After Washington's evacuation of Fort Lee and northern Jersey in November of 1776, many of those who had refused loyalty were arrested and imprisoned in New York. Reverend Dirck Romeyn, who had replaced Goetschius earlier in the year, capture when British troops or Tories carried off and de: contents of his parsonage. Subsequently, the "rebel parson," as he was called, moved his family to New Paltz, New York.32 Continued pillaging and foraging expeditions by both loyalist and troops made more pressing the need for protection of private property. Organization was impossible as long as the county remained under loyalist control. Indeed, when American General Heath occupied Hackensack in mid-December 1776, he noted that the local Whigs were reluctant to show any sign of joy and feared even to provide useful military information.33
The Whig condition improved when British soldiers, the power behind the loyalist presence, were evacuated from New Jersey following the American victories at Trenton and Princeton in December of 1776 and January of 1777. Now the Tory families became the object of looting mobs seeking retaliation. In addition, families with grudges sought revenge against the loyalists for the injuries they had received.34 Hundreds of Tories began to flee Bergen County for the relative safety of British-occupied New York. The county, which had been a loyalist stronghold, became a no man's land held by neither British nor colonial forces. Loyalist regiments concentrated in the southeastern part of the county near the British Army in New York, while Washington headquartered at Morristown to maintain control over the areas west of the Passaic River. Both opposing forces contented themselves with foraging among Dutch farmers, seizing "traitors" and occasionally skirmishing one another. By 1780, the flight of refugee Dutch farmers had reached such proportions that the Classis of the Dutch Reformed Church noted the lamentable condition of its congregations.35 The Whigs, having no haven to which to flee, were compelled to organize for their own protection.
David R. Bogert, who was fifteen when he joined Outwater's militia company, Mentions in his pension affidavit that after Washington's evacuation of the county, "a considerable number of the people of Hackensack,...were ... formed under the command of Colonel Buskirk" - the Tory colonel. However,
"when the Hessians were taken at Trenton, a spirit of resistance seemed to revive amongst the peoples, a Company was then formed at Hackensack out of the inhabitants who remained true to Whig principles .... the company chose the Officers of John Outwater ... Captain, Adam Boyd Lieut, Abraham Allen Ensign."36This company was one of the twenty-five which had been authorized by act of the State Assembly in 1776 to form a Bergen County regement.37 Although Theunis Dey was elected as regimental commander, he was considered too valuable to the operations of state government to risk a battlefield command. Major John Mauirtius Goetschius commanded eastern Bergen County.38 Since it is mot known when in 1776 Outwater's company was authorized to form, and given the emotional chaos of the county in late 1776, it is quite possible, according to Bogert's story, that the unit was not mustered until early 1777.
Companies like Outwater's were composed of farmers recruited in each locality and commanded by a local officer. While theoretically they were a permanent force, hierarchically arranged, the reality was quite different. For example, Outwater's company was charged with patrolling the Hackensack River to guard against enemy raids from Tory posts in Paulus Hook, to halt illicit trade with New York, and to capture deserters.39 In the event of an enemy advance, his company was supposed to join with other Bergen units under the command of Colonel Dey. This did not always happen. Often Outwater's company would refuse an order which would involve it in any action outside its immediate locality.40 Similarly, the company was only technically permanent. There is much evidence to suggest that Outwater's company -- like many others in Bergen County -- was really only a part-time force.41
Hackensack's economic importance as a center of trade with New York made it a logical base for Outwater's company. Throughout the war, Bergen County trade with British authorities in New York continued unabated. Not only was the occupational army a sure market, but British buyers paid in gold. From 1777 on, shops in Bergen contained British goods.42 In Hackensack, Outwater was in a position to halt such activity by patrolling banks on the Hackensack River. At times, this met with success, as it did in the fall of 1780. Outwater, Abraham Vanderbeek and Elias Brevoost caught "Abraham Kip and his wench and another woman loaded with honey, butter and mutton which they were conveying to the enemy in the city of New York ..."43 The woman told Outwater about an ox that was tied to a tree in the Cedar Swamp, waiting to be turned over to the enemy. These goods were taken to the Justice of the Peace, Jacob Terhune, in Hackensack and were confiscated and turned over to the three militiamen as a reward.
