The Moses Ogden Myth: Misremembering the Battle of Connecticut Farms

Critical Thinking

June 18, 2024
by Tim Abbott Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

General histories of the Battle of Connecticut Farms, New Jersey, that was fought on June 7, 1780 tend to miss their mark with the very first shots. The intrusion of local myth impacts our understanding of the sequence of battle and distorts some of its key elements. In the process, the battalion that suffered nearly half the Continental casualties that day—Spencer’s Additional Regiment—barely rates a mention except in association with a fondly recalled legend that does not hold up to scholarly scrutiny.

Between eleven o’clock and midnight on June 6-7, 1780, Hessian Generalleutnant Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr von Innhausen und Knyphausen started moving the first of five divisions across the narrow saltwater channel between Staten Island and Elizabethtown Point. It was a massive expedition totaling nearly 6,900 British, German and Loyalist units from the New York garrison including Hessian and Ansbach jäger, companies of light infantry and grenadiers, musketeers, dragoons, artillery, pioneers and baggage.[1] The only forces available to oppose them were scattered elements of Gen. William Maxwell’s Jersey Brigade and local militia. Of such odds are heroes made and legends born.

 Ensign Ogden’s Mythical Piquet

The British commander leading the first division of General Kyphausen’s expedition was Brig. Gen. Thomas Stirling (1731-1808). He would soon be severely wounded at a crossroads in the dark, giving rise to the story that a young officer serving in Spencer’s Regiment named Ens. Moses Ogden led the piquet that fired that volley. This, in turn, has led historians to mistakenly conclude that Spencer’s entire regiment was on the front lines at the outset of the battle. No less an authority than the National Archives Records Administration, in a “Founders Online” footnote to a May 28, 1780 letter from Gen. George Washington to General Maxwell, attests that Maxwell “ultimately placed two regiments at ‘The West farms’ and two regiments (Col. Oliver Spencer’s and Col. Elias Dayton’s) at Elizabeth.”[2] The citation for this statement comes from Ward’s General William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continentals, and Ward relies on Fleming’s The Forgotten Victory.[3] Where modern histories of Knyphausen’s raid are concerned, all roads lead to Fleming, and Fleming is sometimes unreliable.

Although regarded today as a prolific and quite competent historian, Thomas Fleming was better known in 1973 as an historical novelist when he wrote The Forgotten Victory, and his treatment of the Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield is novelistic both in tone and approach. It is an engaging read but rife with questionably-sourced anecdotes, and one of these concerning Ensign Ogden has profoundly influenced subsequent historiography of the battle, perpetuating what the evidence shows to be two significant errors: young Ogden’s alleged connection with the wounding of Brigadier General Stirling, and the placement of Spencer’s Additional Regiment prior to the battle. The latter of these mistakes has been aided and abetted in recent years by an overreliance on a near contemporaneous account by the ambitious Lieut. Col. William S. Smith of Spencer’s Regiment, who elevated his personal role that day while obscuring those of his superiors, including Colonel Spencer.

As told by Fleming, Col. Elias Dayton of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment (who was certainly near Elizabethtown that night) placed nineteen-year-old Ensign Ogden, a scion of a prominent branch of the local Ogden family, at an advanced post with a dozen men. As the first division of the invading force advanced in the darkness up the old King’s Road from DeHart’s Point, it was fired on by Ensign Ogden’s piquet, badly wounding Brigadier General Stirling in the thigh. This first blow supposedly delayed the advance for several hours, buying time for the Continentals under Colonel Dayton and the rest of the Jersey Brigade under Brigadier General Maxwell to converge on a stronger defensive position a few miles beyond Elizabethtown at Connecticut Farms.[4]

Whoever fired those shots must have been a hero, and local boy Moses Ogden fits the bill. His sister Ann married Lieut. Col. Francis Barber of the 3rd New Jersey, a prominent staff officer. His first cousins were Col. Matthias Ogden of the 1st New Jersey and Capt.-Lt. Aaron Ogden, also of the 1st New Jersey but serving at this time as Maxwell’s Aide de Camp.[5] Ens. Moses Ogden was the junior officer in the colonel’s company of Spencer’s regiment. Tragically, as New Jersey militiaman Aaron Hatfield would later recall in his nineteenth century pension declaration, Moses Ogden did not survive the day and “was killed at the engagement at Connecticut Farms with a musket ball shot through his forehead.”[6]

