Joseph W. cn Dally.

Woodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. online

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Online LibraryJoseph W. cn DallyWoodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. → online text (page 21 of 34)
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was held a prisoner for two years and four months, when he
was exchanged and went to New York to assist the Royalists.

Col. Heard's militia at this time occupied the Amboy
barracks. The Tory element in that place and on Staten
Island was so large that during the Summer of 1776 about a
thousand men were encamped at Blazing Star and Amboy to
prevent open alliance with the Royalist cause. At the latter
place Maj. Duychink arrived on the 5th of July with 450 of
the Middlesex Militia. Rumors were prevalent, immediately
on his arrival, that the British intended to attack him by
crossing from Staten Island. Gen. Heard ordered the Major
to move his troops outside the town, which was done; but the
attack was not made, and on the 6th the Americans re-entered
Amboy.* Washington sent directions to Heard in July to
apprehend any of the Amboy or Staten Island Tories who
made themselves obnoxious to the cause of liberty. f

Gen. Heard's residence was on the corner where William
Harned's house now stands — adjoining Commoss & Ensign's
store. He had three sons and four daughters. John, one of
his sons, was a captain in "Sheldon's Dragoons," a famous
soldiery during the Revolution. Whitehead says he saw
John, "as General Heard, in his continental uniform of blue

• Whitehead's Contrib., p. 330. t Hatfield's EUz., p. 437.


and buflf, at Woodbridge in 1824, when General LaFayette
passed through on his way to Philadelphia from New York."
James and William were the other sons of the old General
The former was a " Cornet " in Lees Legion in 1779, and in the
following year he was commissioned as a lieutenant. He
afterward became a captain.*

The father, Nathaniel Heard, was commissioned as Colonel
of a battalion of " minute men" on the 12th of February, 1776,
In June he headed " Heard's Brigade," a name given in honor
of the brave man ; and he was made, on the 25th, Brip-adier
General Commanding. A commission as Brigadier-General
of Militia was given him February ist, 1777. f

Woodbridge, during 1776, was the scene of the greatest
excitement. Troops were constantly passing and repassino-
through the town. In the latter part of the year the Brit-
ish had collected about 400 head of cattle and 200 sheep
in the place, intending that these should feed their troops
during the cold weather ;| but a company of impudent
American militia entered the town on the night of the nth of
December and quietly drove John Bull's beef and mutton into
the other camp.

According to tradition, Timothy Bloomfield's house, on the
corner of the old' Amboy turnpike (intersecting the Wood-
bridge turnpike near Ford's Corner)§ was a rendezvous for
the "Jersey Blues " in Woodbridge. Here the patriots met
to discuss the progress of the war and propose means for
harassing the enemy. Their meetings were secret, of course,
and were partly composed of young men not yet serving in
the army. One night news was brought to the assembled
"boys" that a British war-vessel had. appeared at Perth
Amboy. Some one proposed that an old swivel cannon in
town should be taken down to Amboy and fired into the ship
with the idea of frightening the enemy out of the harbor.
This plan was enthusiastically applauded. It was yet early
in the evening and it was determined to carry out the project
before daylight. The gun was procured and loaded. It was
taken with all haste to Amboy. Campyon Cutter, then a

* Officers and Men of N. J. in Rev., p. 81. t Ibid., 349. % Hatfield's Elizabeth, p,
451. 5 Mrs. D. K. Patoii.

244 woodbridgp: and vicinity.

Woodbridge young- man, assisted his comrades to plant the
artillery near the Episcopal Church, overlooking the water.
There, sure enough, they saw in mid-stream the dark outlines
of the brig. They knew the moon would rise at ii o'clock,
and they waited patiently until it began to glimmer over the
Island. Aiming their gun with due precision, the touch-hole
was filled with powder, the torch was applied, there was a
heavy detonation, and then all was quiet. With some anxiety
the venturesome gunners "laid low." In a sliort time they
heard the crew raising tlie anchor, and a ball came whizzing
into the grave-yard. Tlie light was so uncertain at this junc-
ture that the British imagined, probably, that they saw a host
on the highland. With jubilation the patriots saw that they
were frightened and were moving off.*

