Affiliate Link

Van Buskirk’s Visit to Jersey – Justice Hedden

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 27.—Last Tuesday night, a party of the enemy, consisting of about three hundred infantry, under the command of Colonel Van Buskirk, of the new levies, and about sixty dragoons, said to be under the command of Captain Steward, of the seventeenth light dragoons, with several refugees—the whole in number nearly four hundred—crossed on the ice from Staten Island to Trembly’s Point, about three miles from Elizabethtown. From thence they were conducted by Cornelius Hetfield, Job Hetfield, and Smith Hetfield, their principal guides, by the nearest and most retired route into Elizabethtown. They entered the town in two divisions, before the alarm was sounded. As soon as the troops that were in the town (consisting of about sixty men) perceived their danger, they retreated; however, they took a major who was commandant of the place, two or three captains that lodged in the town that night, and a few troops. They then set fire to the Presbyterian meeting and court house, which were consumed; plundered, insulted, and took off some of the inhabitants, and retreated, with great precipitation, by the way of De Hart’s Point, whose house they likewise burned.

The same night another party of the enemy, consisting of drafts from the different regiments stationed in New York, passed over the North River in sleighs, to Powle’s Hook; from thence through Bergen, the nearest way to Newark. They entered the town in three divisions, and proceeded to the academy, where they surprised and took about fifteen men, being all the troops that were on duty in the town—a lieutenant, notwithstanding he was twice a prisoner with the enemy, by his vigilance, effected his escape. They then set fire to the academy, which they consumed, during which time a party was detached to several of the inhabitants’ houses, which they rifled of the most valuable effects; that which was not portable they destroyed. They took off Justice Hedden and Robert Neil, Jun., two of the inhabitants. The former gentleman was taken out of his bed, and without any of his clothes on except his shirt and a pair of stockings, carried off, notwithstanding the strongest solicitations of Mrs. Hedden to the officers, for permission for her husband to dress himself. She received two wounds with a bayonet, one in the face, the other in the breast.

They continued in town about fifteen or eighteen minutes. A few militia being hastily collected, pursued their rear, by which means five of the enemy fell into their hands. Two of them died a short time after from the intense cold. Justice Hedden is so frost-bitten, that it is thought he will lose both his legs.1

1 New Jersey Journal, February 2.