The county's dependence on New York was, of course, reciprocal. The nearest and richest source of food and firewood necessary to maintain a large army in New York was across the Hudson in Bergen County. But the militias' operation impeded this flow of goods and forced the British to resort to foraging. Detachments of hundreds and often several thousand British troops scoured Bergen County farms for livestock and produce, taking from rebel and loyalist alike. For example, in September 1777, Sir Henry Clinton sent a 2,000 man foraging expedition into the county and seized 400 cattle, 400 sheep and some horses.44
The British also relied on loyalist forces to forage in New Jersey. Van Buskirk's battalion of New Jersey volunteers, mostly recruited from the Hackensack area, often foraged in small bands, burning buildings and arresting suspected rebels. John Lozier45 of Outwater's company recalled a typical foraging expedition which occurred in the spring of 1781:
The British had come up the Hackensack River with a Gun Boat, had plundered the inhabitants and carried off about twenty head of cattle---the cattle was retaken, the British had a loss of seven men killed and one prisoner.46
Small loyalist foraging bands usually operated out of blockhouses; wooden fortifications built along rivers. These blockhouses allowed the loyalists to continue their foraging operations throughout the revolutionary period. One blockhouse, built on Brower's Hill, an area near New Bridge (River Edge), north of Hackensack, was unsuccessfully attacked in 1778 by Outwater's militia operating under the command of General Wayne's army.47 A more famous blockhouse was built at Bull’s Ferry (North Bergen) , along the Hudson River and was the object of several raids prior to the celebrated attack of July 1780. With the approval of General Washington, General Wayne's forces attacked the blockhouse in 1780; an expedition probably joined by Outwater's men. This attack was a failure.48
Thus in Hackensack, John Outwater had to content himself with harassing loyalist trade and foraging operations. As the main roads led to Hackensack, the fight was often brought to Outwater. One militiaman noted that duty was frustrating because it was limited to defensive operations. Beginning in 1777, the loyalists attacked regularly from Paulus Hook and Hoboken. These bases were so close to British lines that they were immune from counterattack. Yet, Bergen farmers had to defend everything within a twenty-five mile radius.49 Often, the militia could do little but retreat against superior force. The men would return to "desolate homes, generally without finding anything, left to Subsist upon.50
Despite the militia's general inability to expel the British or to put a halt to trade and foraging, some men were attracted to militia companies for personal gain. As has already been noted, a spoils system had been introduced early in the struggle. Outwater militiaman, Abraham Vanderbeek, provides us with numerous examples of this spoils system. Although joining the company in January of 1780, "…for want of employment and the good of his Country,"51 Vanderbeek managed to combine service to his country with material reward. In one instance, both he and Outwater captured a man attempting to deliver six horses to the British Army in New York; in another, Vanderbeek discovered a boat containing twelve live sheep; a cargo of salt was also seized by Vanderbeek and others. Each time the captured goods were condemned by Justice of the Peace Terhune and were rewarded to the captors.52
Outwater, himself, was able to capitalize on his position as militia commander. In addition to receiving a part of the spoils, he also received fees for posting bond for accused loyalists.53 Later, his election to the New Jersey Assembly in 197754 may have influenced his subsequent selection as a surveyor of confiscated Tory property. The state legislature sought to inhibit Tory sympathizers by confiscating all properties held by those who had aided the British between April 19, 1775 and October 4, 1776, or who had failed to take the loyalty oath prior to December 11, 1778. Many of these confiscated properties were immediately sold and the monies used to pay off claims against confiscated estates. Nonetheless, at war's end a large number of farms remained under the legislature's nominal control. Records of which lands had been repurchased, which had been reclaimed, and which were still unclaimed were, however, both partial and confused. To settle these issues, the legislature appointed land surveyors to map these areas under dispute and thus to prepare them for sale. Outwater was one of those assigned to survey these remaining properties,55 giving him an obvious advantage over other potential buyers. From 1772-1813, he was able to purchase large tracts along his property in Moonachie.56