Here, then, was a hero and a martyr whose short life had purpose. Ensign Ogden was the only Continental officer to die during the battle, and his headstone in the 1st Presbyterian Churchyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey, adorned with crossed swords and angel’s wings, bears the inscription:

Moses Ogden
who was killed at
Connecticut Farms
June ye 7th, AD 1780
In the 20th Year of his Age
This lovely Youth
Adorn’d with Truth
A brave Commander shone
His soul emerging from its Dust
With his Progenitors we trust
Shall shine in Realms unknown[7]

The problem with this story is that despite diligent investigation, no contemporaneous reference to Moses Ogden’s piquet has come to light. His cousin Aaron Ogden made no mention of it either in a letter to his father Robert Ogden on June 15, 1780 or in his posthumously published Autobiography.[8] Nor did his brother-in-law Lt. Col. Francis Barber say anything about it in his many personal letters that still exist. Colonel Dayton’s papers and surviving letters contain no such account either.[9] Nor did Brigadier General Maxwell say anything in his after action report to Gov. William Livingston.[10] Nor does it appear in Col. Israel Shreve of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment’s correspondence, including a highly important but overlooked letter to his wife “Polly” on June 12, 1780.[11] Nor did Lieutenant Colonel Smith of Spencer’s regiment mention it in his lengthy November 10, 1780 account to General Washington of certain irregularities in command at the Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield.[12] Nor do any published newspaper accounts of the day. Maybe there was once such a letter or article, but if so, none has been discovered.

None of the nineteenth century histories that cover Brigadier General Stirling’s wounding attributes it to Ens. Moses Ogden’s sentries either. Neither Barber and Howe’s anecdote-rich Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey, nor Lossing’s Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, nor Hatfield’s History of Elizabeth nor Irving’s Life of Washington mention the Moses Ogden story.[13] Ricord’s 1897 History of Union County, New Jersey contains the earliest known reference to “an outpost of twelve men” but says nothing about the officer in command of it.[14] Elizabeth’s “Minuteman Statue”, erected in 1905 at the site of the crossroads where the first shots were fired, bears a plaque that gives equal time to the wounding of Brigadier General Stirling and the counterattack led by Brig. Gen. Edward Hand that reached that point the following day. It makes no mention of Ens. Moses Ogden.

Fleming did not conjure his story out of whole cloth. Rather, he seems to have relied on a file entitled “Revolutionary History of Elizabeth at the Elizabeth Public Library, which plucked it from an equally murky account provided by James Madison Drake in his 1908 Historical Sketches of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.[15] A newspaper publisher and Medal of Honor recipient, Drake states in the introduction to his book; “The sketches of the Revolutionary War are founded upon legends I fondly heard when a youth from revolutionary sires and their descendants, as well as official reports and statements appearing in the newspapers of the period.”

Drake claims that Colonel Dayton placed the piquet, which indeed he could have done as the senior Continental commander on the front lines. He also claims that Moses Ogden commanded it:

‘Fire!’ rang out the clarion-like voice of Ensign Moses Ogden, an Elizabethtown boy of nineteen years, and the next instant, from the brazen muzzles of thirteen muskets poured forth a sheet of flame and death-dealing missiles into the serried ranks of the invading host, the proud and haughty general—Sterling—being unhorsed by a ghastly wound in his right thigh.[16]

There is a good deal more from Drake along these lines: stirring stuff, to be sure. In another part of his narrative he claims that it was Ensign Ogden’s own shot that hit Brigadier General Stirling, never mind that he would not have been armed at this stage of the war with a firelock but rather a platoon officer’s spontoon if such were available and a sword.[17] Fleming, by way of variation, has Ensign Ogden telling his men to aim—in the dark—for the mounted officer and then growling his command, but the writer clearly draws on material from Drake’s Historical Sketches and Drake provides no sources whatsoever for his account.[18]

Having placed Ensign Ogden with the piquet, Fleming goes further than Drake and concludes that because he was from Colonel Spencer’s Regiment, Spencer’s had to be the other battalion posted with Colonel Dayton’s 3rd New Jersey near Elizabethtown. He places Colonel Spencer himself with Dayton on Jelf’s Hill outside of town as they conferred with Capt. Aaron Ogden, but offers no documentation other than the alleged presence of Ensign Ogden of Spencer’s Regiment with the piquet.[19]

A more likely interpretation, common practice at the time, is that an advanced piquet was a detachment comprising men from more than one company, and in the case of larger detachments from more than one regiment. We know from the pension declaration of one of Spencer’s men—Pvt. Henry Williams, who was wounded later that day—that on the night of the invasion he was with a piquet at Bound Brook in Camp Town, West of Newark.[20] Moses Ogden could have led such a detachment between Elizabethtown and DeHart’s Point, but it does not follow that Spencer’s Regiment was nearby.