Among the Woodbridge men who distinguished themselves
during the ever-memorable war of the Revolution, we must
mention James Paton, who came from Stirling, North Britain,
in 1774. The two years previous to his departure from Stir-
ling were spent in the service of Alexander Wright, a mer-
chant of that place, who gave him an excellent recommenda-
tion for honesty and faithfulness when he left. He joined the
" Light Dragoons " (2d Regiment, Continental Army), com-
manded by Col. Elisha Sheldon, of Connecticut, when they
were first organized, in 1776, and continued his connection
with them until 1779, at which time he was a " Cornet "f
David Edgar was a captain in this organization. Edgar was
a Woodbridge man, between whom and Paton a warm friend-
ship existed. He (Edgar) became First lieutenant of the
Fourth Battalion, 2d Establishment, on the 28th of November,
1776; then in the following year he held a Captain's commis-
sion in this battalion, which he soon after resigned to take a
lieutenancy in Sheldon's Dragoons. He became a Captain in
this corps November 27th, 1778, and was honorably dis-
charged at the end of the war.J

James Paton was often addressed as Lieutenant by his
friends, the officers of the Dragoons; from which we infer that

* Mrs. David Paton, to whom the author is indebted for this narrative, is the daughter
of Campyon Cutter, oue of the partieipauts in the exploit. t Paton papers. Mr. Paton was
commifesioned as Cornet Jan. 1, 1778. t Gen. Stryker's Official Roster, p. 80.


he held such a commission as early as the Summer of 1778.
A certificate from Brigadier-General Samuel H. Parsons,
written August 15th of this year, gives him that title. A letter
written by Paton in 1786 alleges that he held that rank in the

In 1788 he was commissioned, by Gov. Livingston, as a
Captain of the First Battalion of Middlesex Militia. In 1792
Capt. Paton was assigned by Gov. Paterson to the command
of a company of Light Infantry organized in this countv. He
was placed on Gov. Joseph Bloomfield's staff in 181 1, with the
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, having seven years previously
held a Major's commission in the ist Regiment Middlesex

But it is to his services during the Revolution that we call

In June, 1780, the British opened their campaign in New
Jersey by moving their troops* into the State via Staten
Island and Elizabethtown, with the intention of capturing
Gen. Maxwell's Brigade of Jersey troops and then marching
on to Short Hills, there to await the arrival of reinforcements,
with which a grand movement was to be made on Morris-
town, and Gen. Washington with the whole Continental army
would be nicely bagged. But

" The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang oft aglee."

Washington had no special admiration for the plan, and
accordingly he coolly occupied Short Hills with all his forces.
This was naughty of Washington, because the British had
expected to make a camp there and have a general good time
thrashing the Americans in the neighborhood. As it was,
they were compelled to beat a retreat, in the course of whicli
they were harassed by little parties of militia firing upon
them from behind fences, trees, etc., all along the route.
They had entered Elizabethtown on the night of the 6th, on
the 7th they were checked at Connecticut Farms, and 'in the
evening they were hurrying down to the " Point " in a drench-

' About 6,000 well-equipped soldiers.



ing rain to escape the pitiless pursuit of the Jersey soldiers.*
Not a very glorious record for the British, truly.

In the two days' brisk skirmishing (of the 7th and 8th)
parties of militia were collected from all the towns adjacent.
Woodbridge had several representatives in the engagements,
among whom were James Paton,' Jeremiah Clarkson,f Jere-
miah Dally, and a man named Brown. Paton was wounded
on Thursday, the 8th, from the effects of which he never
entirely recovered. In a letter directed to " Captain David
Edgar, 2d Regt. Light Dragoons, at or near Crompond,"
dated at Elizabethtown, June 30th, 1780, Lieut. Paton thus
tells the story :

" Dear Edgar : I am happy to be able once more to
write to an old friend, which is more than I expected
so soon. Must inform you that on Tuesday, the 6th inst., at
night, the British army landed at the Point and marched near
Springfield. On Wednesday [they] burned all the houses and
[the] Church in Connecticut Farms, and in the evening
retreated in a heavy rain to the Point. On Thursday all day
was skirmishing, and unfortunately for me, dear Edgar [I],
received a. very bad wound. The ball entered below my left
temple and came out nearly opposite. I got it near the New
Point and kept my horse until I rode to my uncle's house,];
when I dismounted, hitched my horse and walked in and was
dressed and declared not mortal, but expected to lose the
sight of my right eye. However, thank God, my eye has
come to, remarkably. I am able to walk in the garden. The
wound heals very well. It discharges mostly out of my nose.
I am in hopes it will leave little or no mark in my face. I
have fell away very much. I was wounded on the 8th and
was kept concealed in my uncle's house until the 19th, when
I was made a prisoner and got a parole to return when called
for, I never was visited by a doctor during eleven days.
Miss Aggie dressed me all the time. I am not able to give
you the particulars of the expedition, only tlie brave Capt.
Nathl.' Fitz Randolph was wounded tlie last day the British

