Cutlope Hancock’s Military Service

Summary, Conclusions and Historical Record primarily relative to Cutlope Hancock’s Military Service based on his Revolutionary Pension File – This analysis is followed by the general reconstitution of the material into a corrected and/or completed format as necessary and arranged into proper sequential context.

This document was prepared by Wayne C. Ehrensberger, Cutlope Hancock’s 4th Great-Grandson and Revised 7/11/2017. Copyright © 2013 Wayne C. Ehrensberger, all rights reserved.

Herewith are pertinent statements from Cutlope Hancock’s Revolutionary War Pension File (Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files 1800-1900 No. S22281, Archive Publication Number: M804, Archive Roll Number: 1178 – 25 pages of actual documents) made by himself along with corroborating testimony by neighbors “Mr. Gabriel Adam Reichart a clergy-man residing in the Borough of Kittanning Armstrong County State of Pennsylvania and Jacob Wolf residing in the Township of Sugar creek County & State aforesaid” (pg. 15) and former fellow NJ Militia soldier Joseph Carson (pg. 14 & 18) and the logical conclusions one can draw from these official comments while attempting to trace and validate the events of his service and background. Note: The Pension page numbers provided are simply those, which I have assigned according to the order in which the file documents appear on the microfilm copy, some of which are clearly not in the proper sequence. Further note: This file also includes a number of pages among the 25 total, filed in the year 1853 on behalf of Cutlope’s son John, who through his attorney was apparently seeking an additional claim. The final results of John’s effort are unknown due to a lack of any conclusive documents. Basic, relative historical accounts have been included to provide added context and order.

Note that Cutlope was 93 at the time he was being interviewed upon application for a pension. He could not read or write, so he had been unable to physically document any aspects of his life. There are significant omissions and errors relative to names, dates, and places. By his admission, “…my recollections failed through age…” (pg.12) is perfectly understandable. The following undertaking was conducted with the limited information that he was able to provide to the best of his “recollection” and making comparisons to relevant records from the period such as copies of Revolutionary War records stored in the National Archives; the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” compiled under the orders of New Jersey Governor Theodore F. Randolph by Adjutant General William S. Stryker; printed 1872; and historical accountings, maps and drawings from a variety of sources; census data, and other information. As corroborating evidence was painstakingly uncovered it turned out that Cutlope’s accounts were by and large, fairly accurate.

At this point a brief detailing of some historical sequence of the formation of the New Jersey Revolutionary War militia as well as giving the reader some idea of how they were intended to be equipped is offered. This will lead directly to Cutlope’s periods of service.

Historical Record as follows: (taken from the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, pages 330, 332, 333, & 334).

“On the 3d day of June, 1775, an act providing a “plan for regulating the militia of the Colony” was passed in the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, then in session at Trenton.”

“It was as follows: The Congress, taking into consideration the cruel and arbitrary measures adopted and pursued by the British Parliament and present ministry, for the purpose of subjugating the American Colonies to the most abject servitude, and being apprehensive that all pacific measures for the redress of our grievances will prove ineffectual, do think it highly necessary that the inhabitants of this Province be forthwith properly armed and disciplined for defending the cause of American freedom; and further considering that, to answer this desirable end, it is requisite that such persons be entrusted with the command of the militia as can be confided in by the people, and are truly zealous in support of our just rights and privileges…”

“Minute Men” having been raised in the counties of Morris, Sussex, and Somerset, this ordinance also ordered, in obedience to the recommendation of Continental Congress, the several counties to furnish them in these proportions: …Middlesex county, six companies…”

“These companies of militia, called “Minute Men,” were “held in constant readiness, on the shortest notice, to march to any place where assistance might be required, for the defence <sic> of this or any neighboring Colony.”

“On the 31st of August, 1775, it is noted that the “Minute Men” were directed to adopt for their uniform, hunting frocks, as near as may be to the uniform of riflemen in Continental service.”

“The Congress of New Jersey passed more stringent regulations for the militia, October 28th, 1775. Men capable of bearing arms who were “requested” to enroll themselves by the first military ordinance were now “directed” to do so. They were directed with all convenient speed to furnish themselves with “a good musket or firelock and bayonet, sword or tomahawk, a steel ramrod, worm, priming-wire and brush fitted thereto, a cartouch-box to contain twenty-three rounds of cartridges, twelve flints, and a knapsack.” They were also directed to keep “at their respective abodes, one pound of powder and three pounds of bullets. Fines, if not paid, were ordered to be collected by warrants of distress, levied on the goods and chattels of the offender. In case of an alarm, the “Minute Men” were directed to repair immediately to their captains’ residences, and he was to march his company instantly to oppose the enemy. Companies of light-horse were ordered to be raised among the militia.”

“In February, 1776, the Committee of Safety of New York called upon the Provincial Congress for a detachment of militia to assist in arresting tories in Queens county, Long Island, and on Staten Island, New York. On the 12th of February, three hundred men of the militia of Middlesex, three hundred of Essex, and one hundred of Somerset were ordered out for that purpose, the following officers commanding: Nathaniel Heard    Colonel.”

“Many of the “Minute Men,” as such, having entered the Continental Army, the battalions thereof became so reduced that on the 29th day of February, 1776, they were ordered to be dissolved and incorporated in the militia of the districts where they resided.”

Here begins the Summary of Cutlope’s Pension Statements and accompanying Conclusions with Historical Record:

Pension Statements – Cutlope was born in 1739 or 1740 in Germany, without further specificity, immigrating to Middlesex Co. in the American colony of New Jersey with his parents at the approx. age of 1. He was age 93 upon giving his initial Pension testimony 18 Dec. 1832 – Pension File Ref. pages 12, 14 & 16.

Conclusion: This is consistent with available data.

Pension Statements – Cutlope remained in Middlesex Co. until enlisting into Captain Vincent Wetherby’s Revolutionary War New Jersey Militia Company under the Regiment commanded by Colonel Foreman in his hometown of Cranbury at the rate of $26.66 per annum. Cutlope served a total of 8 months, having entered into service on 4 occasions; initially for 5 months through enlistment before being discharged by Col. Forman; then again by draft for one month, then two one month “Call-outs”. – Pension File Ref. pages 3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, 17, & 18.

Conclusions relative to the Unit into which Cutlope first “enlisted” and the identity of the Officers of said Unit: The document on pg. 3 (part of the information recorded in response to the later filing by son John’s attorney S. Mathew Hosey) states that Col. Foreman commanded a Militia Regiment, although Cutlope didn’t make that exact claim. Note that the same document also erroneously lists a Captain Vincent, leaving out Weatherby as his last name. In spite of this it remains likely as will be more fully established in the full analysis that all of Cutlope’s units were NJ State Troops/Militia units and not Continental Army, although his regimental commander would later be promoted to Brigadier General, who had resigned his Militia commission to accept command of a Regiment in the Continental Army, further distinguishing himself. This may be one possible reason why Cutlope was also listed as a Continental Soldier rather than solely as a Militiaman. Another may be that above Brigade level, leadership was by Continental Officers. Cutlope was initially part of the “State Troops”, which were referred to as “New Levies”. They were to serve longer than regular militia members and were “enrolled” to officers serving directly under Washington. During the time of Cutlope’s earlier service in particular, he would most likely have served directly under officers appointed/commissioned within his state and county as this was before General George Washington began more significant integration of his forces, which also happened to be before the States and even many of the Troops were comfortable with that concept, albeit some of this was forced upon them due to limited manpower, but it was also an eventual reflection of a growing cohesion of unity among the Troops and the birth of an independent Nation advancing towards democracy. Cutlope is listed in the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” on page 207, under the segment for Continental Soldiers. Further records on Cutlope and his units are discussed and corroborated below.

Militia commanders, such as Company Captains were usually selected by the men of the unit. Captain Vincent Wetherby was actually Vincent Wetherill. This is confirmed from National Archives records, some of which show the make-up and/or chain of command of his and Cutlope’s New Jersey Regimental Commander Colonel David Forman. Corroborating documentation for Capt. Wetherill are in National Archives Files; one series of which are found under, “Revolutionary War Rolls”, compiled 1894-1913, documenting the period 1775-1783, Record Group 93, NARA M246, Muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and units, 1775-83, Roll 0064, NJ, Forman’s Regiment of Militia, 1776, Folder 69. Another series is under, “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-ca.1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record Group 93, 1775-1785, NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who serviced in the American Army during the Revolutionary War 1775-1783, Roll 0640, NJ, David Forman’s Regiment, Militia, Record Type: Individual. The, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, page 418 shows 2 listing for the surname Wetherill (without first name Vincent) under NJ State Troops/Militia, but it does list his rank as Captain of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments from Middlesex Co., which of course is where Cutlope was from. Some record his birth to John Wetherill between 1749 -1753 in Hunterdon, NJ. An index to Marriage Records, 1666-1799, shows that Vincent married Abigail Lott, Apr. 17, 1773 in New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., NJ. It would appear that Vincent’s father John Wetherill also served as a Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Middlesex, NJ militia, but resigned on August 1st, 1776, due to a “disability”. Ref. pg. 357 of the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”.