Since no mention of Ensign Ogden’s heroics has yet come to light prior to Drake in 1908, then the identity of the other Continental regiment reported to be near Elizabethtown is not necessarily Spencer’s. In fact, other participant accounts clearly show that the main part Spencer’s regiment was not at Elizabethtown, but rather posted at West Farm (Camp Town) with General Maxwell.[21] These accounts have not been carefully considered before now, obscured by the repetition of the Moses Ogden legend by Fleming, and Ward, and the National Archives, and as recently as 2020 in Edward Lengel’s The Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield 1780.[22]

The death of the young Moses Ogden later that day is true enough and his loss must have been keenly felt for his family to have erected the sort of memorial stone that adorns his grave. However, as with the “shot heard round the world,” there is no credible evidence for whomever may have fired the musket that wounded General Stirling, nor how many men fired, nor who may have been in command of them. Nineteenth- and twentieth- century estimates range from a single sniper to as many as sixty.

It now seems Drake, born in 1837 when the veterans of the Revolution were old men, repeated folklore that was carried forward by subsequent chroniclers as fact. One cannot prove a negative, but when there is no better positive evidence than Drake’s, it casts the whole matter into real doubt. It is a good story, but it is not good history and there is no credible evidence for it. It should no longer be considered the preferred narrative.

A Misremembered American Deployment and Sequence of Battle

Where were the various elements of the Jersey Brigade deployed at the outset of Knyphausen’s raid and during the Battle of Connecticut Farms? There are other factors to consider aside from the Ensign Ogden legend, and these relate to who was in command of each of the regiments on that day (and their subsequent reputations). Based on contemporaneous sources, here is their disposition: Col. Elias Dayton was at or near Elizabethtown, where he and the bulk of his regiment, the 3rd New Jersey, had been stationed for several weeks and from whence he had maintained an ongoing correspondence with Washington through the end of May.[23] Aside from piquet posts scattered between Newark and Rahway, the rest of the Jersey Brigade was based in the vicinity of West Farm, about six miles northwest of Elizabethtown. Brigadier General Maxwell provided details in a critical after action report to Governor Livingston.[24] Capt. Aaron Ogden also wrote an important letter to his father Robert Ogden, and covered this period in his Autobiography.[25]

We also have the letter written from Basking Ridge Hospital by wounded private Henry Johnson to his parents. Private Johnson was in Major Burrowes’ company in Spencer’s regiment. Johnson states, “We lay at Newark Mountain / A Bout twelve oclock at Night we was Alarmed and Marched to the farms [Connecticut Farms] and about Sun Rise We Etacted them [with] the Jersey Berguade.”[26]

Johnson’s letter places at least some of Spencer’s men “at Newark Mountain,” which corresponds to Maxwell’s headquarters at West Farm. Aaron Ogden’s Autobiography states that he “rode as fast as his horse could carry him [from General Maxwell], to the other two regiments of the Brigade whom he found paraded on the hill near the rear of Elizabeth Town river, and there received information from General [then Colonel] Dayton.”[27] What was the other regiment that Captain-Lieutenant Ogden found when he arrived at Jelf’s Hill and conferred with Colonel Dayton?

There are no known letters from either Col. Matthias Ogden of the 1st New Jersey or Col. Oliver Spencer from this period. It is certain that Colonel Ogden was sick in Chatham and not on the field in command of his regiment.[28] Spencer’s Lt. Col. William S. Smith wrote a lengthy, highly significant letter to George Washington several months later that places himself at the heart of the action and casts Colonel Shreve of the 2nd New Jersey in a very dubious light.[29] Lieutenant Colonel Smith was an ambitious intriguer—not a rare trait among the officers of the Jersey Brigade—and Colonel Shreve was, by all accounts, a decent man but a lackluster commander. William S. Smith’s star was rising and Israel Shreve’s would soon diminish. Both the Shreve and Smith letters need to be considered together in order to track the movements of the 2nd New Jersey as well as both Spencer’s and the 1st New Jersey regiments.

