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British Account of the Operations in Jersey – British Account of Mrs. Caldwell’s Death

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

A British officer gives the following account of the recent operations of the royal army in New Jersey:—”On Tuesday night, (6th,) the British troops made their first landing upon Elizabethtown meadows, and were crossed over by divisions in succession from Staten Island, with some light artillery, taking their route by Elizabethtown and Connecticut Farms, towards Springfield.

“Dayton’s regiment receiving intimation of our approach, retired with precipitation, as did also the other Jersey regiments which compose Maxwell’s brigade, from their position near Camp’s. The militia of the country, although incapable of making any fixed resistance, did their utmost to incommode the troops upon their march; and collecting from different quarters, they assembled in some force in the vicinity of Springfield, forming a junction with the Jersey brigade at that place; and it is said that in the course of Wednesday, the seventh instant, they were supported by another brigade detached from Morristown.

“The troops halted upon some heights beyond Connecticut Farms, where they were ordered to take post till such time as the remainder of the artillery, the provision and other wagons, with the corps which brought up the rear, joined the army. From this circumstance it is probable the rebels conceived that whatever might have been the original plan, it was intended to penetrate no farther. Increasing in numbers, they used every exertion in their power, in flying parties, to fire upon the advanced pickets; and during the course of the day they made different attacks upon a body of Jagers, which was advanced upon the Springfield road. This produced much firing upon both sides.

“During the course of the evening, it is reported that information was received from the southward, which rendered it expedient to defer the object in agitation; and about two hours afterwards the troops returned towards Elizabethtown, without a single shot being fired, taking post upon the heights near the Point.

“On Thursday the eighth instant, the rebels advanced in some force to Elizabethtown, and made an attack upon the twenty-second regiment, which was posted some little distance in front of the line. This regiment was ordered to fall back, and the rebels conceiving it was the rear guard of the army, they advanced with some rapidity, but were soon checked, and retired with precipitation.

“The loss sustained during the course of this service is inconsiderable; nor can that of the rebels be determined, as they conceal it.

“Whilst the troops were advancing to Connecticut Farms, the rebels fired out of the houses, agreeable to their usual practice, from which circumstance Mrs. Caldwell had the misfortune to be shot by a random ball. What heightens the singularity of this lady’s fate is, that upon inquiry, it appears beyond a doubt that the shot was fired by the rebels themselves, as it entered the side of the house from their direction, and lodged in the wall nearest to the troops, when advancing. The manner in which the rebels aggravate this unfortunate affair in their publications, is of a piece with their uniform conduct—plausible, but fallacious; nor is it to be wondered at, if a rebellion which originated in falsehood, is prosecuted with deceit. The soldiery received with smiles one moment, and the following instant butchered (for in a military view it merits no other name) by a set of people, who, by their clothing and appointments, cannot be distinguished from the quiet inhabitants of the country, may well be supposed to be exasperated; nor need we be surprised at their using the torch to dwellings which they find hourly occupied by armed men, who either want the generosity or the spirit to close the present unhappy contest by a manly, open, soldier-like decorum. Whatever may be the humane wishes of the commanders, human nature at times steps over the barrier of discipline, and men of judgment and wisdom, in the great scale of political reasoning, do not wonder at occurrences which their private feelings shrink at; such are the effects of intestine divisions. Miserable is the fate of that country which is the theatre of such a quarrel; and accursed is the man, or the set of men, who, from motives of private lucre or inordinate ambition, have fanned a flame which, if they were willing, they are now, perhaps, unable to extinguish.”1


1 Rivington’s Gazette, June 21.