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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 22 of 34)
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company, approached the audacious soldier, seized him_ and
carried him in triumph under his right arm to the expectant
Americans — the Hessians, in their amazement, making no
attempt to rescue their comrade.*

Natty was very much attached to his company and refused
a Colonel's commission because its acceptance would sever the
relations between him and his men.f It scarcely need be said
that his soldiers were devoted to him.

While at the head of a detachment of them he was once
surrounded by a superior British force. Instead of surren-
dering, the brave fellows stood at bay and fought, under the
inspiring example of their leader, taitil every one of them had



Eahwav Museum and Advocate, Aug. 31, 1822. t Ibid.



254



WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.



'fallen^ either killed or wounded, on the hotly-contested field;
and Natty alone, with the blood streaming from his own
wounds, stood among his slain companions brandishing a
musket with astonishing effect. The British officer, admiring
his pluck, sought to take him alive; but every hostile approach
met with a stunning blow from the musket. The officer then
begged him to surrender, arguing that it Avas a pity for such
a brave man to die. Finding his strength failing, Natty
exacted a promise of kind treatment and an early exchange,
which being cheerfully accorded, he gave himself up as a
prisoner of war.

The slaughter in this affair is said to have been very great,
for the number engaged, on both sides.* The promise of the
English officer was fulfilled — the American captain was speed-
ily exchanged, every kindness being shown to him in the
meantime. The former declared that Fitz Randolph was the
bravest man he had ever met.

A reliable tradition well illustrates the coolness and daring
of our hero. A baggage-train belonging to the enemy was
progressing toward the inimical camp. Capt. Fitz Randolph
discovering it determined upon its capture. But he was
alone. This, however, did not intimidate hinv Waiting until
nightfall, he fell upon the rear of the train, sword in hand,
shouting at the top of his voice ; " Come on, boys ! Here they
are ! We've got them ! " The teamsters, unable in the dark-
ness to see their unknown assailant, and fearful that they
would be surrounded, were panic-stricken and fled precipi-
tately — the guard also joining iij the inglorious flight. Natty,
exultant, found means to bring his trophies into the American
camp, greatly to the discomfiture of the British and the
merriment of the Whigs.

The Captain, much to his chagrin, was captured in January,
i779)t by a party commanded by Capt. Ryerson. One author-
ity says that he was on Staten Island at the time, conducting a
scouting expedition, and that "the tories dogged him " to the
house in which he entered in the evening; and, after he had
laid aside his arms, they rushed into the room and made him

• See Kahway Mus. & Adv., Aug. 31, 1822. t Gen. Stryker's. Official Koster, p. 406.
Whiteliead says "February" — Contr., p. 95.



THE REVOLUTION. jCt:

a prisoner before he could seize his weapons or effect an
escape.* Another authority informs us that he had retired,
and was taken from his bed by his unwelcome visitors.f He
was conveyed to New York and imprisoned and cruellv
treated, until May 26th, 1780, a period of about a year and
four months ;J at which time he was exchanged; it is sup-
posed, for a Capt. Jones of the British army. This Jones was
seized by some of Fitz Randolph's men, for this very purpose,
at the old stone tavern at Port Richmond, Staten Island.
The story of this capture was told to me by Robert Codding-
ton. WjUjam^Bovy^ipan Sta ten Island , a waterman, used to
tell it also. ~~*

It seems that Peter Latourette, a Woodbridge man, famil-
iarly known as " Pete Tourette,"§ found out that Capt. Jones
was sick at Port Richmond and resolved to secure him as an
exchange for Randolph. Peter was fully equal to the task.
His courage was unquestioned and his strength remarkable-
He stood six feet and two inches in his stockings, and was
stout in proportion. He and three or four kindred spirits, all
Woodbridge men, crossed to Staten Island by daylight, in
citizens' dress, and went to the tavern. The guard, a small
one, supposed the new-comers were private citizens and paid
very little attention to them until they began to wrestle with
each other. This pastime amused the soldiers greatly, and
they became very free in their bearing toward the Jerseymen.
The latter heard the sick officer cough and calculated, from
the direction whence the sound came, just the room in which
he could be found. The guard, unsuspicious of danger,
stacked their guns in the hall and proceeded to the supper-
table, spread in an adjoining room. Latourette did not
intend to execute his plan until after dark; but this chance
was too good to be lost. He seized the guns and armed his
men, and then quickly entered the British Captain's apart-
ment and carried him out of the house, stuffing his handker-
chief into the sick man's mouth to prevent his giving the



* Railway Mus. & Adv., August 31, 1822. t Geu. Stryker's Roster, p. 40G. t Ibid.