Subsequent historians, mislead by Fleming, erroneously conclude that Spencer’s Regiment was at Elizabethtown with Colonel Dayton and the 3rd New Jersey, making Colonel Shreve’s 2nd Regiment one of two (and not three) with Maxwell at West Farm during the first phase of the Battle. Shreve’s own letter to his wife dated June 12, 1780 shows he marched immediately from his camp to Elizabethtown, was there with Dayton on Jelf’s Hill as General Knyphausen entered the Town, and remained involved in the delaying action leading up to the stand at Connecticut Farms. Despite its known existence and availability in print since 1979, this document has not been given the consideration it deserves in recent histories.[30]

Shreve wrote to his wife Mary Shreve, whom he called “Polly,”

on tuesday night the 7th [actually the 6th] of June between 11 & 12 oClock the Enemy Landed at Elizabethtown point, Our Piquets fired upon them Which Alarmed Camp. Immediately a Light Horseman Arived from Colo. Dayton who Commanded that they were Landed in force, We Immediately Caled in all Guards about Camp, and Marched towards Elizabethtown and fell in about 2 miles above the town upon the Connecticut farm Road.[31]

It is unlikely the 2nd New Jersey could have managed to join Colonel Dayton at this time and performed the delaying action Shreve described if they had marched all way to the outskirts of Elizabethtown from West Farm. Either the camp of the 2nd New Jersey must have been somewhat closer to Elizabethtown or Colonel Shreve got them in motion in record time. In any event, his must have been the other regiment that Captain Lieutenant Ogden found when he met with Colonel Dayton near the river after riding to the sound of the guns. Lieutenant Colonel Smith’s November 10, 1780 letter confirms it:

On the 7th of June after the Enemy had disposed Colo. Dayton & my self of the pass at Connecticut farms and oblig’d us to retire in the vicinity of Springfield, I met General Maxwell a little in front of the town advancing with the brigade; I then rejoine my command which was with the brigade and consisted of the first and fourth [Spencer’s] regiments.[32]

Lieutenant Colonel Smith placed himself at Connecticut Farms but no closer to Elizabethtown. Most of Spencer’s regiment was with Maxwell at his West Farm headquarters, along with the 1st New Jersey. Some elements of each regiment did engage at Connecticut Farms, based on what Brigadier General Maxwell, Colonel Shreve and Captain-Lieutenant Ogden wrote, but only Colonel Dayton’s 3rd New Jersey and Colonel Shreve’s 2nd New Jersey were closest to the enemy at Elizabethtown during the open phases of Knyphausen’s Raid.

This is not how the story has been told before. Colonel Spencer’s Regiment, and not Colonel Shreve, has been falsely positioned with Colonel Dayton based on the Moses Ogden myth. Before there was even the modern history profession, more prominent names and episodes from that day captured local imaginations and informed subsequent chroniclers. Elias Dayton was from Elizabethtown and lauded as a local hero. Israel Shreve was a West Jersey Quaker and did not enjoy the same reputation. Spencer’s Regiment, as was common for its entire term of service, was a cipher as an “Additional” Regiment.

When Fleming wrote The Forgotten Victory, he did not have access to the trove of digital data available to researchers today and he did the best he could with what he had. One would have had to dig deep into General Washington’s correspondence back then to unearth Lieutenant Colonel Smith’s letter, and the extensive collections of Colonel Shreve’s letters at Louisiana Tech and the University of Houston were not then widely known. His enthusiasm for a great, untold story sometimes led Fleming into the realm of local legend, and it makes his engaging history of the Battle of Connecticut Farms somewhat less than authoritative, even though until Lengel’s 2020 treatment of the battle it remained the only book-length study.

