A History of the 6th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers
The smallest of all the battalions of New Jersey Volunteers, but possibly the best led and disciplined, this unit started its life in early December, 1776 when Sir William HOWE led the British army into Trenton. The new commander of this three company unit would be a diminutive Trenton lawyer by the name of Issac ALLEN. Allen was a likeable but thoroughly organized and efficient officer, as his battalion would testify by having the smallest rate of non-battle casualties and highest rate of uniformity and functioning weapons.
The battalion drew their recruits primarily from the Hunterdon County area, drawing from such places as Trenton and Princeton. Washington’s attack on these places probably hurt none of the battalions more than the 6th, not only taking away their recruiting area but also carrying away two of their warrant captains, Peter CAMPBELL and Charles HARRISON.
The battalion also suffered when it lost its second in command, Major Richard Witham STOCKTON on 18 February 1777. STOCKTON commanded a mixed force drawn from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 6th battalions operating out of Bennet’s Neck when he was attacked and overwhelmed, losing several men killed and about sixty officers and men made prisoner. STOCKTON was humiliated as he and his men were marched in irons through the streets of Philadelphia. He and his men would languish, almost forgotten, for almost two years before the survivors were exchanged. While a prisoner he was retired upon half pay and seconded, no vacancy then being available.
With the evacuation of New Jersey, the 6th battalion set up quarters on Staten Island, where they played an important part in Sullivan’s raid on 22 August 1777. Lieut. Colonel ALLEN was one of the few officers not surprised that day, marching his men to some old earthworks and defying all demands of surrender. The battalion was foremost in the pursuit of the retreating Continentals, including a bayonet charge on their rearguard, which resulted in the loss of several men, amongst them Major John BARNES, who had stepped in to replace Major STOCKTON on his being captured. For a small unit, they were paying a heavy percentage in losses.
This did not deter them however from taking the field three weeks later in Sir Henry CLINTON’s grand forage through Bergen County. The men of the 6th were once again in the lead and took the brunt of the casualties suffered by the NJV. Although their ranks were small, no one could question their bravery.
Among the members of this battalion was Captain Joseph LEE, a recent emigrant from England who managed an ironworks in Hunterdon. Prior to joining the NJV, LEE had defied threats of jail as he maintained his loyalty at the head of his ironworkers.
One officer with prior military experience was Lieutenant John HATTON, son of a wealthy South Jersey Loyalist of the same name. HATTON had fled in July 1776 to the British in Virginia, where he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment under Lord DUNMORE. This corps was disbanded on Staten Island in the fall of 1776, upon which HATTON was most likely recommended for a vacancy in the NJV.
For never coming close to completing their establishment, the 6th battalion suffered the same fate as the 5th in being drafted, but this time into the 3rd. As the 3rd battalion had a major but no lieutenant colonel and the 6th had the reverse, there was no power struggle as to who should command, ALLEN assuming that position on 25 April 1778.
The officers and men would continue on in the “new” 3rd battalion. John HATTON would continue to serve as lieutenant through the end of the war and after a retirement of several years after the peace, join the army once more as an officer in the 23rd Regiment of Foot or Royal Welsh Fusiliers. LEE would be captured at some point in 1779 and be exchanged at New York City early in 1781. He became the recruiting officer for the battalion in that city where he languished on this unsuccessful detail for the remainder of the war.
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