The war, for John Outwater, thus brought both direct and indirect material benefits. It should be noted that most of the confiscated property in Bergen County was sold undivided and did not, as some have argued, redistribute land more equitably or benefit the poorer landowner in the county. The incidence of confiscation in Bergen County was the highest in the State. Revenues from the sale of these properties were twenty-five percent of the total of such incomes in the state.57
In discussing the material benefits gained by the Bergen County militiaman, several points need to be emphasized. First, militia service was not salaried and most militiamen did not expect to be paid. The major motivation for service appears to have been the protection of local properties. The informal nature of this service naturally precluded careful records of personnel or of activity. Thus, when the new Federal Congress authorized pensions for Revolutionary War veterans, many militiamen had little proof of having served.58 Second, the eighteenth century mind saw nothing immoral about using position for personal benefit, especially when in unsalaried public service.59 This was acknowledged by the Federal Government in its request that all pensioners list money and goods received as a result of service. The militiamen was not reimbursed for the time spent in guard houses and on patrol. Both his farm and his family were neglected. It was extremely rare when a grateful public would request the legislature to award money for the capture of a wanted Tory, or for aid in preventing a terrorist attack. 60 this is not to condone the militiamen turned mercenary, but to distinguish between them and the dedicated Whig.
Another function of a militia was law enforcement. Adam Boyd, Outwater's lieutenant, was elected sheriff of the county in 1777.61 This election consequently involved Outwater's militia in formal law enforcement. Boyd's immediate responsibilities were to feed prisoners, carry out death sentences and to recruit agents to gather intelligence behind enemy lines.62 Occasionally, the militia was called out to satisfy larger needs. In early December of 1779, those Tories who had enlisted in the British Army during the 1776 invasion attempted to return to their homes. Boyd, probably with militia help, arrested eleven of these fourteen people for treason.63 Outwater’s company guarded the county jail and prisoners against rescue of felons scheduled for execution. The militia was also used at least once to maintain the peace among local citizens and continental troops.64
An important function of the militia was to defend against loyalist raids. Bergen County was often subjected to violent raids by loyalist troops, most notably those under Van Buskirk. These raids were of a purely punitive nature; to murder, loot and destroy. On the surface, such raids appear as wanton acts, especially since the rare raid by Bergen Whigs never equaled the former in viciousness. When examined more closely however, one may find, between loyalist and rebel, a deeper motivation than political struggle--a continuation of Coetus-Conferentie antagonisms.
At the outbreak of the war, the Coetus-Conferentie struggle in the Dutch Reformed Church was still unresolved. The congregations remained split, each retaining a minister of its own. Many of the liberal-minded Coetus sided with the Whigs, while the Conferentie chose to identify with the loyalist position. Thus, underlying the political struggle was a more passionate religious belligerency. For Van Buskirk and other loyalists, the war provided opportunities for vengeance that would not have been possible in peace time.
Because the churches at Hackensack and Schraalenburgh were used by both Coetus and Conferentie congregations, those buildings were spared destruction by Tory mobs--a fate not commonly shared by other churches throughout the state. Instead, Conferentie hatred was expressed in Hackensack by attacks on a prominent Whig minister, Reverend Dirck Romeyn. In 1777. his Parsonage was looted and his family was forced to flee to safety. In 1780, several loyalists attempted to murder the parson, but were prevented from doing so by two armed men who were accompanying Romeyn. It would have pleased many local loyalists to see Romeyn and his followers arrested and put into British prisons.65 In March of 1780 this wish came near to success.
Sir Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces, had long disapproved of these religiously motivated raids and had rebuked loyalist militia commanders for their destruction of churches instead of military targets. Nevertheless, Tories awaited an opportunity to conduct a major operation against the Whigs in Bergen County. This opportunity was provided by Sir Henry's departure in early 1780 for Charlestown. With the approval of Clinton's second in command, General Kyphausen, the loyalists now prepared their plans of attack.
