state commissary Charles Pettit to the Continental Army Commissary General for Prisoners, Elias Boudinot:

In General Dickinson’s late Expedition to Staten Island, amongst other Prisoners taken were Lieutenant Earle, Lt. Boskirk, Surgeon Hammel, and Depy. Commissary Brown, of Skinner’s Greens. as they were Jerseymen who departed the State after our Treason Act, they were committed to the Gaol of this County for Trial at the Court of Oyer & Terminer which was expected to rise this Day, the Grand Jury being discharged yesterday. No Bills have been found against them & on my Application to the Governor in Council of Safety respecting them this Morning, he informed me they had concluded to deliver them up to you as Prisoners of War. I think His Excellency informed me he had wrote to you on the Subject. As they were committed as Criminals to be kept Safely until the next Court of Oyer & Terminer for the County of Hunterdon, and that Court is now over, the Gaoler has no authority to detain them farther, I shall therefore mention the Matter to Col [Lewis] Nicola or the Commanding Officer here; but as it is necessary they should be kept Secure till they are taken Care of by some military Authority, I have not mentioned to them nor to the Gaoler that the Mittimus is run out, & they will not be likely to think of it of themselves. However as this Gaol is an uncomfortable Place, and I do not think it a safe one, I could wish you would have them removed as Speedily as possible.[25]

The three New Jersey Volunteer officers were remanded into Continental custody and instantly put on a footing with other British officers, eligible for exchange. The exchange did not take place, however, before another round of accusatory correspondence between Governor Livingston and the British, this time with Major General James Robertson. The fear the British had of Van Buskirk and the others being hanged was increased after the rumors of the recruiting officers hanged at Morristown on 2 December 1777 were confirmed. Robertson shrewdly held out the threat of severity against John Fell, a prisoner in British hands considered much more likely to sway the governor’s mind on Van Buskirk’s fate.[26] Fell was Bergen County’s leading Whig political figure, a member of Governor Livingston’s own council and a future delegate to the Continental Congress. The 56 year old Fell had been taken prisoner at his home north of Hopperstown by a party of 25 New Jersey Volunteers and lodged in the provost.[27] Robertson had chosen well. Livingston immediately solicited Washington’s aid in seeking his release:

…Mr. Fell one of the members of the Council of this State was lately taken out of his own Bed in Bergen County by the Tories, and carried a Prisoner to New York. Considering his public Utility as a very valuable Member of our Legislature, and incorruptible Attachment to the Cause of American Liberty, in a County abounding with its Adversaries; the delicacy of his Constitution & advanced years; I cannot refrain from being exceedingly sollicitous for his Enlargement as soon as he can be exchang’d consistent with your Excellencys plan for the Exchange of Prisoners.[28]

General Robertson informed Livingston in early January 1778 that Fell had been paroled as far as the limits of New York City, free to walk the streets and purchase what he wished. The British officer threatened to return Fell to confinement unless Livingston give up his plans for any more trials. It was too late to save the hanged recruiting officers, Lt. Troup had escaped, and Washington had ordered Livingston to treat the prisoners basically how Robertson wished. Save for some more bellicose press statements, the incident had come to an end.

Van Buskirk, Earle and Hammell however, still had problems to deal with above and beyond being prisoners. In their absence, their battalion had been reduced from ten companies to five, with a number of superfluous officers being retired upon half pay. The battalion still needed a surgeon, however, so it took that of the former 6th Battalion upon its consolidation, namely Absalom Bainbridge. Bainbridge was a Princeton Loyalist, graduate of the university there, president of the New Jersey Medical Society, and the father of William Bainbridge, future captain of the USS Constitution of War of 1812 fame.[29] The five slots for lieutenants in the battalion were all full. When the officers were eventually exchanged in 1778, there was no place for them.

Surgeon Hammell relieved Bainbridge of his position some time before 31 August 1778. A lieutenant’s vacancy opened up when Donald McPherson accepted an appointment to the newly raised British Legion, commanded by the famous Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. His slot was filled by Lt. Edward Earle, whose commission pre-dated that of Van Buskirk. That left only the colonel’s son unprovided for.