• Hatflela's Eli/., p. 486-490. t Clarksou lived where Isaac Thornell resides.
t This uncle's name was Johu Adams. " Aggie," who is meutioned further on, was an
adopted daughter of the Adams family. Miss Aggie Brought was her original name.


troops marched to and burned all Springfield, and is since
dead and much lamented. Smith Bloomfield is also mortally
wounded and not expected to live, I believe. It is impossible
to describe the distress that prevails in this part of the world.
My head aches with writing: you must excuse me. I believe
all friends are well. My uncle, aunt, and Miss Aggie join in
compliments, and believe me to be, dear Edgar, your sincere
friend, James Paton.

N. B. — Pray, write to me soon. The next opportunity
[I] will write you all the news, for I have a great deal to tell
you. Mr. Brown is well, and behaved very well and gained
great credit. But poor I had it not long in my power to do
anything; and God knows when I shall be exchanged.

J. P."

In this skirmish Lieut. Paton wis acting as an officer

temporarily under the command of Capt. Obadiah Meeker, of

the " Essex Horse," who was executing an order of Lord

Stirling, Major-General of the American forces. Major Wm-

Crane, who commanded the ist Battalion of Essex Militia, and

who was present during the fight, says of Paton : " he behaved

with spirit and bravery through the whole course of the alarm

till wounded and taken."*

This intrepid soldier died November 6th, 1816, in his 58th

year. He was married twice- — to Hannah Edgar, daughter ot
David, who died in 1801 ; and to Mrs. Ann Bloomfield, who
survived him thirty-four years.

Capt. David Edgar, to whom allusion has been made
several times, was another Woodbridge hero. He was a
lieutenant for awhile in Heard's Brigade, but his military
reputation was largely achieved during his connection witli
Sheldon's Dragoons. This regiment was part of the time in
Connecticut, then in New Jersey, and part of the time in
Delaware. Adjutant Hoogland, of this corps, wrote to Lieut.
Paton (then at Westfield), from Bedford, Conn., in 1779, that
in the last week of June the Dragoons had a brush with the
enemy at Lower Wright's Mills, in which it is supposed,
though not positively known, that Capt. Edgar participated.

* Autograph letter among the Paton papers.


The Yankees were compelled to retire before superior num-

Capt. Edgar (then Lieutenant) was the leader in a coup de
grace at Marcus Hook in May, 1778, which Brigadier-Gen.
eral Small wood, at that time commanding the Maryland
division of the army, characterised as an act of "extraordinary
gallantry." The facts in the case are these:

A sloop, called the Sally^ had been making trips all Winter
between Duck Creek, Del, and Philadelphia, to supply the
British army, which occupied the latter place, with provisions.
The Duck Creek people were Tories, and obtained considera-
ble money by trading with the English. But poor Sally came
to grief. As she was sailing unsuspiciously past Marcus
Hook on her way to the city of Brotherly Love, Lieut. Edgar
with five Dragoons made an assault upon the vessel and
captured it. It was a novel affair, and compels us to believe
that Capt. Jinks' "boss marines" are not so much of a joke
after all ; for nothing is more astonishing than a naval
engagement by a party of cavalry. The sloop was found to
be loaded with flour, wheat, and bacon, of which the commis-
sary officers took charge. Gen. Smallwood ordered that
Lieut. Edgar and party should be paid just the value of the
captured provisions, and that the sloop with all its appurten-
ances should be delivered to Edgar for the benefit of the
captors. The Sally was drawn up on the shore. The Light
Horse "being under marching orders, to move east, probably
going to Connecticut, Edgar had not time to dispose of his
prize. During his absence an American officer, named Col.
Wade, repaired the sloop and ungenerously used it without
permission for eighteen months. As the Continental army
now occupied Philadelphia, the British having been com-
pelled to evacuate it. Wade doubtless carried on a lucrative
trade, with the stolen vessel, between that city and the lower
counties of New Jersey and Delaware bordering on the river.
Lieut. Edgar appealed to the authorities for redress with
satisfactory results, it is presumed.*

This gallant affair was no doubt the cause of Edgar's pro-

• Many of these facts are taken from the autograph letters of Capt. Edgar and other
officers of the army.



motion, about six months after, to a captaincy in the regiment.