In the early morning hours of March 23, four hundred British, Hessian and loyalist soldiers marched through Hackensack smashing windows, and burning and looting homes designated by Tory guides.66 Outwater's men were asleep when the attack began and could do little to prevent it. Many buildings were set on fire, but only the court house and two homes were completely destroyed. Fifty or sixty men were taken prisoner by the enemy--nearly every grown man. One of the major targets, Rev. Romeyn, escaped capture by hiding on a beam behind the chimney in the attic of his parsonage. After the enemy had left, he was able to put out the fire they had set and thus prevented damage to his home.67
Although this was the most damaging of Tory raids, many others followed a similar pattern. Homes and farms were burned, valuables were confiscated as booty, women were raped and beaten, and men were carried off to prison terms or execution. Against such raids, Outwater's men could do little.
When the war ended, the members of the county militia returned to their farms, hoping for a return to pre-war prosperity. Former Bergen County leaders now participated in the establishment of new government at all levels.68 Outwater, too, continued his public service. As a New Jersey Assemblyman, he co-sponsored an amendment to the 1797 election law which continued the right of women to vote in state and municipal elections.69 The last election won by Outwater for the Assembly was in 1815.70 Other post war offices held by Outwater were: Bergen County Freeholder (1786); Bergen County Justice (1791-1794); Council Member, Village of Hackensack (1796-1807); and Justice of the Court of Common Pleas (1800).71
John Outwater died on May 18, 182372 at 76 years of age. Near his grave stands a small monument listing his accomplishments in life.
Thus, it was economic and geographic closeness to New York which caused an outpouring of loyalism in Bergen County. These two factors predetermined the county's role as a foraging base for the enemy which contained rich farmlands and a haven for loyalist troops. The pre-war Coetus-Conferentie struggle in the Dutch Reformed Church provided a pretext for religious civil war, creating a viciousness between Whig and Tory unforeseen before the war. The Bergen County militiaman was helpless in combating these conditions; indeed, Outwater confined himself to harassing the enemy and to stopping as much trade with the enemy as possible. Even with Headquarters in Hackensack, east Bergen's most strategic town, Outwater's company was largely ineffective in halting enemy, raids and in stopping illicit trade. Yet, determined men like these helped build a post war society equal in stature to the prosperous colonial age.
For more information about Captain John Outwater and what is being done today to bring alive the history of our past in New Jersey during the Revolution of 1776. Visit Captain John Outwater's Company of Militia!
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32. Romeyn, p. 62-64.
33. Westervelt, p. 107.
34. Robert M. Calhoun, The Loyalists in the American Revolution: 1760-1781 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973), 367.
35. Taylor, p. 187.
36. Military Pension Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, #W3502 (David R. Bogert). Originals in the National Archives, Washington, DC; copies at the Johnson Library in Hackensack, NJ.
37. Clayton, p. 71.
38. Leiby, Revolutionary War, p. 127.
39. Patrols from Outwater's company regularly began in Hackensack and went through such modern-day towns as River Edge, Little Ferry, Hasbrouck Heights, Moonachie, Englewood, Tenefly and Closter. Military Pension records, #W3502 (David R. Bogert).
40. In 1777, 2,000 British troops marched through Hackensack. Bogert claims his company refused to join Colonel Dey's forces. Military Pension Records, #W3502 (David R. Bogert).
41. At least one captain in Bergen County divided his into four groups, each of which would serve only one week a month. In this way the men were normally able to manage their properties three weeks out of every four. Military pension records, #R974 (Cornelius Board).
42. Keesey, p. 23.
43. Military pension records, #S113O (Abraham Vanderbeek).
44. Westervelt, p. 108.
45. Adrian C. Leiby correctly argued the existence of two John Loziers (Leiby, Revolutionary War, p. 144n). one was born in Hackensack and another lived at Pompton. Yet, only the pension affidavit for the Pompton Lozier was found. Apparently, the Hackensack Lozier was a member of Major Goetchius' Bergen County Rangers and was involved in the killing of a loyalist merchant who was trying to escape. Lozier and his partner were captured by the Tories and both were imprisoned until Washington secured their release (Leiby, Revolutionary War, p. 46-49.). Lozier was again seized with David R. Bogert and Ensign Terhune, the latter members of Outwater's company, while on patrol. Thus it appears that the Hackensack Lozier may have been a member of Outwater's company. The affidavit of the Pompton Lozier shows that he was wounded in the 1781 Moonachie skirmish and that he served under Outwater. Military Pension Records, #W20525 (John Lozier).