Map showing Staten Island. Source: Library of Congress [view full size]
Map (detail) of Staten Island. Source: Library of Congress [view full size]
Jacob received a warrant to recruit a new company for his father’s battalion in 1779.[30] New recruits for both armies were difficult to obtain at this stage of the war. The result was that deserters from the other’s army made up a greater percentage of new enlistments. Many of the men recruited by Jacob Van Buskirk had absconded from American service, as reported to George Washington by one of his spies in May 1780: “The Recruits obtained by desertion from your Army, when the River was frozen, are seperated from the Rest & incorporated by themselves. They constitute an additional Company & are commanded by the Cols: Son.”[31] For example, James Kent of Hackensack, a Bergen County Militiaman, had been taken prisoner during a British raid there on 23 March 1780 and enlisted with Van Buskirk. He deserted home on 2 June 1780, as his wife Catharine later recalled: “he enlisted with the enemy, and he was with the British Army sent down to Staten Island, where he deserted, and as she distinctly recollects he came to Hackensack…dressed in a full suit of British regimentals.”[32]

Van Buskirk’s new company was soon completed and he obtained a commission as captain. In August 1780 the company was reorganized and became the light infantry of the battalion. This company was detached and joined to five others with the designation of Provincial Light Infantry. They were part of Major General Alexander Leslie’s October 1780 expedition to Virginia.[33] After an uneventful month there, the troops were summoned to South Carolina to reinforce Lord Cornwallis’s army. Captain Van Buskirk’s Company spent much of the first half of 1781 engaged in anti-partisan activities in the High Hills of Santee, defeating a superior force under Thomas Sumpter in February.[34] The culmination of this service was the Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina on 8 September 1781, one of the bloodiest actions of the war. After the American army was repulsed, Captain Jacob Van Buskirk lay on the field seriously wounded.[35]

He recovered. With the peace of 1783, Van Buskirk’s battalion was sent to the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, where it was disbanded along with the other Provincial units on 10 October 1783. Jacob and his father became leading citizens of the new Shelburne, Nova Scotia which in 1784 became one of the largest cities in North America, founded by thousands of Loyalist refugees from America. Jacob married Sarah Breen there in 1790, and had a son and two daughters. In his new home Van Buskirk became a merchant, serving over the years as a fire warden, a grand juror, a justice of the peace, a collector in the custom’s house, and in 1805 was elected to the provincial assembly. His former military experience no doubt helped him as lieutenant colonel commandant of the 22nd (Shelburne) Nova Scotia Militia Battalion. After his wife’s death in 1832, he moved to Yarmouth, where he passed away on 27 November 1834. His house in Shelburne still stands today.[36]

[FEATURED IMAGE AT TOP: Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers. Courtesy of author.]


[1] Memorial of Abraham Van Buskirk to the Commissioners for American Claims, c-1784. Audit Office, Class 13, Volume 19, folios 323-324, The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Hereafter cited as TNA.

[2] Van Buskirk was commissioned surgeon in the militia on 17 February 1776. Zabriskie would soon afterwards resign his commission. Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, 1775-1776 (Trenton: Printed by Naar, Day & Naar, 1879), 375.

[3] George Van Buskirk thereafter entered the militia at Closter, where on 9 May 1779 he was bayoneted and taken prisoner by a detachment of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, commanded by Abraham Van Buskirk. Collection M-804, Pension and Bounty Land Application Files, No. S42601, George Van Buskirk, New Jersey, National Archives and Records Administration. Hereafter cited as NARA.

[4] His commission from Lt. Gen. William Howe was dated 16 November 1776, indicating he joined the British several days before the invasion of New Jersey by Lord Cornwallis. RG 46, O/S Mss. # 360, Archives and Records Management Nova Scotia. There were actually two other Van Buskirk Loyalists by the name of Abraham: one a corporal in the same battalion of New Jersey Volunteers, the other a captain of grenadiers in the King’s Orange Rangers.

[5] “Return of Officers in the Brigade of New Jersey Volunteers” 24 February 1778. Misc. Loyalist Muster Rolls, 1778-1782, Accession No. 5066, Library of Congress. Hereafter cited as LOC.

[6] Mead’s Company arrived at Elizabethtown on or about 8 November 1777, when it was placed into the Hunterdon County battalion commanded by Colonel John Taylor. Orderly Book of Major General Philemon Dickison, 1777-1778, Revolutionary War Miscellaneous Numbered Manuscripts, No. 11072, New Jersey State Archives. Hereafter cited as NJSA.

[7] Washington to Dickinson, 4 November 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 26 October 1777 – 7 December 1777, LOC.

[8] Skinner to Billopp, 30 October 1777. Audit Office 13/117/67, TNA.

[9] Sir Henry Clinton to Brigadier General John Campbell, 13 November 1777. Clinton Papers, Volume 263, Misc. Correspondence, 1776-1782, CL.

[10] Campbell to Clinton, 26 November 1777. Clinton Papers, 27:34, CL.

[11] John Merrell was an inhabitant of Staten Island who had served the previous winter as a wagoner for the British. He had been taken prisoner near New Brunswick in March 1777 and remained as such until pressed into duty as a guide. After the Staten Island expedition, he escaped home, where he was promptly arrested and tried by a British general court martial for having acted as a guide.   He was acquitted upon their determining he was forced to do so. War Office, Class 71, Volume 85, Pages 241-248, TNA.