5 Peter is disrespectfully called a "thief" and "an infernal tieud" by the Tory papers
in New York. The stories of "his cruelty to the Tories may be true, but we find uo evidence
to support them except in the journals alluded to. See Hatfield's Ehz., p. 507.



2S6



WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.



alarm. The party hastened to the shore, sprang into a boat
and rowed to Bergen Point witli their prisoner, who was
lodged in the Bergen jail until he was exchanged for Capt.
Fitz Randolph.

No sooner was the gallant Nathaniel released than he
entered the active service again ; but, alas, within two months
the heroic soldier passed away — to the land, we trust, where
the march of hostile battalions and the tumults of war are
unknown. He died of the wounds he received at or near
Springfield, N. J., on the 23d of June — his death occurring
one month afterward, July 23d, 1780.* He was buried in the
Presbyterian Church-yard at Woodbri.lge with the honors of
war. He was once married — to Experience Inslee, afterward
the wife of James Coddington.

Timothy Bloomfield was another patriot of Woodbridge.
It was his house, which was situated on the old Amboy turn-
pike, that was the rendezvous of the whigs, as we have previ-
ously related. He was an outspokan foe to British tyranny,
and was, therefore, the subject of the vindictive malice of the
tories. Made a prisoner during the war, he was incarcerated
part of the time in the Jail at New York, and part of the time
in the notorious Jersey Prison Ship — the victim ot gross in-
dignities and terrible cruelty. For refusing to acknowledge
his allegiance to King George he was twice taken out of Jail
to be hung, being suspended by the neck until life was nearly
extinct. True as steel, with returning consciousness he per-
sisted in his refusal. Nothing but the fear of retaliation pre-
vented his inquisitorial tormentors from taking summary ven-
geance for his obstinacy. f He was finally released. He died
at the age ot 73 years, January i8th, 1813, and was buried in
the old grave-yard at Metuchen.J

His sons (supposed to be Smith and Timothy) were in the
Continental army, so that the farm and the old homestead
were open to the ravages of the predatory parties of the
enemy. Among other things stolen were the family Bible and



* Lieut. Paton, in his letter to Capt. Edgar (already quoted), fixed Fitz Randolph's
death in the latter part of June. As he was a prisoner his information on this point was
limited.

t Eahway Museum, March 22, 1822. t Dr. H. K. Stiles' MS., p. 68.



THE REVOLUTION. 257

a brindle cow. The precious book could not be readily given
up. It was the comfort of the pious household during the
long absence of the men ; to be deprived, therefore, of its
counsels and divine consolation in their hours of anxious
watching and bitter trials was a prospect too melancholy.
But what could be done? Bibles were costly in tli*ose days,
and the family, made poor by the fortunes of war, had not the
means with which to purchase another. Eunice, daughter of
Timothy, concluded at Length to appeal to the British com-
mander on Staten Island for the restoration of the priceless
volume. In company with another girl, residing with the
family, Eunice started from home, walking to the river. It
was a brave deed, for these were troublous times and lawless
bands were abroad. Doubtless the God whom they honored
by seeking for His Word sent flaming spirits to guard them in
their dangerous way. On the shore they were nonplussed.
How should they reacli the other side.^ Not far away they
espied an old scow. Pushing it into the water, they paddled
across, objects of mucli curiosity to groups of red-coated
soldiers on the Island. With deference, the guard on the bank
assisted them in debarking and enquired their business.
They informed him that they wished to see the officer in
command. Very courteously he conducted them to head-
quarters. The commander received the young women with
affability and listened to their story and to their earnest
pleading for the old Bible. They saw the tears gathering in
the officer's eyes, and felt sure their suit was won. So,
indeed, it was. He sent to the ship, riding at anchor some
distance from the shore, to which, it seems, the volume had
been carried It was brought and placed in Eunice Bloom-
field's hands.

Gratefully the young women were about to turn homeward
when the commander kindly enquired if anything else of
value had been taken from them. They replied affirmatively
— that a brindle cow had been driven away by his men. In
adjoining fields large droves were feeding. Leading his
guests to these, he pointed toward the cattle and asked if they
recognized their own spotted animal. A long scrutiny failed
to discover the domestic favorite. As they were about to give

Q



258 WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.

lip the searcli in despair, the brindle came bounding toward
them with every demonstration of pleasure; and placed her-
self, in a satisfied way, close beside Eunice — as much as to
say: "Come! It is milking time ! " The officer smiled, and
averred that there was no doubt ot the original ownership of
the cow.