46. Military Pension Records, #W20525 (John Lozier).
47. Military Pension Records, #S6575 (Abraham D. Banta).
48. On the night of May 27, 1780, Ensign Terhune and nineteen of Outwater's militiamen, joined by thirty militiamen from the Closter area, marched to Bull's Ferry with the intention of intention of destroying this foraging base. They abandoned this goal, but not before encountering a loyalist scouting party. The infamous Tory "John the Regular"--John Berry--was killed in the ensuing skirmish. Leiby, Revolutionary War, p. 253-57.
49. Military pension records, #R974 (Cornelius D. Board).
50. Military Pension Records, #R2860 (David R. Demarest).
51. Military Pension records #Sll3O (Abraham Vanderbeek).
52. Military Pension records, #Sll3O (Abraham Vanderbeek).
53. Outwater posted 330 pounds for Garret Hopper, an accused loyalist, in November of 1777. In 1786, Outwater received a special act from the New Jersey legislature to reimburse him for a defaulted bond. Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, Minutes of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, 1777 (Jersey City: John L. Lyon. 1872), p. 89 . Keesey, p. 188-89.
54. New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, New Jersey. "Memoirs of Dr. Peter Wilson", manuscript group 318.
55. Keesey, p. 154-83, et passim.
56. Bergen County Deed and Mortgage Vault, Book I, #51, 52, 54, 55, 57, 59, 91.
57. Due to its large Tory population, the revenues from confiscated property in Bergen County were much higher than elsewhere in New Jersey. Keesey, p. 220-23.
58. Most, like David R. Bogert, never asked for and never received discharge papers. He did not think they were necessary. Military Pension Records #W3502 (David Bogert).
59. J. H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Penguin Books, 1963), p. 45. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 338. It may have been to remedy this situation that Outwater's company was commissioned as one of two companies of state militia in 1780. In December of that year, Representative Peter Wilson, from Hackensack, used his influence in the state legislature to assure the designation of Outwater's company as the First Company, Bergen County State Troops, a salaried commission. New Jersey Historical Society, manuscript group 318. Papers of Peter Wilson, letter from Trenton dated December 11, 1780.
60. The only known occurrence of an official reward for Bergen County troops was in 1780, when several residents requested that a $1,000 reward be granted to Captain Blanch's company. Blanch's company was instrumental in the capture of John Berry during an attempted raid on the Bull's Ferry Blockhouse on May 27, 1780. Keesey, p. 20.
61. New Jersey Historical Society, manuscript group #318. "Memoirs of Dr. Peter Wilson."
62. Leiby, Revolutionary War, p. 156.
63. The captives were released by General Wayne who thought it better to encourage enemy dissertion. Leiby, Revolutionary War, P. 225.
64. In late 1777, or early 1778 recounts David Bogert, Major Clough, of Colonel Baylor's Dragoons "pressed a quantity of grain at the house of a farmer named Berry for the use of the regiments and leave to the Sheriff to execute writ. The Sheriff called out the Posse, when the regiment of militia assembled and our company was also called to assist the Sheriff, but good men in the place interfered and the Major allowed the writ to be served." Military Pension Records, #W3502 (David R. Bogert).
65. Leiby, Revolutionary War, p- 228-31, et passim.
66. Ibid., p. 236-45, et passim. It is said that Lieutenant Adam Boyd mistook the noises outside his home as being those of his friends. "What's the matter boys?" he asked while opening the upper half of his door. The reply was swift: "You damned rebel! We will show you what the matter is." Boyd was fired upon by the invaders as he ran to his back door pursued by several Hessians. He escaped capture, but his home was burned to the ground. Clayton, p. 194-95.