During the Summer of 1780, Edgar was recruiting in Con-
necticut for Col. Sheldon's Dragoons. On the 8th of June
of this year, when his friend Lieut. Paton was so severely
wounded, he was probably at Windsor, Conn.

Among his papers we find a unique bill presented by a
harness-maker against Capt. Barnet of the Dragoons (the
officer under whom Edgar served while Lieutenant), which is
dated April i8th, 1777. We extract a few items:

£ 8. p.

To a sadel by Isack Mash 10

To a sadel and brid el by John meker was 11

To asadel and bridel and sirsengel by James Patron... 12 12

To a sir singel by wileui panes 16

To a curbbridel by leftenent Etger 2

To mendenasadel by david Ager puten in a nu pad

and anugurt 1

To putenouanupare of bits 1 12

To putenon nu lethr on old parsol bits and stufen a

pad for wilem Conger 1

A little study of this literary puzzle will give us the clue
to the harness-maker's meaning; but we do not very strongly
recommend his style for a model.

Capt. Edgar died September 6th, 1810, in his 60th year,*
and is buried in the Presbyterian burying-ground at Wood-
bridge, not far from the spot where his friend and brother-in-
law, James Paton, lies buried.

His residence is supposed to have been just beyond the
present residence of Mr. Robert Vail, along the Jiighway

Smith Bloomfield, who participated in the skirmishes at /
Springfield and vicinity in the latter part of June, 1780, and
w^as mortally wounded at that time, was a Woodbridge man.
Unfortunately we know very little about him. He was taken
prisoner by the British January 3d, 1778, and was subse-
quently exchanged.! He died some time in July, 1780,
probably from the effects of his wounds.

Samuel Dally and Jeremiah, his son, were soldiers in the

' Dr. Henry R. Stiles' MS. Churchyard Inscriptions. t Paton papers.


first regiment of Middlesex militia.* Samuel fought, at one
time, under the leadership of Washington. He was one o^
the faithful few who crossed the Delaware in mid-winter to
surprise the Hessians at Trenton ; arid he shared also in the
glory of the battle of Monmouth. His death occurred March
9th, 1784, in the 53d year of his age. Jeremiah ran away
from home when only fourteen or fifteen years old to enter
the service of his country. He was in the engagements at
Connecticut Farms and Springfield in 1780, and perhaps
others. At forty years of age he died, November 7th, 1823.

Modesty forbids the writer to pursue further the history of
these men, from whom he is proud to trace his own lineage;
but, craving the forbearance of his readers, the following
extract from a pamphlet in the possession of the family is
given as a local incident of tlie war of independence :

" Mary Dally,f wife of Samuel, was part of the time left
at home with none to cheer her solitude but the little
ones; for Jeremiah had gone to war, contrary to the wishes
of his parents. He did not relish being left to attend the farm
while the other boys and young men in the neighborhood had
hastened to the field of conflict. In one instance, Mary
narrowly escaped death, while alone with her children. She
was leaning out of an upper window, watching with anxiety
the progress of a skirmish near the house between a body ot
English and a body of American troops. The latter were
victorious. The British turned toward Perth Amboy in re-
treat. In doing this they passed the house where Mary lived !
she had scarcely withdrawn from the window when a ball
from onfe of the retiring party fractured the casement and,
striking the opposite wall, fell to the floor. When some of
the Americans stopped to refresh themselves with a drink ot
buttermilk the patriotic woman handed it to one of them who
promised to send it back among the retreating " Red Coats,"
and he did — but what execution it effected it was impossible
to tell.

Mary lived several years after the war was ended ; and. it is
said, would relate with much animation the story we have

* Stryker's Roster, p. 565. t She Uved in a house, uow destroyed, in the rear of John
Flood's place.



briefly told. On a previous occasion, the marauders had
pillaged her house ; and, among other things, carried off the
family Bible. It is to be hoped that they read it as carefully,
and learned to prize its contents as highly as did the good lady
from whom they stole it."

Among Capt. Edgar's troop we notice several Woodbridge
men. Joseph Oilman,* Jonathan Jaquish, Jedediah Freeman,
and Lewis Dunham were in that company. f Robert Codding-
ton was a fifer in the Middlesex Militia and in the Con-
tinental army. H&nry Freeman was fifer in Capt. Asher F.
Randolph's company of Jersey troops I

One of the most conspicuous men for dash and daring, who
lived in Woodbridge during these stormy times, was Capt.
Nathaniel Fitz Randolph. Authentic tales told of his extra-
ordinary courage recall the days of Roman valor and savor
of the chivalric period of which Virgil wrote : Anna idrumque
cano. His was one of those lives in which grand achieve-
ments are accomplished within brief seasons; for he was
only thirty-two years old when he died. He is described as
"active, bold, and intelligent "; the antithesis, physically and
mentally, ot his brother Ezekiel, who often fell asleep on his
butcher's cart as he made his round in serving his customers.§
Of Nathaniel's intelligence we have a proof in his accurate
copy of the old Town Book.