[12] Dickinson to Washington, 28 November 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 26 October 1777 – 7 December 1777, LOC.

[13] Minutes of the Council of Safety…1777, 167.

[14] Pension Application of Israel Aber. Collection M-804, Pension and Bounty Land Application Files, No. S2525, Israel Aber, New Jersey, NARA.

[15] Livingston to Washington, 1 December 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 26 October 1777 – 7 December 1777, LOC.

[16] The New Jersey Gazette (Burlington,) 10 December 1777.

[17] Washington to Dickinson, 2 December 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 26 October 1777 – 7 December 1777, LOC.

[18] Washington to Livingston, 11 December 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 30 April 1777 – 24 January 1778, LOC.

[19] Dr. Byron G. Van Horne, “Bergen County Descendants in Nova Scotia,” Bergen County Historical Society Yearbook, published by the society (1920), 19.

[20] Certificate of Abraham Van Buskirk on behalf of Oliver Templeton, 5 April 1786. Audit Office 13/80/492, TNA.

[21] Livingston to Washington, 11 July 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 30 May 1777 – 22 July 1777, LOC.

[22] Livingston to Washington, 5 October 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 3 September 1777 – 28 October 1777, LOC.

[23] Barton had been taken prisoner by the Continental Army on Staten Island, 22 August 1777 and confined in Connecticut. A Sussex County Loyalist, Barton commanded the 5th Battalion. Livingston to Washington, 3 September 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 3 September 1777 – 28 October 1777, LOC.

[24] Campbell to Dickinson, 19 December 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 30 April 1777 – 24 January 1778, LOC. Twenty two Continental officers from the Maryland Line and Congress’s Own Regiment had been taken prisoner on Staten Island, 22 August 1777.

[25] Pettit to Boudinot, 1 January 1778. Langdon K. Thorne Collection, Box 1, Folder 2, No. 42, Princeton University Library.

[26] The exchange of correspondence between Livingston and Robertson was published not only in the local press, but made its way to England as well. The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, (London), 11 March 1778.

[27] The New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, 28 April 1777.

[28] Livingston to Washington, 30 April 1777. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 6 April 1777 – 29 May 1777, LOC.

[29] The Bainbridge House today is the headquarters of the Princeton Historical Society.

[30] Van Buskirk’s warrant was dated 23 June 1779, while the battalion was stationed at Hoboken. “Officers recommended for Commissions in the 4th Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, commanded by Abraham Van Buskirk Esqr. Lieut. Colonel Commandant [August 1780]. Department of Defense Manuscripts, Box 3, No. 191-L, NJSA.

[31] Intelligence from Staten Island Signed Amicus Republicae, dated 17 May 1780. George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 3 April 1780 – 6 June 1780, LOC.

[32] Collection M-804, Pension and Bounty Land Application Files, No. W20313, James Kent, New Jersey, NARA.

[33] “State of the Following Corps under the Command of The Honble. Major Genl. Leslie, Hampton Road 15th November 1780.” Clinton Papers 130:18, CL.

[34] “Lieutenant [Richard] Cowper, of Buskirk’s battalion, has gained immortal honour, he was sent with twenty men to a mill for grain, some accident happened [to] his wagon, and before he got fit to proceed to camp, found himself entirely surrounded by Sumpter’s whole army, he charged through the whole of them, finding it still impossible to prevent being again surrounded, he ordered his men to form the hollow square, and defended himself upwards of an hour against Sumpter’s whole army, until Colonel Watson came up and drove off Sumpter.” Extract of a letter from Charlestown, 4 March 1781, The Royal Gazette (New York), 21 March 1781.

[35] Lt. Troup, who had escaped from Governor Livingston’s reach in 1777, was mortally wounded in the same battle. Another casualty in the company that campaign was Sergeant John Van Buskirk being taken prisoner. He would never return from captivity. “Return of the Killed, Wounded & Missing, at the Eutaws, 8th Sepr. 1781,” Diary of Frederick Mackenzie (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), 2:651-652. See also Muster Roll of Captain Jacob Buskirk’s Company in the Provincial Light Infantry, Quarter House the 24th October 1781, RG 8, “C” Series, Volume 1900, LAC.

[36] Marion Robertson entry for Jacob Buskirk, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online,

One thought on “How George Washington saved the life of Abraham Van Buskirk’s Son

  • Thank you for another thought provoking article on the Loyalist issue in Revolutionary War America. Thank Goodness for George Washington – as his great wisdom and judgement ended up assisting both sides in a humanitarian cause even though politically motivated. Bottom line, a number of people kept their lives when it appeared doubtful!
    John Pearson

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