Lengel introduces the Lieutenant Colonel Smith letter into historiography of the battle, although historian John Rees had published a transcription of it long before it became available through Founders Online.[33] The Smith account can be a valuable source of information for scholars but it needs careful handling. His letter must be considered in light of Lieutenant Colonel Smith’s broader purpose in writing it: namely, to show his fitness for continued command at the expense of others. Although it provides exceptional details of what took place, particularly during the later and most critical phase of the battle at the first bridge over the Rahway River before Springfield where the majority of the Jersey Brigade casualties were taken, in matters of his own actions William S. Smith has proven to be a less than reliable informant.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith’s November 10, 1780 letter to General Washington omits any mention of the role played at Connecticut Farms by his own colonel when Smith described his “command,” even though orderly book evidence places Colonel Spencer with the Jersey Brigade on June 3, 1780, just days before the battle.[34] He represented Brigadier General Maxwell, who would be driven to resign in July 1780 by his senior officers, as having left control of the battlefield to Lieutenant Colonel Smith at a critical moment. Colonel Shreve was a soft target both for Lieutenant Colonel Smith and for fellow intriguer Col. Matthias Ogden, as by late 1780 either Ogden or Shreve would have to yield to the other in the new arrangement of the Jersey Line.

Moses Ogden gravestone. (Author)

Clearly, Lieutenant Colonel Smith was looking to his own advantage, and like Brigadier General Maxwell and Captain Lieutenant Ogden he wrote to a powerful patron or with an eye toward posterity with his reputation in mind. Only Colonel Shreve shared his thoughts in private letters to his wife without that filter, and neither Fleming nor Lengel make use of his accounts. Surviving muster rolls and pension declarations speak for themselves, and they show that Spencer’s Additional Regiment must have been heavily engaged on June 7, 1780.

Only now that we understand that the wounding of Brigadier General Stirling and the death of Ens. Moses Ogden have been conflated into one event, and recognize the problematic nature of the Lieutenant Colonel Smith narrative, do we know where to place Spencer’s Regiment at Connecticut Farms. Its true part in that battle is worthy of remembrance, as is the death of Ensign Ogden, one of eighteen casualties suffered in the Regiment that day. As one of Spencer’s veterans would attest late in life, the men of this understrength and largely forgotten Additional Regiment “lost all, except their Country, their swords, and their honour,” helping achieve American liberty “in barter for our blood.”[35]


[1] Samuel Steele Smith, Winter at Morristown 1779-1780; The Darkest Hour (Monmouth Beach, NJ: Philip Freneau Press, 1979), 62 – 63.

[2] George Washington to William Maxwell, May 28 1780,

[3] Harry M. Ward, General William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continentals (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press: 1997), 150; Thomas Fleming, The Forgotten Victory; The Battle for New Jersey – 1780 (New York: Readers Digest Press, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1979), 95-96, 99, 155, 310. Fleming also cites Revolutionary History of Elizabeth, Elizabeth Public Library as a reference for Moses Ogden’s role.

[4] Fleming, The Forgotten Victory, 98.

[5] William Ogden Wheeler, The Ogden Family in America; Elizabethtown Branch (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1907).

[6] Aaron Hatfield Pension declaration (S.23245), NARA M246 US Revolutionary War Pensions.

[7] William Ogden Wheeler and Edmund D. Halsey, Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in the Burying Grounds of The First Presbyterian Church and St. Johns Church at Elizabeth, New Jersey, 1664-1892 (New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1892), 81.

[8] Wheeler, The Ogden Family, 135; Autobiography of Col. Aaron Ogden of Elizabethtown (Patterson, NJ: The Press Printing and Publishing Co., 1893).

[9] Elias Dayton (1737-1807), Revolutionary War Officer Papers, MG 94, New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, NJ.

[10] William Maxwell to William Livingston, June 14, 1780; New York Public Library, William Livingston papers 1749-1782, Correspondence, vol. 2, item 171 (three pages, folio)

[11] Israel Shreve to Polly [Mary] Shreve, June 12, 1780; Israel Shreve Letters, University Archives and Special Collections, Prescott Memorial Library, Louisiana Tech University, Box 1, Folder 007. See also William Y. Thompson, Israel Shreve, Revolutionary War Officer (Ruston, LA: McGinty Trust Fund Publications, 1979).

[12] William S. Smith to Washington, November 10 1780,

[13] John W. Barber and Henry Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey; Containing a General Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. Relating to its History and Antiquities, With Geographical Descriptions of Every Township in the State, (New York: S. Tuttle, 1846); Benson J. Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution Vol. I (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1851); Edwin S. Hatfield, History of Elizabeth (New York, Carlton & Lanahan, 1868); Washington Irving, Life of George Washington (New York: G.P. Putnam and Company, 1855-1859).