He was a captain of the Middlesex Militia, at first; and was
elected naval officer for the Eastern District of New Jersey
on the i2th of December, 1778, The day before this election
the ('ouncil ordered that a sword should be purchased for
him as a fitting tribute to " his patriotism, vigilance, and
bravery during the war," which was subsequently presented
to him. II

On the 24th of June, 1778, he made an attack with fourteen
men on the enemy's guard opposite Elizabethport. Ft was
Wednesday night, and the party reached Staten Island in
boats. The Tory account says that two of the guard were
wounded, and that the American party hurried down to their


» Gen Stryker's Roster, p. 200, t Paton papers. t Stryker's Roster, p. 482.
§ Whitehead's Coutr., p. 95. J Stryker's Kos., 406.


boats and escaped, being pursued by the British.* But it is
probable that tlie raid was much more effective, for the Tories
distorted facts from motives of policy; so that their state-
ments were notoriously unreliable in many instances.

Some time during the Spring or Summer of this year Fitz
Randolph captured a number of the enemy on Staten Island,
concerning the exchange of whom the Governor communi-
cated with Gen. Washington. f

Capt. Randolph often said that the enemy should never take
him alive; and this declaration would have been verified,
doubtless, if it had depended on his courage to prove it. In a
fair contest he seemed almost invincible, and his name became
a "tower of strength" to the patriot cause in this section.
His conspicuous bravery was the admiration of his friends
and the fear of his adversaries. It is not surprising, therefore,
that the latter made vigorous efforts to capture him. Several
attempts to entrap him signally failed ; but we are told that
he was twice made a prisoner.

Tradition informs us that one night he went home; and
three armed and mounted Tories, who had been watching for
him, saw him enter the house. It was hardly wise for him to
go there; but human nature, long deprived of the home-life,
will sometimes impel a man to enter the jaws of death to enjoy
the fireside chat for one brief hour.

" Why did yon come home. Natty .' " exclaimed his anxious
mother. " You know the Tories are determined to take you,
and three of them have been prowling around the house
to-day ! "

" Ah," said the Captain, pointing significantly to his sword
and pistols, " no three men can take Natty alive ! "

Blankets were hung up at the windows to keep the curious
eyes of the neighbors, or the enemy, from beholding the guest
of the evening. The table was spread, and the warrior almost
forgot the camp and field in the glow and sparkle of the fire
on the hearth and the odor of smoking viands on the table.

After a season of pleasant converse with the family, a noise
of tramping feet was heard, succeeded by a sharp rap on the

♦ Hatfield's Eliz., p. 4G7. t Council of Safety, p. 250.


door. One of the inmates expressed the deepest anxiety lest
the Captain should now be subjected to the horrors of a
British prison. Releasing his sword from the bracket on the
wall the soldier replied: "They shall never take Natty
alive ! " Loud calls from without for the surrender of the
sturdy patriot Avere responded to by the Captain himself, who,
flinging open the bolted door, stood upon the threshold with
his drawn weapon in his hand, "/am Natty Randolph ! " he
said, pointing a pistol at the group; "and no three men can
take Natty alive ! The first who dares to stir is a dead man ! "

When Randolph was ready he gave the order for them to
move. The melancholy trio rode down the lane, followed by
the eagle eye of the American. They knew that two deadly
weapons in experienced hands covered them as they departed.
They were, therefore, very circumspect in their deportment
until they were out of range, when they struck spurs into their
horses and scampered away toward Staten Island.

Some of the stories of Randolph's marvellous strength are,
undoubtedly, greatly exaggerated ; but there can be no question
that he was a very muscular man. It is told of him that he
was once crossing Staten Island at the head of his men, when
he came unexpectedly upon a company of Hessians. One of
the latter, a little in advance of the rest, raised his gun and
fired, wounding Fitz Randolph in the left arm. Natty, pre-
tending he had something confidential to communicate, left his

Online LibraryJoseph W. cn DallyWoodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. → online text (page 21 of 34)