A guard ot soldiers escorted the girls across the water with
their regained treasures, and accompanied them for a consid-
erable distance toward home, at which they arrived with hearts
overflowing with thankfulness. The feelings with which they
opened the old Bible that night, who can describe?

On the family record, in this same old Bible, some Tory
liand had written remarks, against one of the boys in particu-
lar, who was afterward killed near Elizabethtown while in
action.*

Dr. Moses Bloomfield, whose acquaintance we have made
already as Clerk of the Freeholders, was a nati/e of Wood-
bridge and a man of more than ordinary culture and ability.
His patriotism was fervent, inducing him to offer his services
to his country at an early period of the war (May 14th, 1777),!
as an army surgeon. In the United States hospitals he held
the position of Senior Surgeon. He was the son of Joseph
and Eunice Bloomfield, and was the father of Gov. Joseph
Bloomfield. It is thought that his residence was the old
Bloomfield homestead, where Mr. George C. Hance now
lives. His body was placed to rest in the VVoodbridge Pres-
byterian yard, and a stone, with the following inscription,

marks the spot :

" Dr. ]SIoses Bloomfield,

40 years Pbysician and Surgeon
in this Town ; senior Phy-
sician and Surgeon in the Hospitals of
the United States ; Representative in
the provincial Congress and Ge-
neral Assembly ; an npright
Magistrate ; Elder of the Pres-
byterian Church, &c. Born
December the 4th, 1729, died Aut.
the 14th, 1791, in his 63d year."

* Our authority for the story of Eunice liloomfield is chiefly Mrs. D. E. raton. Sea
aiso Bahway Museum, etc. t Gen. Strykei's Koster, p. T2.



THE RKVOLUTIOX. 259^

He was in the hospital at Princeton in 1778, as the follow-
ing minute from the session of the Council of Satety'- of Oct.
2d will show: "Agreed that Dr. Moses Bloomfield be re-
quested to attend the Board to-morrow morning at 8 O'clock
with a list of the Physicians, Surgeons and Surgeons' mates,
attending at Princeton & the number of sick in the hospital
there."

A great deal has been written about tlie capture of Col.
Christopher Billop at his residence near Billop's Point, Staten
Island, on the 33d of June, 1779. Some say that Capt. Na-
thaniel Fitz Randolph was the leader in the affair ;f this is
strenuously denied by others who declare that Capt. Fitz Ran-
dolph had nothing to do witli it.+ As Robert Coddington's
father was a participant in the atfair and a relative of Fitz
Randolph (the two being brothers-in-law), I went to see Rob-
ert, the son, one day to enquire whether lie had heard his
father, the elder Robert, mention the matter. He said that he
had heard the story from his father's lips, an 1 that it was an
unaccountable mistake which ascribed the leadershio in this
undertaking to the Captain. David Coddington was the
chief of the daring party who captured the influential Tory.
Four or five comprised the company. David and Robert
Coddington and Peter Latourctte were among them. It is
said that for a long time watchers were stationed in the steeple
of St. Peter's Church, at Perth Amboy, who kept a sharp
look-out on the Billop mansion across the water. At length
the Colonel was discovered walking through his grounds.
They knew, therefore, that he nnght be foiuid at hcmie. The
night of the 23d was very dark, and tiie adventurers launched
their boat in profound silence, rowing across the harbor with
muffled oars. From a black woman they had obtained the
countersign, with which they expected to pass all the guards
in safety. Having landed, they approached the house ia
" Indian file " and entered it without arousing the enemy^
Col. Billop had gone to bed. The party quickly secured him.
and then hastened to the shore, taking the usual precautions-



* Council of Safety of N. J., p. 286. t Whitehead, p. 95. t See N. Y. Evening Post..
Oct. 18th, 1873. Oapt."Fitz llandolph was maAe a piisouer in the January previous, and waa
yet a priBoner.' It is evident, therefore, that hv was not iu this affair.



26o WOODBRIDGE AND VICINIIV.

against an outcry by their prisoner. One of the men iiad
taken the Colonel's horse, a beautiful animal, from the stable.
But the steed refused to enter the water, whereupon the
soldier shot him. Immediately the boat glided from its
covert, for the British were thoroughly alarmed by the start-
ling report of the gun. The audacious Jerseymen were not
discovered, but arrived safely on the opposite shore.

Billop was sent to the Burlington Jail in November, put in
chains and permitted to subsist on bread and water only, in
retaliation for the cruelties imposed by the British on their
American prisoners — especially on John Leshier and Capt.
Fitz Randolph, who were being harshly treated by their jail-
ers at this time. The following note was written by the New
Jersey Commissary of Prisoners to Col. Billop:

" Elizabethtown, Nov. 6, 1779.
"Sir: Sorry am I that I have been put under the disagree-
able necessity of a treatment towards your person that will
prove so irksome to you; but retaliation is directed, and it
will, I most sincerely hope, be in your power to relieve
yourself from the situation by writing to New York to pro-
cure the relaxation of the sufferings of John Leshier and
Captain Nathaniel Randall.* It seems nothing short of
retaliation will teach Britons to act like men of humanity.
" I am, sir, your most obedient servant,

" Elisha Boudinot,

" Com. Pris."

The Tory Colonel remained in custody at Burlington until
December 26tli, when he was exchanged for an American
officer.

On " Hollister's Corner" has lain, for a long wliile, a rusty
old cun made in Queen Anne's tune. It was used for many
years to celebrate the independence of America. Many a
Fourth of July salvo has resounded from the grim mouth of
this dishonored cannon. But how did the town come into
possession of it .^ Well, that is just what we are going to tell.

Some time about the year 1780 a large British vessel, con-

* His name waE often distorted into "Randall."



THE REVOLUTION. • ,6 1

taining a choice cargo of molasses and other provisions, was
boarded at what was known as Great Bend, not fiirfrom Perth
Amboy, by a party of four or five Jerseymen. Capt. Storey
was the leader. Robert Coddington,* Peter Latourette, and
James Bloomfield (a boy at the time), with one other, perhaps,
whose name is forgotten, constituted Capt. Storey's assaulting
party. They were all good boatmen, although none of thenT,
as far as we know, belonged to the naval service, except John
Storey.f Coddington, Latourette, and Bloomfield are re-
corded among the soldiers of the Revolution in the oflScial
roster of New Jersey.

It was a bitter cold night in Winter when the attack was
made. The ice was thick enough along the shore to sustain
a heavy burden. Capt. Storey approached the British vessel
in a gun-boat in a cautious manner, leaped aboard with his
men, spiked the guns and took prisoners the crew thus uncer-
emoniously disarmed. The surprise was complete. The
groceries were subsequently drawn on the ice to Perth Amboy,
after which the boat was burned to prevent its falling into the
hands of the English. This old gun was taken off as a trophy
and brought to Woodbridge. It was in the keeping of Peter
Latourette for several years, who would bring it out on each
Fourth of July to give it voice in the general jubilation.

Peter lived where Daniel Voorhees now resides. He offered
to give the piece to the township if the latter would construct
a gun carriage for it. This was done, and the deep-toned
thunder of the old cannon afterward welcomed the dawn of
many an Independence day. Now, alas, it is flung aside as a
useless thing. True, it is rusted and no longer available as a
weapon of defence; nor is it safe to salute the stars and stripes
with it, for its once smooth bore, worn out by long service
and much neglect, is full of dangerous cavities. But it is a
sad sight to behold it lying here unnoticed. The long grass
that caresses it to-day seems more tender and pitiful to the
prostrate thunderer than all the people in the town out yonder-
How careless they are of thy fallen majesty, O historic



* His Bon Robert, ut.w living in Woodbridge, is our authority for this narrative-
t Gen. Stryker'8 Roster, ■.,. 872.



262 WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.

treasure! Are they forgetting the men who shed their blood
for freedom in the early days of the Republic, as they have
forgotten thee? Will not some kind hands lift thee up for the
sake of wliat thou hast been, and for the sake of the warriors
who stood around- thee long, long ago? Would that we might
learn that it is dangerous to patriotism to permit its hard-
earned trophies lo lie unhonored in neglected places.

There was an hour a voice of power

Resounded from thy hollow throat ;
Through smoke and flume the message came

To many a heart in rockiiig boat.

Thy word was death, and in a breath

Thy mess ige came of loas and woe ;
And saddened souls since then have told

Of smiUeu ones the waves below.

Now mute thy voice ; and we rejoice
That all tliy deeds of blood are o'er ;

Thy husky throat gives forth no note
To tell of death on ship or shore.

Thy silence cheers the hope of years,
That Christ, the Prince whom we adore,

Will bring the time, Oh, thought sublune !
When nations shall learn war no more.

Several of the Woodbridge family of Inslees distinguished
themselves in the Revolution. John Inslee,* the fother of
Gage, was a soldier in the Continental army, and was made a
prisoner by the Tories and shut up in the old Sugar House at
New York. His farm was devastated and his house burned.

Jonathan Inslee (Robert Coddington's mother's father)
suffered very much for his adherence to the cause of liberty.
Near Isaac Flood's barn, alongside the brook, stood Jonathan's
■dwelling. From this he was taken a prisoner by the Royal-
ists and conveyed to New Brunswick to be lodged in jail.
He was compelled to wade through the river at a ford; and
then, all wet and sliivering, was thrust into a cold room
without being permitted to dry his clothing or exchange it
for more comfortable raiment. His faithful wife followed the



* John lived in a house in the old "pear tree lot " ou the Gage luslee e-state near Pertii
Amboy.



THE REVOLUTION. 2^

merciless Torie. to New Brunswick u.ul begged the jailers to
liberate her husband. After persistent effort her object was
accomplished, and she took the maltreated man home, only to
see him die; for the cruel exposure caused liis death' Febru-
ary 24th, 1777, in his 6ist year.

His brave wife (whose name was Grace Moore before lier
marriage) died October 3d, 1794, aged 67, and they sleep side
by side in the Presbyterian burial-ground, disturbed no more
by war's alarms,

Elizabeth Inslee, who afterward married Joseph Codding-
tou, once came near being mutilated for life by the brutality
of a British soldier. Large bodies of the enemy's troops were
accustomed to collect on Spunk Hill (right above Isaac
Flood's residence), tor drill and parade, presenting a brilliant
appearance with the long line of bayonets glistening in the
sun and the gaudy uniforms of red and gold. But the com-
munity was generally terror-stricken at their approach, and
the sacredness of home was invaded wherever they stacked
their arms, They would enter the houses near by and take
away any (object that struck their fanc}'. Coming uncere-
m(mious!y into Jonathan Inslee's house one day. a soldier
spied a valuable ring on one of Elizabeth's fingers. He strode
toward her and was about to cut off her finger to obtain the
piece of jewelry when an officer suddenly appeared, sharply
rebuked the inhuman fellow, and sent him back to camp.

In this locality lived William Jones, a tailor, and a soldier
in the Continental army. His house was nearly opposite
Spunk Hill, between the residence of Joel Melick, Jr., and
that of Robert Coddington. It has been destroyed. Mr.
Jones told Abel V. Shotwell, of Rahway, that his first duty»
on entering the army, was to make a coat for (^apt. William
Piatt, who fought under Gen. St. Clair.

We present a list of the Woodbridge ''Continentals" and
militia of the Revolution, so far as we have been able to
gather the names — omitting those already noticed :



Archibald Auger, sf)metimes spelled Eager.
Ellis Barron, a Captain of ist Regiment of Middlesex, com-
missioned January loth, 1776.



264 WOODBRIDGF. AND VICINITY.

Shotwell Bishop, grandfather of Mr. Shotwell B. Frazee.

He lived near James R. Potter's at Short Hills.
James Bloomfield (alluded to on page 261 of this Chapter),

resided in Woodbridge, b'ut died in Milton,
EzEKiEL Bloomfield, father of Wni. Bloomfield, who is still

living in Rahvvay.
Robert Burwell belonged to Capt. Asher Fitz Randolph's

company. His residence was in Rahway Neck, near

George Brown's.
Jonathan Bloomfield.

Nathan Bloomfield resided, probably, near Bonhamtown.
Thomas Bloomfield, Sr., called " Continental Tommy," was

the father of David Bloomfield who lives near Jotham

Coddington's place of residence.
Thomas Bloomfield, Jr., is said to have been imprisoned in

the Jersey Prison Ship on one occasion during the

war. He died where L. M. Perkins now resides.
Benjamin Brown, father of Warren Brown, lived on the

Woodbridge Neck.
Dugald Campbell lived near Oak Tree; died in 1809, aged

77. Buried at Metuchen.

Joseph Crowell.

Kelsy Cutter died in Woodbridge March 7th, 1798, aged 42.

Samuel Cutter was in several of the boat expeditions made

by Capt. John Storey, and was one ot his favorites.*
Stephen Cutter and Ford Cutter, see next Chapter.

Morris De Camp, Sergeant in Sheldon's Light Dragoons.

He was wounded on Staten Island on the 23d of

August, 1777.
Joseph Dunham belonged to Capt. Asher F. Randolph's

company.
James Edgar and William Edgar.
Ambrose Elston lived in Rahway and was a Middlesex

County Judge.
Crowell Evans.
Capt. Asher Fitz Randolph lived at or near the old Blazing

Star. He did effective service with his excellent com-

* See •■ Cutter Family," i\ 98.



THE REVOLUTION. 265

pany during the war. At the age of 62 years he died,
April i6th, 1817, and was buried in the Woodbridge



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 22 of 34)