67. Taylor, p. 63. American causalities amounted to a boy, who had teeth knocked out by a musket ball, and Captain Outwater, who was shot below the knee. Outwater refused to have the ball removed and was buried with it in 1823. His refusal probably has more to do with a justified fear of eighteenth century medical techniques than personal pride. Clayton, p. 56.
68. Adam Boyd served as a member of the Eighth, Eleventh and Twelfth United States Congresses. Clayton, p. 56.
69. The measure read: "That all free inhabitants of this State of full age ... shall be entitled to vote for all public officers which shall be elected by virtue of this act, and no persons which shall be entitled to vote in any other township or precinct than that in which he or she doth actually reside at the time of election." Mary Philbrook, "Women's Suffrage in New Jersey Prior to 1807." Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, Edward S. Rankin, ed. (Somerville, NJ: Somerset Press, Inc., 1939), vol. 57, p. 88n.
70. Clayton, p. 84.
71. Ibid., p. 83-84.
72. Tombstone of John Outwater, Hosbach Farm Cemetery, Carlstadt, New Jersey.
Bergen County Bar Association, Washington and His Amy in Bergen County: November 13-21, 1776, Hackensack, N. J.: Bergen County Bar Association, 1957.
Bergen County Deed and Mortgage Vault, Bergen County Administration Building, Hackensack, NJ, Book C, #17; Book I, #51, 52, 54, 55, 57, 59, 91.
Boorstin, Daniel J., The Americans: The Colonial Experience , New York: Vintage Books, 1958.
Calhoun, Robert M., The Loyalists in the American Revolution: 1760-1781 , New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973.
Clayton, Woodford W. and William Nelson, History of Bergen and Passaic Counties , Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1882.
Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, Minutes of the Council of Safety for the State of New Jersey, 1777, Jersey City: John L. Lyon, 1872.
Harvey, Cornelius B., ed., Genealogical History of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey, New York: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1900.
Institute of Early American History, The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740-1745 , Richard L. Bushman, ed., New York: Atheneum, 1969.
Keesey, Ruth M., Loyalty and Reprisal: The Loyalists of Bergen County and Their Estates , New York: Columbia University, 1957.
Leiby, Adrian C., The Revolutionary War in the Hackensack Valley: The New Jersey Dutch and the Neutral Ground , New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1980.
The United Churches of Hackensack and Schraalenburgh, New Jersey 1686-1822 , River Edge, New Jersey: Bergen County Historical Society, 1976.
Memorial stone to John Outwater, Hosbach Farm Cemetery, Carlstadt, New Jersey.
Military Pension Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers. Originals in the National Archives, Washington DC; copies at the Johnson Library, Hackensack, NJ.
New Jersey Historical Society. Archives of the State of New Jersey: Abstracts of Wills 1796-1800 . Newark: New Jersey Law Journal, 1944.
New Jersey Historical Society. Archives of the State of New Jersey: Newspaper Extracts 1762-1765 . Paterson: The Call Printing Co., 1902.
New Jersey Historical Society. Archives of the State of New Jersey: Newspaper Extracts 1770-1771 . Paterson: The Press Printing and Publishing Co., 1905.
New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, New Jersey. "Memoirs of Dr. Peter Wilson" and assorted letters of Wilson. Manuscript group number 318.
Philbrook, Mary. "Women's Suffrage in New Jersey Prior to 1807." Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society . Edward S. Rankin, ed. Somerville, NJ: Somerset Press, Inc., 1939.
Plumb, J.H. England in the Eighteenth Century . New York: Penguin Books, 1963.
Romeyn, Rev. Theodore B. Historical Discourse Delivered on Occasion of the First Reformed (Dutch) Church at Hackensack, New Jersey: May 2, 1869 . New York: Board of Publication, 1870.
Taylor, Benjamin C. Annals of the Classis of Bergen of the Reformed Dutch Church. New York: Board of Publication of the Protestant Dutch Church, 1857.
Tombstone of John Outwater, Hosbach Farm Cemetery, Carlstadt, New Jersey.
Westervelt, Frances A. History of Bergen County NJ: 1630-1923 . New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1923.
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