[14] Frederick W. Ricord, History of Union County, New Jersey (Newark, NJ: East Jersey History Company, 1897).

[15] J. Madison Drake, Historical Sketches of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (New York: The Webster Press, 1908).

[16] Ibid., 45.

[17] Ibid., 62.

[18] Fleming, The Forgotten Victory, 96.

[19] Ibid., 100.

[20] Henry Williams Pension declaration (W.18353) NARA M246 US Revolutionary War Pensions.

[21] Henry Williams (W.18353) NARA M246 US Revolutionary War Pensions; Henry Johnson to Mr. and Mrs. Lambert Johnson, June 13, 1780, Henry Johnson Letters, 1778-1780, Collection 429, Henry Johnson letters, 1778-1780, Library and Archives, Monmouth County Historical Association, Freehold, N.J.; Smith to Washington, November 10 1780; Israel Shreve to Polly [Mary] Shreve, June 12, 1780.

[22] Edward Lengel, The Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield 1780 (Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2020), 15, 24.

[23] Elias Dayton to Washington, May 15, 19, 28 and 30 1780 and Washington to Dayton, May 17, 20, 29 and 31, 1780, The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 26, 13 May–4 July 1780, ed. Benjamin L. Huggins and Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018), 261.

[24] Maxwell to Livingston, June 14, 1780.

[25] Aaron Ogden to Robert Ogden, June 15, 1780, in Wheeler, The Ogden Family, 134-135; Autobiography of Col. Aaron Ogden, 12-14.

[26] Henry Johnson to Mr. and Mrs. Lambert Johnson, 13 June 1780.

[27] Autobiography of Col. Aaron Ogden, 13.

[28] Maxwell to Washington, May 28, 1780, says “Coll Ogden is sick at Chatham.” See also Aaron Ogden to Robert Ogden, June 15, 1780: “Colo. Ogden has been ill, but is now fast recovering.”

[29] Smith to Washington, November 10 1780.

[30] Thompson, Israel Shreve, 67-69.

[31] Israel Shreve to Polly [Mary] Shreve June 12, 1780.

[32] Smith to Washington, November 10 1780.

[33] John U. Rees, “Eyewitness to Battle: New Jersey Brigade at Connecticut Farms and Springfield, June 1780,” The Brigade Dispatch, vol. XXIX, no. 4 (Winter 1999), 20-22.

[34] Orderly Book of Colonel Oliver Spencer’s (Continental) Regiment April 9 – June 6, 1780, New York Historical Society – Reel 11, No. 110.

[35] John Bell Pension declaration (S.12189) NARA M246 US Revolutionary War Pensions.


  • Thank you for this comprehensive analysis of this event. There are other aspects of the battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield which deserve more clarification: 1) Is the James Caldwell story “Give them Watts, boys” a myth? Soldiers would already have had cartridges, so providing wadding alone from Watts hymnal would seem to be ineffective. 2) The “murder” of Hannah Caldwell seems to be a misnomer, as retreating British soldiers being attacked from all fronts would shoot at anything inside a house they perceive as a threat. Local legends pervade more authoritative sources, making interpretation less clear.

    1. Thank you, Robert! You are absolutely right, on both counts. The death of Hannah Caldwell and the burning of Connecticut Farms were the defining local memories of the June 7, 1780 engagement, which was actually a much harder fight after the Jersey Brigade fell back to the first bridge over the Rahway River and took most of its casualties there. My interest in the participation of Spencer’s Additional Regiment on this day – the Forgotten Regiment of the “Forgotten Victory” – led me to dig into the Moses Ogden story. For a more comprehensive understanding of the sequence of this battle, several primary sources are of critical importance but one of them – the letter written by Lieut. Col. William S. Smith of Spencer’s Regiment to General Washington on November 10, 1780 – needs to be viewed with Smith’s motivations for writing it clearly in view. Israel Shreve’s letter to his wife dated June 12, 1780 should be considered alongside those written by Smith, Maxwell and Captain Aaron Ogden, as well as Ensign Mathews of the British Brigade of Guards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *