The campaign Journal of a Militiaman

Published in the Princeton Standard, May 1,8,15, 1863- author uncertain, but believed to be William Churchill Houston, a teacher at the College of NJ (Princeton University) from 1768 to 1783. A member of the Provincial Congress (1776), Council of Safety (1778), and Continental Congress (1779-1781)


[November 29, 1776-June 30, 1777]

On the 29th of November, 1776 New Jersey College long the peaceful seat of science and haunt of the Muses was visited with the melancholoy tidings of the approach of the enemy.
This alarmed our fears and gave us reason to believe we must soon bid adieu to our peaceful Departments and break off in the midst of our delightful studies; nor were we long held in suspense, our worthy President deeply affected at this solemn scene entered the Hall where the students were collected, and in a very affecting manner informed us of the improbability of continuing there longer in peace; and after giving us several suitable instructions and much good advice very affectionately bade us farewell. Solemnity and distress appeared almost in every countenance. Several students that had come 5 and 600 miles, and just got settled in College, were now obliged under every disadvantage to return with their effects or leave them behind, which several through the impossibility of getting a carriage at so confused a time were obliged to do, and lost their all....

Wednesday Dec[ember] 18th I went over the River to join Longstreets Company, found the Company and came back over the River with them the next Day, though I had not joined. The sun set just as we marched from the River after crossing, I marched with them till some time after dark, then took the road to Johnsons, missed my way some miles, got home next day about ten in the morning. Next day went to near Princeton within 1/2 a mile of the Enemy got a Gun and Accoutrements. As it was bad traveling, I sprained my ankle this day.
Next day Sunday [ December 22], I came back to Amwell, intending on Monday to go over the River. But as the Amwell Militia were at this time coming back over River, I through persuasion staid and enlisted in the Amwell Battallion. Dec. 24th Went off immediately with the scouting Party Capt. Houston's. Took our Lodgings in the neighborhood. My ankle was very painful and the bottoms of my feet blistered so as some times while walking to make me cry out....

Next morning [January 1, 1777] we marched to Penny Town drew Rations and marched some miles further towards Trenton, and took Lodgings that night. Set out early next morning, towards Trenton, till sun 1/2 an hour high when we heard the Engagement begin towards Princeton,{actually, on January 3rd, 1777} we then immediately marched back to Penny Town waiting some time for Intelligence. Made two or three movements and lay in wait some time in the woods, for the Enemy; but they having got intelligence of us by some Tory, returned another road, and so escaped us, we then came to Levy Hart's took Lodgings, and cooked provisions. I laid about 3 hours with my blankets on cords. At 3 o'clock, set out for Penny Town, after a round about march we came to the field where the Battle was fought. I had a most dismal prospect of a number of pale mangled corpses, lying in the mud and blood. I felt gloomy at the awful scene. Returned in a rough tedious march to Hopewell. Such unpleasant marching occasioned my ankle again to swell and grow painflll....[see the Battle of Princeton]

Staid here in peace till Monday morning [January 20] we then received an Alarm and were ordered to march to Boundbrook, we arrived there between 11 and 12, then hearing that the Enemy was plundering at Millstone, we immediately marched for that place, being joined by a considerable body at Boundbrook we marched on till we passed Raritan Bridge , hearing several Cannon fired, while on the way. After crossing the Bridge, the Battallion I was in was taken off for the left wing, I crossed Millstone, some distance below the Bridge, wading through the water, more than knee deep. We immediately marched towards the road, and fired upon the Baggage Guard, who were retreated that way. They immediately left horses wagons and plunder, and returned with the greatest precipitation. The main body of the Enemy lay just over south of the Bridge . Before we crossed the River below, our main Body began the Attack at the Bridge with one Field piece and made the Enemy give way. They continued their fire upon the Enemy some time. Our wing, after driving the Baggage Guard, pursued on and flanked the Enemy. After a short engagement, finding ourselves greatly overpowered with numbers, we receivecl General Orders to retreat, having had 1 man killed and 2 wounded. and we had taken 2 of the Enemy prisoners. We then retreated back to the River, lest our retreat should be cut off. But finding the Enemy did not pursue, we rallied again, with as many of our men as we could collect, and marched on towards the Enemy the second time; but when we came in sight of them, they got possession of an eminence in the End of a clear Field, with one or more Field pieces and poured down theil Grape shot upon us briskly. Then finding it in vain to attack them with our little Body, under so great a disadvantage, we immediately retreated back and most of our men went over the River up into a clear field, to where our main Body had bv this time collected....[see the Battle of Millstone]

Sunday, Jan. 26th in the afternoon, we were alarmed and marched down to Raritan Bridge, then hearing the Alarm was false, we marched back again to Quarters. The cause of this Alarm was that some of our out Guard had fired upon a small party of Hessians, who had come ('tis thought) to disturb them. After this Alarm we remained quiet in our Quarters till Wednesday Feb. 5th, having no other duty to attend but the General's and the Ammunition Guard. This night we were ordered to march at 11 o'clock with the rest of Gen. Dikeson's Brigade and went within 1/2 mile of the Enemy's Quarters. The roads were now excessively muddy, so that we were over Shoes in mud and water; but towards morning it grew very cold and froze very hard. The design of this march was to take off the horses, wagons, fat Cattle and Sheep from the inhabitants to prevent the Enemy from getting any advantage of them. We got off a quantity of these Articles, and marched back (the road being now frozen hard) to Head Quarters. When we got home most of us were wearied and stiff, and our feet sore. We took some refreshments and rested about 2 hours, I being very weary and drowsy, had lain down and got in a sound sleep, when we were again alarmed to go and meet the Enemy, who were advancing towards Raritan. We immediately marched down to Raritan Bridge and there waited till our light horse came in, who brought us word that the Enemy had been up as far as Covenhoven's, had taken and destroyed a great quantity of grain and hay, drove off a great number of Cattle and were gone back. We then all came back to Quarters, and rested in peace that night....

This day June 19th we received Orders to march down to the lines. We marched at Sunrise, and took Quarters this night, below Morristown; Next day, came in to Bullion's Tavern, where we took Quarters, waiting for Orders. The Enemy had, some days before this, removed from Brunswick to Millstone, near the Court house, and it was thought would make an attempt for Philadelphia; This roused the Militia of all the neighbouring counties, and they turned out, with such spirit as will do them honor to the latest ages. Never did the Jerseys appear more universally unanimous to oppose the Enemy; they turned out Old and young, great and small. Rich and poor; Scarcely a man that could carry a musket was left at home. This soon struck a panic into the Enemy, for they could scarcely stir from their Camp, but they were cut off. They then fled with the greatest haste to Brunswick; but the Militia pursued them so closely and so warmly, that they made no stay here. On Sunday morning June 22nd they were driven out of the Town, and chased near to Amboy by the spirited Militia in conjunction with a small party of the English Troops. The Enemy, when they left Millstone and Brunswick, burnt several houses, strangled almost to death 2 or 3 women, and behaved in the most cruel, barbarous manner After the Enemy were driven from Brunswick, our Army took possession of the Town, and such of the Militia as were called out upon this Alarm, were discharged. Wednesday, June 25th part of Militia at Bullion's Tavern were discharged and part ordered to march next day for Pompton, which they did. Thursday, June 26th, the Enemy came out with their whole Body from Amboy and proceeded to Westfield , where they plundered and destroyed every thing before them, and distressed the Inhabitants in a manner before unheard of, but before they returned to Amboy numbers of them were cut off by part of our Army, and some Militia. They returned to Amboy, and on Monday Evening June the 30th 1777, they all left Amboy and went to Staten Island.





Back to the Main page:

New Jersey during the Revolution

list of Site pages

I recommend also Captain John Outwater's Co. of Bergen county Militia web page.


Web pages written and created by Glenn Valis. last revision 12/20/01. All rights reserved