The 3rd New Jersey in New-York: Stories from “The Jersey Greys” of 1776. by Philip D. Weaver (Highland, NY: Continental Consulting, 2020)
The plundering of Johnson Hall. What to do about the loyalist Lady Johnson. A duel set-up. Marching to Fort Stanwix/Schuyler. The defection and escape of Lieutenant McMichael. A riot on Christmas. Five boxes and the rewards of period research. All these anecdotes make up the unique narrative of independent historian Philip D. Weaver’s short but interesting new book, The 3rd New Jersey in New-York: Stories from “The Jersey Greys” of 1776.
The 3rd New Jersey Regiment was created by the New Jersey Provincial Congress in February 1776 in the hopes that it would be moved quickly towards New York, whose defenses were declining. Weaver uses many primary sources (letters, communications from Congress, military orders) to describe the haphazard fashion in which the regiment was structured and commanded. Figures such as Charles Lee, John Sullivan, Philip Schuyler, John Hancock and even George Washington were all involved in setting up regiments and then sending them as soon as possible to New York City. The 3rd New Jersey’s trek from formation to front lines took it through communities and barracks in the Garden State on its way to New York. The “adventures” are what Weaver presents, telling “the story of the regiment everybody needed, but nobody wanted around when they got there, yet never wanted to give them up.” (p. 127)
Each chapter of the book describes one incident in the history of the regiment. Arranged in chronological order, the actions of the corps take on the features of a “Tolkienesque” journey. First, in the second chapter, “Sad Affair,” members of the regiment stole items from Johnson Hall in Albany, the home of loyalist who had been promised to be treated with consideration. Weaver describes the court-martial that took place as a result. It was fascinating to read the communications between George Washington and Philip Schuyler, who was never sure what to do about the proceedings. The next chapter, “Most Easy & Commodious Manner,” continues the story of Johnson Hall by centering on the predicament of Lady Johnson, who did not want to leave her home.
A “fake” duel is the topic of the fourth chapter, “Damn Rascally Behavior.” Two members of the regiment, Duncan McDougall and Edmund Thomas, found themselves in an affair of honor. The story is almost comical because the duel itself was manufactured by the officers in the regiment either to alleviate boredom or to show the absurdity of such behavior. Weaver takes the opportunity to write of the dueling process and traditions.
Other stories in the book include a patrol that encountered and skirmished with an Indian band near Fort Ticonderoga, the leadership difficulties of Philip Schuyler, a conflict between Anthony Walton White and Richard Varick, and the continuing fallout from the plundering of Johnson Hall. In the Epilogue, “Five Boxes,” Weaver mentions the invoices that were sent regarding five boxes of clothing. The contents of the boxes remains a mystery since they never arrived at their destination and they were not even reported missing for sixteen months. Weaver excitedly includes this episode to demonstrate the hopes that go along with historical research: “Nevertheless, this remains a fascinating little story about the adventure of period research. Quite simply, if you wait long enough, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will eventually fall into place—even if it takes over 240 years.” (p. 132)
Weaver concludes his book with several appendices that supplement the stories in general. He offers descriptions of deserters, explains the source of the name of the regiment (New Jersey Greys), lists the officers, and presents a first-hand description of Fort Stanwix. A “Dramatis Personae” and glossary of terms are helpful for keeping track of who was who and what was what (a sincere thanks to the author). The 3rd New Jersey in New-York: Stories from “The Jersey Greys” of 1776 is a work that captures the workings and (mis)adventures of a wartime regiment during the messy first year of the American Revolution. Each story offers excellent first-hand accounts of eighteenth-century warfare.
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