As for NJ Militia Regimental Commander Colonel David Forman, note the inclusion of “David” and the correct spelling of “Forman”, although like many names of the period, misspellings are common and his name has also appeared at times as “Foreman.” From historical accountings we learn that David Forman (3 Nov. 1745 – 12 Sept. 1797) was born in Monmouth Co., NJ. The town of Monmouth or Monmouth Court House was also known as Freehold, which is where he lived during his Revolutionary service. His parents were Joseph Forman and Elizabeth Lee. He was first appointed a Lt. Colonel of the NJ State Regiment. At the time that his commander, Continental Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Nathaniel Heard, also of Middlesex Co., Woodbridge Twp., NJ under Major General Nathanael Greene’s Division (Greene’s other Continental Brigade Commander was Brigadier General John Nixon) assumed command of the brigade during the 1776 New York and New Jersey campaigns, Lt. Col. Forman was then promoted to a full Col. Corroborating documentation for Col. David Forman is in the same National Archives File as noted in common with Captain Vincent Wetherill and Cutlope. The “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, pages 57 and 64 shows David Forman under the listings of the Continental Army; Pages 335 and 349 lists him under his earlier career in the NJ State Troops/Militia.

Note: Around mid to late June, 1776, the initial command of State Brigadier General Nathaniel Heard’s newly commissioned New Jersey Militia Brigade, consisting of five regiments was first offered to Col. Joseph Reed (born in Trenton), who declined the post. Reed, George Washington’s adjutant general, was to become one of Washington’s most trusted staff members, although he was one of those who later criticized Washington’s leadership in the aftermath of the fall of Long Island and Fort Washington. Washington became aware of this and still relied upon him thereafter to a degree, but the tainted relationship never fully healed. General Heard had been promoted from Col. upon acceptance of the assignment. Refer to the “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, pages 333, 334, 335, 343, & 349.

Pension Statements – Cutlope stated that his Company “…marched under the command of Capt. Wetherby to Long Island…I cannot recollect how long I was at Long Island but marched from there to New York where we drew two months pay.” While on Long Island he was, “sent out with a scouting party and took on sixty or seventy prisoners and the next morning after taking the prisoners it was Lord Stirling who came and made a speech to us – and promised us for how well we had behaved – I was not in the battle of Long Island but marching toward it and within about two miles of it when I heard the battle was over.” – Pension Ref. pages 12, 13 & 17.

Conclusions & Historical record relative to the activities & movements during Cutlope’s First enlistment: National Archives documentation in the files noted above show the following: Col. Forman’s (NJ State Militia Regimental Commander under Genl. Heard’s Brigade) Strength Return Records show that his Regiment was at Headquarters on July 6, 13, & 20, 1776; at Mount Washington (aka Fort Washington on the northern neck of what was then referred to as New York or New York City, which is Manhattan today) on Sept 19, 1776; at the Heights of Harlem (aka Harlem Heights, which is near the center of “New York” (Manhattan) on Sept. 28, 1776 and Oct. 5, 1776; then back to Mount Washington on Oct. 12, 1776. A Strength Return record of Captain Wetherill’s Company coincides with the latter location/date.

Presumably, Col. Forman’s initial HQ was possibly near his home in Monmouth Courthouse, aka Freehold in Monmouth Co., NJ, but by 8 Jul his regiment was on Long Island as then Continental Brigadier General Nathanael Greene issued the following two orders, ++ “Col. Forman’s NJ regt. to camp on the ground lately occupied by Col. Hitchcock’s regt. (possibly near Fort Putnam & the fort or redoubt on the left of it, which is where Greene had previously assigned as that units alarm post on 14 Jun),” and secondly that “Col. Forman’s Regt. to occupy Col. Varnum’s old alarm posts, namely, Fort Box and the Oblong redoubt. Brigade Major to lead the troops to the alarm Post at 7 a.m. The guard for the several works to be continued the same as before from the 11th & 12th of the old establishment & the Jersey new levies, that the new levies may have the benefit of the knowledge of the standing troops.”

General Greene further issued the following orders:

++ “July 10, 1776 – A fatigue party (work detail) of 150 to be furnished from the 11th & 12th & Col. Forman’s Regt. for Smith’s Barbette (protective circular armor feature around a cannon or some type of artillery) to be continued till it is completed.”

++ “Aug. 1, 1776 – All the straw bunks & ____ in ye different regts. occupied by the well to be collected from the sick of Col. Forman’s regt.”

++ “Aug. 4, 1776 – A fatigue party from Col. Little’s, Col. Forman’s & Col. Gay’s regts. of 200 men, properly officered, to work at Fort Sterling tomorrow … Officers are directed to acquaint themselves with the ground for miles about their camps.”

++ “Aug. 16, 1776 – Genls. Nixon and Heard are to furnish a fatigue party from their brigades and to form the necessary lines from fort Box to fort Putnam.”

Greene was promoted to Major-General on 9 Aug.

++ “Letter from major-General Nathanael Greene to Col. Moses Little – Thursday Morning (Aug. 15) – Long Island “ … it is very evident there was a General Imbarcation <sic> of the Troops (Enemy) last evening from Statten Island – doubtless they’l make a dessent <sic> this morning. Youl please to order all the troops fit for duty to be at the Alarm posts near an hour sooner than is common – let their flints arms and ammunition be examined and everything held in readiness to defend the works or go upon a detachment … Youl acquaint the Commanding officers of Col. Hitchcock’s Regiment and Col Forman’s Regiment of this, and direct them to observe the same orders …”

++ “As appears from a document among the papers of General Knox, the encampments and posts of these brigades, before the advance of the enemy (Aug. 27), were fixed as follows: … Greene’s division – Nixon and Heard’s brigades – with the exception of Prescott’s regiment and Nixon’s, now under his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Nixon, which were on Governor’s Island, occupied the Long Island front.”

++ Excerpts from, “The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn including a new and circumstantial account of the Battle of Long Island and the loss of New York, with a review of the events to the close of the year” by Henry P. Johnston 1878.

While limited fighting had been ongoing for several days, the full-fledged Battle of Long Island took place on Aug. 27, 1776. Other than Cutlope’s pension records, we don’t have copies of or reference to records of that time period for Cutlope’s Company and/or Regiment, but historical accountings do confirm that Brigadier General Heard’s Brigade was there, which they were a part of, although again, per Cutlope’s accounting, his particular Company and/or Regiment was not in the actual major battle of that day. That is entirely feasible as there was much confusion and mayhem due to a number of factors, which included poor communications, coordination (one of Washington’s several grave mistakes was the dismissal of mounted Cavalry to aid in mobile surveillance, somewhat of a new concept at the time), and a lack of experience in leadership and among the troops. Major General Nathanael Greene, who was in Command of Long Island and had been one of the most knowledgeable leading officers on the lay of the land and the position of the Rebel forces, had fallen ill and was bed ridden at the time. Washington ordered General Sullivan to temporarily relieve him on 20 Aug with Brigadier General Lord Stirling taking charge of Sullivan’s division. This Battle was a terrible loss for Washington and it was considered a miracle that the bulk of his surviving Troops eventually made their secret escape from their last fortified position in Brooklyn across the East River at the confluence of the Hudson to New York (Manhattan) beginning during the night of Aug. 29, 1976 in a driving rain and continuing into the morning daylight. By that point the rain had ceased and many of the Troops had still not crossed, including Washington who left at the very last. Those still on Long Island found themselves fully exposed, when out of nowhere a thick fog rolled in on an otherwise sunny day and lay low across the water to cover the retreat of the remaining forces.

Brigade Commander Brigadier General Lord Stirling, actual name William Alexander also of New Jersey was at the time of the Battle of Long Island temporarily in command of Major General John Sullivan’s Division. He was later promoted to Major General. He died of gout in Albany, NY 15 Jan 1783 while in command of the Northern Dept.

On Sep 2, the following took place, ++ “ … the army was reorganized and stationed to meet the new phase of the situation. Several changes were made in the brigades, and the whole divided into three grand divisions, under Putnam, Spencer, and Heath. … Spencer’s, of six brigades, took up the line from that point (15th St.) to Horne’s Hook and Harlem … Greene had not sufficiently recovered from his illness and his old troops, under Nixon and Heard, were temporarily doing duty with Spencer’s command (Generals Sullivan and Stirling had been captured during the Long Island battle, but were later permitted to return).”

The Battle of New York took place on Sept. 15, 1776 and the Battle of Harlem Heights began in the early morning of Sept. 16, 1776 and lasted until 3 p.m. Cutlope makes no mention of whether he directly took part in those engagements or not. Brigadier General Heard’s Brigade was reassigned to Major General Putnam at some point on the island, specifically so by the 16th on Harlem Heights. Cutlope may have retreated there under Putnam on the 15th. On the 16th, Heard’s Brigade was not utilized in the battle. Cutlope’s former sister Brigade commanded by Brigadier General John Nixon was a major factor in the fighting. This Brigade was still under the command of General Greene and was on the front lines at Harlem Heights. Putman’s forces were just to their rear. Note: General Putnam personally participated.

A decision was made for a full retreat to New Jersey or further north into New York. While leaving a portion of the troops in lower New York to slow the enemy upon which point they would likely embark troops upon the island in that vicinity, Washington marched the bulk of his forces north to Harlem Heights to prepare defensive works and lines as it was identified by the nature of its name; a place of high ground and far more defensible than earlier positions. Those southernmost units were pushed northward on Sept. 15 to Harlem Heights and Fort Washington by the enemy with embarrassing ease.

Early on Sept. 16, Washington sent a detachment of elite Rangers under the command of Col. Knowlton on a reconnaissance mission. This unit came across the advance units of the enemy and a heated skirmish ensued. Knowlton, facing much greater numbers was ultimately pushed back. Adjutant-General Col. Reed, who bore witness to the action, advised Washington to dispatch reinforcements. Washington hesitated, not wanting to engage in full scale battle. His current strategy was to attack when convenient then retreat (until his troops were more seasoned, after reviewing the Long Island debacle), but when Reed further revealed to him that someone on the British side decided to insult Washington and his men by blowing a bugle call for a Fox hunt during their chase, the normally coolheaded Washington became enraged. This manifested into a significant error on the part of the egotistical British. Hearing of this and satisfied that this smaller force was sufficiently beyond it’s lines easily convinced Washington to not only comply, but also to devise a larger plan; a frontal feint to draw in the pursuing forces while at the same time sending units to flank the enemy, cut them off and capture them. The first part of the plan was successful. The overconfident enemy was sucked in. The second part was less so as the units ordered to conduct the flanking maneuver attacked too soon, doing so while they were still to the side rather than rear. At this point Col. Knowlton was killed, but his unit and another now accompanying it (who’s commanding officer was also wounded and put out of action – died later), continued the assault, while a larger force advanced from the center (Genl. Nixon’s among them) forcing the British to retreat, but they reformed on better ground and were reinforced by other British & Hessian units. Washington, elated to see his troops full of vigor, many of whom had earlier fled in the face of even lesser forces, unleashed more units, all of which continued to viciously attack, successfully driving back the larger force of British and Hessian soldiers to their main line, where awaited the bulk of the British army. At that point it was prudent for Washington to retreat back to his main lines on the Heights. Facing an emboldened enemy and desiring a break in the action, British General William Howe in conjunction with his brother Admiral Richard Howe who was in command of the Naval and Amphibious operations ultimately decided to regroup in the city, leaving Washington temporarily in command of the northern part of the island.

The Battle of Harlem Heights was one of the most crucial of the war, for at that point, Washington had suffered horrific losses in manpower, materials and ground. His enemy was emboldened. He was on the run, verging on collapse. His leadership was under serious question even though he was not to blame for much of this. While this battle was not a major engagement, his forces suddenly displayed bold stamina at a most critical time; not just rallying in defense, but offensively driving back strong, allied British and Hessian forces, proving to their countrymen and most importantly themselves that they possessed the capacity to do so, reinstilling belief that they would be victorious. Conversely, the once invincible British were taken aback. This set the stage for the upcoming battles of Trenton and Princeton.

While it was generally felt amongst Washington’s staff that the city of New York (Manhattan) should be burned to deny the British it’s usage as a comfortable base of operations, the Continental Congress decided otherwise on the grounds that doing so would unnecessarily inflame local animosity and because they determined that it would be retaken by American forces in the future. On Sept. 21, 1776, a significant portion of the central city was burned to the ground regardless. It was never proven that any order was given to do so, but the British captured several American culprits lighting fires.

On Oct. 12, 1776, the British made another attempt to overrun Washington’s position, but due to a tactical error in their ship-born landing zone onto unfamiliar ground, which turned out to be wet, muddy marshland and facing rebel Troops growing in confidence, they were forced to retreat and abandon the effort.

On Oct. 18, 1776, both British General Howe and American General Washington decided to depart (Manhattan); Washington to the high ground of White Plains, NY (State). He arrived there on Oct. 21, 1776 with his main force, having left behind a mostly ill-fated garrison at Fort Washington.

That Cutlope drew “2 months pay” while in New York (Manhattan) coincides with the historical record.

Pension Statements – Departing New York, “we went from that to a Island called White-Plains (NY) towards New England.”; upon which time Captain Wetherby’s further whereabouts became unknown and then being, “under the command of Lieutenant Nixon. From there, “we marched to Swankum” (likely Spanktown aka Rahway, NJ), while remaining under the overall, “command of Colonel Foreman who was a hard man to the soldiers.” From there, “unknown we went to Monmouth” where on, “the next day Sabbath…the Colonel then discharged us. And told us to make the best of our way home.” Pension Ref. pages 12 & 13.

Conclusions & Historical record relative to the identity of Lt. Nixon, the whereabouts of Captain Wetherill and the movements prior to “Monmouth” and his discharge: From the National Archive Documents categorized as, “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-ca.1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record Group 93, 1775-1785, NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War 1775-1783, Roll 0640, NJ, David Forman’s Regiment, Militia, Record Type: Individual, we find listed Lt., Capt., & Major Robert Nixon. Lt. Nixon was promoted to Captain of a NJ Horse Company and eventually promoted to Major of 3rd Battalion, Middlesex, NJ Militia. The “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” lists him on page 368 as a Major and several other ranks other than a Lt., but there appears to be a possible page missing as Lt. Nixon may have been listed as a 2nd Lt., but the alphabetically listing jumps before Nixon (Newton) past any possible officers with the last name beginning with “O” to Painter.

According to the Pension file of Nathaniel Martin, another soldier under Capt. Wetherill’s command, Martin stated that on Aug. 27, 1776: Capt. Vincent Wetherill was engaged in the Battle of Long Island. Cutlope stated that he wasn’t in the Battle proper, but was within 2 miles of it and marching towards that direction. It is possible that in the effort to cover such a wide, complex area with limited manpower that Captain Wetherill’s Company was divided into smaller units, with Cutlope perhaps serving more directly under Lt. Robert Nixon elsewhere at the time. Per an accounting in a not yet obtained New Jersey Archive Record (further reference unknown), Captain Vincent Wetherill was said to have been captured in the Battle and died while a British prisoner. This would certainly explain why Cutlope never knew what had happened to him. An area that continues to raise a question is that Captain Wetherill remained listed under Col. Forman’s Regt. until at least Nov. 3, 1776. His name appears on Forman’s rosters as well as on his own corresponding “Strength Return” documents. Upon closer examination it appears that the writing on all of the Individual “Strength Return” documents from Forman, Wetherill, Nixon and so forth may have been written by the same person. It’s likely that these Strength Return records are transcriptions from original documents as they are in far too neat of a condition and look to be on paper that would not likely have been used in the field. While Capt. Wetherill may no longer have been physically with Forman as noted above, perhaps he was still “officially” considered/listed as the Officer in charge of his Company, when it was actually Lt. Robert Nixon who was then acting Company Commander.

The same National Archive Records show Col. David Forman’s Regiment at White Plains on Oct. 22, 1776.

The Battle of White Plains commenced on Oct. 28, 1776. Washington had the benefit of the high ground and the opportunity to fortify it in advance of the joint British/Hessian attack. Fighting was fierce. Washington’s right, mostly defended by militia units was eventually flanked, ultimately leading to a full, but organized fighting retreat. Casualties were significant on both sides and both paused for two days to rest and take stock. The British received reinforcements. General Howe prepared to renew the attack on Oct. 31, but a heavy rain caused a cancellation. By the next day, Howe discovered that Washington had once again slipped away in the night, retreating towards NJ.

Washington arrived at Fort Lee, on the opposite bank of the Hudson River across from the contingent that he had left at Fort Washington. Major General Greene, one of Washington’s most trusted officers had been in charge of fortifying and manning both forts. General Washington, making observations from across the river and re-evaluating the present situation came to the conclusion that with the overwhelming British Forces apparently turning back towards the Fort would overtake the much smaller garrison at Fort Washington and thought it best to abandon the Fort. Greene, perhaps out of pride, disagreed. Washington grudgingly gave way. He would pay dearly for the indecision.

Fort Washington consisted of several outworks. The Fort itself was well constructed, heavily armed, sufficiently stocked with munitions and food, but it lacked an internal well. Water had to be hauled in from the river. Further, because of the breadth of the entire defensive network, there were far too few men to adequately man all of the necessary approaches and at least some of the men, including the officers were aware that they were in somewhat of a precarious situation. This was made all the worse due to a spy in their midst. On the night of Nov. 2, 1776, adjutant William Demont slipped out of the Fort and informed the British of the Forts condition and weaknesses. Taken together, the fate of the Fort and most of its gallant defenders was now essentially set. On Nov. 16, 1776, General Howe’s British forces in concert with his Hessian mercenaries launched a massive assault from multiple directions, first overrunning the outer defenses and finally breaching the walls of the central fort. Many Patriots tried to surrender and many were brutally bludgeoned with fearsome bayonets to the horror of the on-looking Generals Washington and Greene. Washington was devastated. Some began to more seriously question his leadership. Both men had learned a tragic lesson in the most horrific way.

Later that same day, writing from General Greene’s quarters at Fort Lee to then President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, Washington mentioned his orders for “Genl (Rezin) Beall’s and Genl (Nathaniel) Heard’s Brigades to preserve the Post and Stores here, which with the other Troops I hope we shall be able to effect.” This plan to also hold Fort Lee was soon to be abandoned.

By Nov. 19, 1776, Washington was again on the move. He would not repeat the same mistake with Fort Lee, a much lessor installation. He had lost many men and valuable resources at Fort Washington, both badly needed. He ordered that Fort Lee be abandoned and to recover as much material as possible. The heavy guns had to be left as well as tools and much desired camp equipage, including tents. British General Charles Cornwallis was upon them the next day, skirmishing with stragglers who had remained at the fort.

Washington continued on, often remaining with his rear guard, skirmishing with his antagonists while attempting to hold them back long enough for his pioneers to destroy key bridges and foul the road with debris. His lead Troops reached Newark, NJ on Nov. 23 and the rear remained there until the 28th, with Cornwallis again arriving shortly thereafter. It was here that Washington decided to send his sick and wounded west to Morristown, NJ where they would hopefully be safe to recuperate and he could gain added mobility.

Between Newark and New Brunswick they would pass to the west of Spanktown, NJ (today Rahway) as Cutlope described, crossing the Rahway River.

* Cutlope’s statement, “Colonel Foreman who was a hard man to the soldiers”, will be explored in another segment.

Pension Statements – Cutlope recounted that he thought his enlistment began in the spring following the Boston Tea Party. He later says that he served his full 5 months in Dec. upon Col. Foreman’s discharge on the Sabbath at Monmouth (NJ) and, “returned home a little before Christmas. That I served out my full five months now at that time.” – Pension File Ref. pages 12, 13.

Conclusions & Historical record relative to Cutlope’s discharge at the end of his first “enlistment”: The initial enlistment “date”/time frame according to this statement is in error as the Boston Tea Party took place 16 Dec. 1773. Noting that he was near the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug. 1776 while serving in “New York” for the past two months and having served five months by near Christmas of that year would put his time of enlistment around early July 1776. Per Historical records noted in the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, page 334, on June 3, 1776, the Continental Congress “Resolved, That thirteen thousand eight hundred militia be employed to re-enforce the army at New York” and further, “Resolved, That the Colony of New Jersey be requested to furnish, of their militia, three thousand three hundred men.” Accordingly, an ordinance was passed June 14, 1776, by the Provincial Congress (NJ), to raise the required number and their service was limited to December 1st, 1776. So, from this Cutlope’s service began at the beginning of July through Dec. 1, 1776. National Archives documentation in the files noted above show the following: Col. David Forman’s (NJ Militia Regt. Commander of Genl. Heard’s Brigade) was at Headquarters (location not specified) on July 6, 13, & 20, 1776.

At this point in the Revolutionary War, George Washington, while appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Continental forces actually only directly led one Corps of several and not exactly with the greatest of authority. The rest of the Troops were commanded by other Generals. This was due to some misgivings and misguided actions by an often confused Continental Congress. The largest single American force at that moment was led by former British Officer, General Charles Lee. Lee was an odd character with a challenging disposition. Washington’s and Lee’s positions would soon change in dramatic ways.

Historical accountings show Cutlope’s unit as part of those Troops under General Washington’s immediate command (not captured or stationed elsewhere), who following the earlier actions on Long Island, et al, were now retreating to set up defenses and winter quarters along the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River, adjacent Trenton, NJ, pursued by British Lt. General Cornwallis (until General Howe arrived to take overall command). They passed through the heart of Middlesex Co., NJ, New Brunswick between Nov. 29 – Dec. 1, 1776, north-east of the old Monmouth Courthouse, which was in Middlesex Co. Monmouth Co. borders Middlesex along its southern border. It is unclear if Cutlope was referring to Monmouth County in general or something more specific such as Monmouth Courthouse. Cutlope’s home of Cranbury was approximately centered between there and Brunswick. The vanguard of Washington’s dwindling Troops had reached Princeton, NJ by Dec. 2; remaining until Dec. 6 before pushing on to Trenton, then crossing the Delaware River into PA. Note the reference to “dwindling” Troops. First, recall that General Washington had dispatched the sick and wounded to Morristown when they had reached Newark. The following quote is from Patriot Soldier William Beatty noted in the book, “Washington’s Crossing”, “Two or three days after our arrival at New Brunswick, being the first of December, and the Expiration of the flying Camp troop’s time…leaving our Brave Genl (Washington) with a very weak army.” Washington himself recorded, “…all the men of the Jersey flying camp…have refused to continue.” Further, per fellow NJ Militiaman Joseph Carson and one of Cutlope’s pension witnesses, testified that Capt. Vincent Wetherby’s (Wetherill) Company under Col. Foreman’s (David Forman) Regiment was referred to and/or part of what was known as the, “Flying Camp” (more specifically the NJ element of said “Flying Camp”) – Pension File Ref. pg. 18. The quotations and statements obviously point out that many of the New Jersey Troops “enlistments” had expired, which coincide with Cutlope’s statements and timeline and further corroborate that he was discharged on December 1st, which was a Sunday (Sabbath) and then he made his way back home to Cranbury by Christmas. This was also the discharge date in the initial agreement for those also known as “New Levies”.

Pension Statements – Upon returning, “home to near Cranbury my former residence. About a month after my return home I was drafted in the Militia and called out and marched to Bennetts Island – on a scouting party when we took fifty or sixty prisoners I cannot recollect the Commanders names – we lost but one man – as we had surrounded the house when the enemy was before the guards got time to get up – I served one month at this time.” – Pension File Ref. pages 5, 13, & 14

Conclusions & Historical Record: The 2nd period of service for one month occurred from Feb. 1, 1777 until Mar. 3, 1777. Payroll records indicate that he served in Captain James Morgan’s Company, 2nd Battalion (** see note below) of the Middlesex, NJ Militia commanded by Col. John Neilson; that he was absent for 3 days, serving 28 days, and paid the amount of 2 pounds, 10 shillings. Col. Neilson was promoted to NJ Militia Brigadier General on Mar. 15, 1777. On July 15, 1780, the Continental Congress appointed him Deputy Quartermaster for the State of New Jersey (his pension documents simply refer to him as Col.) Refer to the, “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”, page 350. Captain James Morgan is noted in same on page 402.  An article, “The Battle of Bennett’s Island: The New Jersey Site Rediscovered” by Christian M. McBurney in collaboration with researcher Chris Hay of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, who shared his extensive studies of the battle, was posted on the website, Journal of the American Revolution (https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/07/battle-bennetts-island-new-jersey-site-rediscovered/) 10 July 2017. The battle is described in detail as well as the lead-in and aftermath, including key participants, namely Col. John Neilson along with background information.  Cutlope Hancock is also mentioned and quoted (sourced from his pension file) by name among others.  Furthermore, what became of the site is also described.

Note: Throughout Dec. 1776, Washington had requested several times for General Charles Lee to join forces. As noted previously, Washington’s Troops were highly depleted and worn, while Lee’s amounted to more than twice his number and were rested.  Lee did not like Washington and had his own ideas. He continually resisted, but grudgingly began to move. At the same moment that Washington arrived on the western shore of the Delaware River, General Lee had foolishly wandered off to spend a frivolous evening in a tavern well away from the main body of his Corps. He was sold out by some Loyalists and captured by the infamous British officer, Banastre Tarleton on Dec. 13, 1776. Unbeknownst to Washington at the time, this was actually a blessing, as Lee was plotting against him for his own glory.

With Lee currently out of the picture, Washington ordered those formerly under Lee’s command to unite with him along the Delaware River. Several other Brigades led by other Generals also heeded the call and joined Washington. In consultation with his officers, two key decisions were made. One was to somewhat reorganize the makeup of the army. This was due to reduced strength and to increase efficiency. **Regimental commands would be eliminated, thus Companies would report directly to Battalion Commanders. This also had the effect of having a better ratio of officers and sergeants to lower ranking soldiers, which translated to better overall experienced leadership. The second decision was to launch a surprise attack on the Hessian forces occupying Trenton the day after Christmas. This was a critical turning point for Washington, the war, and the cause.

December 1776 was known in New Jersey as the “Dark Days” of British/Hessian occupation. It was also in stark recognition of Washington’s dire situation, having been chased across the state after losing many battles and many men, the remainder being mostly in an extremely tattered condition. In spite of that they remain determined and upbeat, but cautiously so.

While Washington’s posture was primarily a defensive one, it did not prevent him from launching hit and run raids against his foes on the other side of the river, which caused them much irritation. The British position established by the Howe’s remained one of containment and eventual dissolution or destruction of Washington’s forces as well as an effort to entice the overall populace to renounce ties to the Revolution and to return to the fold of the British monarchy. The British achieved the opposite of their goals. Steadfast perseverance by Washington and his fellow Patriots; overconfidence, misunderstandings, lack of unity on the part of key British and Hessian officers; time; distance; limited resources and worst of all, dastardly deeds committed by an increasingly disorderly “foreign” army against a wary citizenry was their ultimate undoing. Against the orders of their superiors, British and Hessians began to pillage and plunder the inhabitants of New Jersey. Wanton destruction of property, stealing, cruelty and rape became common place. Many officers also took part and/or looked the other way. Instead of winning people over, they turned a steadily increasing number against them, including a good portion of loyalists who had originally favored them. They took up arms and organized limited assaults against the occupying forces, particularly the Hessian contingents in Trenton and those just to the south (those threatening Hessian Col. Carl von Donop from the south had joined with reconstituted remnants of mostly VA forces who had also fled from Long Island), further antagonizing and distracting them and other elements of the invading army, thus contributing to Washington’s ability to launch his somewhat desperate and thankfully critically successful large-scale counter stroke against Hessian Col. Johann Rall, who was in command at Trenton.

An often sad fact of wartime is that deplorable acts are not exclusive to the invading enemy.

* Cutlope’s previous statement on Pension page 12 “Colonel Foreman who was a hard man to the soldiers” alluded to Col. Forman’s harsh treatment of his own men. This personality trait became further evident when on Nov. 24, 1776 General Washington assigned Col. David Forman and his Regiment, “to march with your regiment” to subdue combatant American Tories aka British Loyalists who were a thorn in Washington’s side, sniping at and spying against his forces and, “apprehend all such person as from good Information appear to be concerned in any Plot or Design against the liberty or safety of the United States.” Washington referred to this disconcerting uprising as, “an insurrection of the Tories in Monmouth County.” It’s not known if Col. Forman began his new assignment before or after Cultope’s discharge on December 1st, but it appears that Forman commenced his duties with a passionate vengeance, exceeding Washington’s somewhat vague orders of intended reasonable restraint, which would conform to Washington’s demonstrated actions. He had further instructed Col. Forman to, “attack any Body of men who you may find assembled or in Arms” yet, “be cautious against proceeding against any but such as you have the fullest ground of Suspicion” and “not suffer your Men to give the least molestation to the property of any in the Course of your March,” but “if you find any Stock of Cattle or provision that you may judge in danger of falling into the hands of the Enemy, you are first to desire the Inhabitants to remove them, and upon their Refusal you are to have it done yourself.” Quotes in this paragraph were extracted from “Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer.

As earlier stated, Col. Forman took it upon himself to go well out of his way to brutalize his new quarry. Beyond possibly misusing his militiamen to carry out his misdeeds in violation of orders and normal protocol, he assembled the Association of Retaliation, a group of Monmouth County vigilantes. Forman as previously noted was from Monmouth County. Perhaps because of this he developed an increased animosity towards his disloyal neighbors and sought personal revenge or he was simply taking illicit advantage of an opportunity or maybe a combination of both; regardless he and his band of marauders readily and often seized Tory estates for themselves. Loyalists thusly bestowed upon him the infamous name, “Devil David.” This activity was either unknown to Col. Forman’s superiors or they ignored it as it apparently didn’t adversely impact his advancement throughout the war.

Special Notes: Per information directly received from Roi Taylor, Col. David Forman’s first cousin and best friend was also named David Forman. The cousin was also from Monmouth Co. where he served as a Capt. in the militia as well as the sheriff and member of the state assembly, which is primarily why his Revolutionary War service was confined there. The two often joined forces against the Monmouth Co. Tories. His nickname was “Black David”, which was derived, in part anyway, from his swarthy complexion. As one can imagine, the correct identities of the two are often mixed up. Roi is the 5th great-grandson of Sheriff David and related to Col. David through his 1st cousin. Further, in conjunction with the raids against the area Tories, Roi related a story handed down within the family describing how both men held “Sheriff sales” or auctions of property that they confiscated from the Tories who had fled to Canada. These sales were held at 3 a.m. while most people slept, thus allowing, albeit rather deceitfully for them to purchase a majority of the properties. Sheriff David expanded his original property by adding connecting land that he “bought” via this process, which swelled his farm to two square miles. It later became known as the “Forman Neighborhood”.

Cultope’s description of the capture of prisoners is confirmed and further detailed in Col. John Neilson’s Revolutionary Pension File, which can be found at the Natl. Archives as Publication: M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Catalog ID: 300022, Catalog Title: Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group: 15, NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NJ, Veteran Surname: Neilson, Veteran Given Name: John, Service: NJ, Pension Number: S. 4607. Col. Neilson’s account is as follows: Early in 1777, soon after establishing this post (Cranbury, NJ), information was given me by a deserter from the British Lines at S. Brunswick, that an outpost of British Troops was formed at Bennets Island; two or three miles from the main army at New Brunswick under the command of a refugee Field Officer. We immediately contemplated the measure, and formed a plan to surprise them. I dispatched a messenger to General Putnam, then commanding at Princeton for assistance, the General very promptly sent me forty or fifty Virginia riflemen, with these men united with those of my command at Cranbury we took up our line of march near sundown and proceeded with a steady march, without being discovered, altho <sic> there was snow on the ground and frosty night, untill <sic> we were in the midst of the British quarters at Bennets Island, and succeeded by completely surprising & capturing the whole of the party, with Major Richard Stockton (*** see note below) their Commanding officer with their arms etc. and returned in safety to our quarters near Cranbury having but lost one or two men; and next day forwarded the Prisoners, between sixty & seventy with their arms and accoutrements, to the order of General Putnam at Princeton. On this expedition Mssr. Andrew McDowell was our guide.

***Not to be confused with Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who by an amazing coincidence lived nearby on the outskirts of Princeton, NJ. To add further irony, the American Richard Stockton, beyond being a member of the Continental Congress, had also been given a commission as a colonel in the Continental Army, but when the British arrived in his neighborhood in Dec. 1776, he fled to PA. He was captured by Loyalists and turned over to British authorities, who promptly put him in irons and locked him in jail, but he soon capitulated; signing the Howe brother’s offer of amnesty and declaring his allegiance to the king at which time he was released and returned to his palatial home only to find that it had been ransacked. Almost exactly one year later he was pressured by American leaders and renounced his pledge to the King. Mr. Stockton had been a wealthy lawyer and judge. He died in 1781 a broken and lost soul, no longer welcomed by either side.

The historical record shows the action at Bennett’s Island took place Feb. 18, 1777. The present location of Bennett’s Island and site are not known and may no longer exist or at least not by that name. At the time, it was just south-east of New Brunswick along the Raritan river.  The 10 July 2017 aforementioned article, The Battle of Bennett’s Island: The New Jersey Site Rediscovered, essentially states that the name was changed to Clancy Island and that the battle site was likely in and around the main house formerly owned by Thomas Lawrence in the land triangle at the confluence of the Raritan River, South River and Lawrence Brook, part of East Brunswick Twp.  When this home/farm was sold in Dec 1778, a statement was made regarding, “its situation is remarkably high and healthy, commanding a most beautiful and extensive prospect from the place where the house stood, so much so, that the city of Amboy lies open to view,” leading local historian, Timothy J. Lynch to conclude that the site has now been leveled and under part of the Edgeboro Landfill, albeit not an area used to actually bury trash or near the intersection of  present day Ellison and Milton Avenues at the highest point on the edge of a height of land running along Ellison, just outside the western boundary line of the landfill; to the west is Exit 9 of the New Jersey Turnpike (Rte. 95), just before the highway spans the Raritan River.

Additional documentary evidence is found in National Archives Publication M246, Publication title: Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Catalog #602384, Title: “Revolutionary War Rolls, compiled 1894-1913, documenting the period 1775-1783, Record Group #93, NARA M246, Muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83, Roll #0063, NJ, 2d Battalion of Hunterdon, Date range: 1777, Folder #61; and Publication M881, Catalog #570910, Title, “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-circa 1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record group 93, 1775-1785, Roll 0595, NJ, Second Battalion (Middlesex), Record type: individual, Surname: Hankock <Hancock>, Given name: Cutlope.

Pension Statement – Cutlope was at some point called into service for the 3rd time, stating, “Again I was called out to Elizabeth Town and served one month – we had not fighting.” – Pension Ref. pg. 14.

Conclusion: Unknown time frame. No events or known unit commanders to base anything on other than he was encamped at Elizabethtown, NJ.

Pension Statement – He then returned to service for a 4th and final time, stating, “Again I was called out for a month at the time of the battle of Monmouth (NJ) (28 Jun 1778). I was not in the battle but was on furlough during the battle. Then we marched to Burlington (NJ).” Refer to fellow soldier Joseph Carson for corroboration of his military service. – Pension Ref. pg. 14.

Conclusion: Final Revolutionary Service was sometime between May to July 1778, serving in Monmouth, but not a participant in the battle due to a leave of absence. He ended his service while in Burlington.

Pension Statement – Cutlope stated that he, “was living near Cranbury Middlesex County New Jersey when called into service.” and, “continued to reside there until I came to Westmoreland County near Greensburg State of Pennsylvania about forty years ago stayed there 3 or 4 months then moved to the Loyalhanna Creek, Westmoreland County. After a year or two moved into Armstrong County. Then Westmoreland County.” At the time of his pension testimony he was living in Kiskiminetas, Armstrong Co., PA – Pension Ref. pages 12 & 16.

In his answer to a question related to the names of some of the Regular officers who were with the troops when he served; such continental and militia regiments he responded as follows: “I recollect of seeing Genl Washington I recollect Lord Stirling at Long Island and also I recollect Colonel Foreman and Lieutenant Nixon of the Jersey line of the Continental Army. I saw Genl

Washington and Genl Lee at the Cross Roads near Cranbury New Jersey.” – Pension Ref. pg 17.

Conclusion: Generals Washington, Lee and Stirling/Alexander were officers in the Continental Army, although Stirling began with the NJ State Troops; General Washington obviously being the supreme Commander. Col. Nixon is mentioned at least as a soldier of the Jersey line of the Continental Army. It is unclear if he regarded Col. Forman as a Continental or State/Militia Officer in this statement.

We have already documented Cutlope’s encounters with Stirling, Forman, and Nixon and their affiliations. It’s certainly likely that he also encountered General Washington as he was often in the same proximity. It is hard to determine from the above statement if and or when Cutlope may ever have seen General (Charles) Lee, as he was often in a different theater of the war than Cutlope. It is possible, that while Lee was easily distinguishable, Cutlope may have mistaken someone else for him.

Pension Statement – In Joseph Carson’s pension testimony on behalf of Cutlope, now also living in Westmoreland Co., having been raised with Cutlope in Middlesex Co., NJ before they enlisted together along with Joseph’s brother Charles, he states that either he and his brother or just his brother enlisted into Capt. Vincent Weatherby’s Company under Col. Foreman’s Regiment and that this unit was called the, “Flying Camp.” – Pension Ref. pg. 18.

Historical Record & Conclusions: In late 1775 through 1776, the NJ militia was called out. Thousands served during this period to defend the NJ coast, New York City and Staten Island as it was expected that the British would lead an attack there, which of course they did. Many of the NJ militia companies at that time were formed into a “Flying Camp”, as requested by General Washington, which was to act as a ready reserve or quick reactionary force. At a later period, a full time Continental Flying Camp was tried, comprised of regular soldiers from several states (first Delaware, Maryland & Pennsylvania, then Connecticut and Virginia were included), but for a number of reasons, not the least of which was limited manpower, the latter plan never reached full potential and was eventually called off.

Militia served more or less at will. Early in the war the term of duty was usually set at one month. One half of the militia served each month, then was relieved by the other half. “State Troops” were also organized from time to time, which were also made up of militiamen. These units were sometimes referred to as “Five Months Levies” or initially as “New Levies,” as the soldiers signed on for 5 month stints. Several regiments served in New York, including Cutlope’s and fought in the battle of Long Island or Brooklyn. So-named, “regulars” in the Continental army served one year terms in 1775 and ’76 then 3 years or the duration of the war thereafter; to be paid 5 dollars per month.

This information simply adds further credence that Cutlope was not a regular in the Continental Army, but rather always part of a State Troop or Militia unit in spite of his being listed, likely in error in the “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” rolls of Continental soldiers under Privates, with no added information such as his unit of command. His fellow Middlesex soldiers, brothers Charles and Joseph Carson are listed as State Troops or Militia Privates, with the added information that Joseph is from Middlesex. Furthermore, Cutlope had initially signed on as previously stated for 5 months and this would also indicate that he was part of the State Troops aka “Five Months Levies” or “New Levies” and then for 3 one month stints at a lower pay scale than Continental soldiers who served at least one year terms.

Added note: The Pension file reveals that Cutlope had a son, John who later appealed for arrears of Cutlope’s pension. – Pension Ref. pages 8, 9, & 22.

Officers mentioned by Cutlope and Joseph Carson

Colonel Foreman (Colonel David Forman)

Captain Vincent Weatherby (Captain Vincent Wetherill)

Officers mentioned by Cutlope only

General (George) Washington

General (Charles) Lee

Lord Stirling (General William Alexander – New Jersey)

Lieutenant Nixon (Lt. Robert Nixon )

Officers and Enlisted men listed in the NJ record who are the persons mentioned above. Pages referenced below are from the “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey”.

Continental

Major General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling) – Colonel, First Battalion, First Establishment, 7 Nov. 1775; Brigadier General, Continental Army, 11 Mar 1776; Major General, Continental Army, 19 Feb 1777. Further: Col. William Alexander, (Lord Stirling), Colonel, First Battalion, Somerset; also a Major General, Continental Army. – Ref. pages 13, 63, & 350.

Col. David Forman – Col. “Forman’s Regiment,” Continental Army; also a Brigadier General, militia having resigned office to undertake this command (Continental Regimental Commander). It was recruited principally from Maryland. A “return” of Dec. 1778 shows this State to have had but sixty-eight men in the organization. – Ref. pages 57 and 64.

Private Cutlope Hancock – Ref. pg 207.

State Troops were initially referred to as “New Levies” and also as “New Jersey Levies” and “Five Months Levies”

Brigadier General David Forman (same above) – later resigned commission and entered Continental Army as a Col. commanding “Forman’s Regiment.” Further: David Forman – Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel Heard’s battalion, “Heard’s Brigade,” June 25th, 1776; Colonel, ditto; Brigadier General, militia, March 5th, 1777; resigned November 6th, 1777; commanded Jersey militia at the battle of Germantown. – Ref. pages 57, 64, 335, & 349.

Major Robert Nixon – Captain, troop, light-horse, Middlesex, January 27th 1777; Brevet major, ditto; First Major, Third Regiment, Middlesex, October 13th, 1777. – Ref. pg. 368. Robert Nixon has also been confirmed as a Lt. in Col. Forman’s NJ Militia Regiment, but as noted previously, there appears to be a possible page missing as Lt. Nixon may have been listed as a 2nd Lt., but the alphabetical listing jumps from before Nixon (Newton) past any possible officers with the last name beginning with an “O” to Painter.

Captain (Vincent) Wetherill – Captain, First Regiment, Middlesex; (Vincent) Wetherill –

Captain, Second Regiment, Middlesex; Captain, Third Regiment, ditto. – Ref. pg. 418.

Private Charles Carson – Ref. pg. 533.

Private Joseph Carson – Middlesex Co. – Ref. pg. 533.

Militia Officers not specifically named in Cutlope’s Pension testimony due to his failing memory, but proven to be his direct commanding officers during his second tour of duty

Col. John Neilson – Colonel, battalion, “Minute Men;” Colonel, Second Regiment, Middlesex, August 1st, 1776; Colonel, regiment, State Troops; Brigadier General, militia, February 21st, 1777; also Deputy Quartermaster General (NJ). – Ref. pg. 350.

Captain James Morgan – Ensign, Second Regiment, Middlesex; Captain, ditto, also Captain, State troops – Ref. pg. 402.

Officer not mentioned or alluded to by Cutlope, but who is documented as another Middlesex Co., New Jersey Officer who was the Brigade Commander

Brigadier General/Col. Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; Further: Colonel Nathaniel Heard – Brigadier General; and Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; and again Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; finally Brigadier General Nathaniel Heard – Colonel, First Regiment, Middlesex; Colonel, battalion, “Minute Men,” February 12th, 1776; Colonel, battalion, “Heard’s Brigade,”, June 25th, 1776; Brigadier General Commanding, ditto; Brigadier General, militia, February 1st, 1777. Ref. pages 333, 334, 335, 343, & 349.

 

The following information was compiled by extracting, comparing and combining information contained in Cutlope’s Revolutionary War Pension documents (National Archives Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files 1800-1900 No. S22281, Publication Number M804, Roll Number 1178; 25 pages) with other Revolutionary War records (noted below) specific to Cutlope and those with whom he served. The material has been further enhanced by including documented historical accounts directly or indirectly connected to the events, participants and places with whom and/or which Cutlope was known to have been involved, as well as other noteworthy references. While Cutlope, being 93 at the time of his pension filing made several errors in his statements, “…my recollections failed through age…” his overall memory of service was fairly accurate. The ensuing material corrects and/or completes his statements as is necessary and possible and places his service into proper context.

First, a brief description of the formation of New Jersey’s Revolutionary War State Troops and/or Militia and how they were intended to be equipped (“Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” compiled under the orders of New Jersey Governor Theodore F. Randolph by Adjutant General William S. Stryker; printed 1872, pages 330, 332, 333, & 334).

“On the 3d day of June, 1775, an act providing a “plan for regulating the militia of the Colony” was passed in the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, then in session at Trenton.

It was as follows: The Congress, taking into consideration the cruel and arbitrary measures adopted and pursued by the British Parliament and present ministry, for the purpose of subjugating the American Colonies to the most abject servitude, and being apprehensive that all pacific measures for the redress of our grievances will prove ineffectual, do think it highly necessary that the inhabitants of this Province be forthwith properly armed and disciplined for defending the cause of American freedom; and further considering that, to answer this desirable end, it is requisite that such persons be entrusted with the command of the militia as can be confided in by the people, and are truly zealous in support of our just rights and privileges…

“Minute Men” having been raised in the counties of Morris, Sussex, and Somerset, this ordinance also ordered, in obedience to the recommendation of Continental Congress, the several counties to furnish them in these proportions: …Middlesex County, six companies…

These companies of militia, called “Minute Men,” were “held in constant readiness, on the shortest notice, to march to any place where assistance might be required, for the defence <sic> of this or any neighboring Colony.

On the 31st of August, 1775, it is noted that the “Minute Men” were directed to adopt for their uniform, hunting frocks, as near as may be to the uniform of riflemen in Continental service.

The Congress of New Jersey passed more stringent regulations for the militia, October 28th, 1775. Men capable of bearing arms who were “requested” to enroll themselves by the first military ordinance were now “directed” to do so. They were directed with all convenient speed to furnish themselves with “a good musket or firelock and bayonet, sword or tomahawk, a steel ramrod, worm, priming-wire and brush fitted thereto, a cartouche-box to contain twenty-three rounds of cartridges, twelve flints, and a knapsack.” They were also directed to keep “at their respective abodes, one pound of powder and three pounds of bullets. Fines, if not paid, were ordered to be collected by warrants of distress, levied on the goods and chattels of the offender. In case of an alarm, the “Minute Men” were directed to repair immediately to their captains’ residences, and he was to march his company instantly to oppose the enemy. Companies of light-horse were ordered to be raised among the militia.

In February, 1776, the Committee of Safety of New York called upon the Provincial Congress for a detachment of militia to assist in arresting Tories in Queens County, Long Island, and on Staten Island, New York. On the 12th of February, three hundred men of the militia of Middlesex, three hundred of Essex, and one hundred of Somerset were ordered out for that purpose, the following officers commanding: Nathaniel Heard, Colonel.

Many of the “Minute Men,” as such, having entered the Continental Army, the battalions thereof became so reduced that on the 29th day of February, 1776, they were ordered to be dissolved and incorporated in the militia of the districts where they resided.

On the 3d day of June, 1776, the Continental Congress “Resolved, That thirteen thousand eight hundred militia be employed to re-enforce the army at New York” (and further) “Resolved, That the Colony of New Jersey be requested to furnish, of their militia, three thousand three hundred men.”

According to this resolve, an ordinance was passed June 14, 1776, by the Provincial Congress (NJ), to raise the number of men required. This force was ordered to be divided into five battalions, consisting of eight companies, of seventy-eight men each, and the service was limited to December 1st, 1776. A bounty of three pounds was allowed each man who should enlist in this brigade.”

The “Regulars” or “Continentals” in the Continental army served one year terms in 1775 and ’76, then 3 years or the duration of the war thereafter; to be paid 5 dollars per month.

Leadership of this newly organized NJ Militia Brigade was first offered to Col. Joseph Reed (born in Trenton), who declined. Reed, Washington’s adjutant general, was one of his most trusted staff members, although he was among those who later criticized Washington’s leadership in the aftermath of the fall of Long Island and New York/Manhattan, including Fort Washington. Washington became aware of this, but still relied upon him thereafter, although the tainted relationship never fully healed.

The post was then offered to Colonel Nathaniel Heard of Woodbridge Twp., Middlesex Co., NJ, who accepted the position and a promotion to State Brigadier General (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pages 333, 334, 335, 343, & 349 – Brigadier General/Col. Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; Further: Colonel Nathaniel Heard – Brigadier General; and Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; and again Nathaniel Heard – Colonel; finally Brigadier General Nathaniel Heard – Colonel, First Regiment, Middlesex; Colonel, battalion, “Minute Men,” February 12th, 1776; Colonel, battalion, “Heard’s Brigade,”, June 25th, 1776; Brigadier General Commanding, ditto; Brigadier General, militia, February 1st, 1777).

Cutlope was living with his family in the township of Cranbury in Middlesex County, NJ when he enlisted sometime in late June or the beginning of July, 1776 as a Private (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 207 – Private) into Captain Vincent Wetherill’s New Jersey State Troop Militia Company under the Regiment commanded by Colonel David Forman; a unit within NJ State Brigadier General Heard’s Brigade, which consisted of five regiments.

Vincent Wetherill was said to have been born between 1749 -1753 in Hunterdon, NJ. An index to Marriage Records, 1666-1799, shows that he married Abigail Lott, Apr. 17, 1773 in New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., NJ (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 418 – Captain (Vincent) Wetherill – Captain, First Regiment, Middlesex; (Vincent) Wetherill – Captain, Second Regiment, Middlesex; Captain, Third Regiment, ditto).

Vincent’s father, John also served as a Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Middlesex, NJ militia until he resigned on August 1st, 1776, due to a “disability” (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 357).

David Forman was born 3 Nov 1745 in Monmouth Co., NJ. His parents were Joseph Forman and Elizabeth Lee. The town of Monmouth or Monmouth Court House was also known as Freehold, which is where he lived during his Revolutionary service. He left there for Maryland in 1794. His wife, Anne Marsh was from Chestertown, MD and they had inherited her family’s plantation. He had also come to own another plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. In 1796 he personally transferred some of the Maryland slaves there. Learning that his wife was in ill health he boarded a ship out of New Orleans bound for New York in Aug 1797, which was captured by British pirates and sent to New Providence (Bahama Islands) where he died as a prisoner on 12 Sep 1797 and is likely buried nearby.

David was first appointed a Lt. Colonel of the NJ State Regiment. It consisted of 372 men formed into four companies from Middlesex and four from Monmouth counties. At the time that his commander, Brigadier General Heard, under Major General Nathanael Greene’s Division (Greene’s other Continental Brigade Commander was Brigadier General John Nixon) assumed command of the brigade during the 1776 New York and New Jersey campaigns, Forman was promoted to a full Colonel (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pages 57, 64, 335, & 349 – Brigadier General David Forman – later resigned commission and entered Continental Army as a Col. commanding “Forman’s Regiment.” Further: David Forman – Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel Heard’s battalion, “Heard’s Brigade,” June 25th, 1776; Colonel, ditto; Brigadier General, militia, March 5th, 1777; resigned November 6th, 1777; commanded Jersey militia at the battle of Germantown).

National Archives Records for Vincent Wetherill and David Forman are found in, “Revolutionary War Rolls”, compiled 1894-1913, documenting the period 1775-1783, Record Group 93, NARA M246, Muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and units, 1775-83, Roll 0064, NJ, Forman’s Regiment of Militia, 1776, Folder 69; and also “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-ca.1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record Group 93, 1775-1785, NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who serviced in the American Army during the Revolutionary War 1775-1783, Roll 0640, NJ, David Forman’s Regiment, Militia, Record Type: Individual.

Enlisting as Privates with Cutlope were neighbors Joseph Carson and his brother Charles (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 533 – Privates Charles Carson, Joseph Carson. Middlesex). Joseph was one of Cutlope’s pension witnesses. Joseph referred to their unit as the, “Flying Camp.” Many NJ militia companies at that time were formed into the “Flying Camp”, as requested by General George Washington, which was to act as a ready reserve or quick reactionary force. At a later period, a full time Continental Flying Camp was tried, comprised of regular soldiers from several states (first Delaware, Maryland & Pennsylvania, then Connecticut and Virginia were included), but for a number of reasons, not the least of which was limited manpower, the latter plan never reached full potential and was eventually called off.

“State Troops” were made up of militiamen. These units were initially known as “New Levies” and sometimes referred to as “Five Months Levies” as the soldiers, like Cutlope, Joseph and Charles signed on for 5 month stints. Regular Militia served more or less at will throughout the war. Their term of duty was usually set at one month. One half of the militia served each month and was then relieved by the other half.

Col. Forman’s Strength Return Records noted among the Natl. Archives documents above show that his Regiment was at Headquarters on July 6, 13, & 20, 1776.

Presumably, Col. Forman’s initial HQ was possibly near his home in Monmouth Courthouse, aka Freehold in Monmouth Co., NJ, but by 8 Jul his regiment was on Long Island as then Continental Brigadier General Nathanael Greene issued the following two orders, ++ “Col. Forman’s NJ regt. to camp on the ground lately occupied by Col. Hitchcock’s regt. (possibly near Fort Putnam & the fort or redoubt on the left of it, which is where Greene had previously assigned as that units alarm post on 14 Jun),” and secondly that “Col. Forman’s Regt. to occupy Col. Varnum’s old alarm posts, namely, Fort Box and the Oblong redoubt. Brigade Major to lead the troops to the alarm Post at 7 a.m. The guard for the several works to be continued the same as before from the 11th & 12th of the old establishment & the Jersey new levies, that the new levies may have the benefit of the knowledge of the standing troops.”

General Greene issued the following order on ++ “July 10, 1776 – A fatigue party (work detail) of 150 to be furnished from the 11th & 12th & Col. Forman’s Regt. for Smith’s Barbette (protective circular armor feature around a cannon or some type of artillery) to be continued till it is completed.”

General Greene further issued the following orders:

++ “Aug. 1, 1776 – All the straw bunks & ____ in ye different regts. occupied by the well to be collected from the sick of Col. Forman’s regt.”

++ “Aug. 4, 1776 – A fatigue party from Col. Little’s, Col. Forman’s & Col. Gay’s regts. of 200 men, properly officered, to work at Fort Sterling tomorrow … Officers are directed to acquaint themselves with the ground for miles about their camps.”

++ “Aug. 16, 1776 – Genls. Nixon and Heard are to furnish a fatigue party from their brigades and to form the necessary lines from fort Box to fort Putnam.”

Greene was promoted to Major-General on 9 Aug.

++ “Letter from major-General Nathanael Greene to Col. Moses Little – Thursday Morning (Aug. 15) – Long Island “ … it is very evident there was a General Imbarcation <sic> of the Troops (Enemy) last evening from Statten Island – doubtless they’l make a dessent <sic> this morning. Youl please to order all the troops fit for duty to be at the Alarm posts near an hour sooner than is common – let their flints arms and ammunition be examined and everything held in readiness to defend the works or go upon a detachment … Youl acquaint the Commanding officers of Col. Hitchcock’s Regiment and Col Forman’s Regiment of this, and direct them to observe the same orders …”

While there Cutlope was, “sent out with a scouting party and took on sixty or seventy prisoners and the next morning after taking the prisoners it was Lord Stirling who came and made a speech to us – and promised us for how well we had behaved…” Brigade Commander Brigadier General Lord Stirling, whose actual name was William Alexander and also from New Jersey was under the command of Major General John Sullivan’s Division until temporarily assuming leadership of his division on 20 Aug. while Sullivan relieved Greene who was ill. He was later promoted to Major General. Stirling died of gout in Albany, NY 15 Jan 1783 while in command of the Northern Dept. (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pages 13, 63, & 350 – Major General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling) – Colonel, First Battalion, First Establishment, 7 Nov. 1775; Brigadier General, Continental Army, 11 Mar 1776; Major General, Continental Army, 19 Feb 1777. Further: Col. William Alexander, (Lord Stirling), Colonel, First Battalion, Somerset; also a Major General, Continental Army).

++ “As appears from a document among the papers of General Knox, the encampments and posts of these brigades, before the advance of the enemy (Aug. 27), were fixed as follows: … Greene’s division – Nixon and Heard’s brigades – with the exception of Prescott’s regiment and Nixon’s, now under his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Nixon, which were on Governor’s Island, occupied the Long Island front.”

++ Excerpts from, “The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn including a new and circumstantial account of the Battle of Long Island and the loss of New York, with a review of the events to the close of the year” by Henry P. Johnston 1878.

While limited fighting had been ongoing for several days, the full-fledged Battle of Long Island took place on Aug. 27, 1776. Brigadier General Heard’s Brigade was there, but per Cutlope’s accounting, he and/or his particular Company and/or Regiment was not in the actual major battle on that day. He stated that, “I was not in the battle of Long Island but marching toward it and within about two miles of it when I heard the battle was over.” That is entirely feasible as there was much confusion and mayhem due to a number of factors, which included poor communication, coordination (one of Washington’s several grave mistakes was the dismissal of mounted Cavalry to aid in mobile surveillance, somewhat of a new concept at the time), and a lack of experienced leaders and troops. Major General Nathanael Greene, who was in Command of Long Island and had been one of the most knowledgeable leading officers on the lay of the land and the position of the Rebel forces, had fallen ill and was bed ridden at the time of the battle. Washington ordered General Sullivan to temporarily relieve him on 20 Aug with Brigadier General Lord Stirling taking charge of Sullivan’s division. This battle resulted in a terrible loss for Washington and it was considered a miracle that the bulk of his surviving troops eventually made their secret escape from their last fortified position in Brooklyn across the East River at the confluence of the Hudson to New York (Manhattan). The exodus began during the night of Aug. 29, 1976 in a driving rain and continued into the morning daylight, at which point the rain had ceased, but many of the Troops had still not crossed, including Washington who left at the very last. Those still on Long Island found themselves fully exposed, when out of nowhere a thick fog rolled in on an otherwise sunny day and lay low across the water and served as good cover for the remaining forces retreat.

According to the Pension file of Nathaniel Martin, another soldier under Capt. Wetherill’s command, Martin stated that on Aug. 27, 1776: Capt. Vincent Wetherill was engaged in the Battle of Long Island. Cutlope as noted had stated that he personally wasn’t in the battle proper, but was within 2 miles of it and marching towards that direction. Cutlope further stated, “I cannot say what became of Captain Wetherill after we left New York – I cannot say whether he was killed or taken or went home, but we were under the command of Lieutenant Nixon.” It is possible that in the effort to cover such a wide, complex area with limited manpower that Captain Wetherill’s Company was divided into smaller units, with Cutlope perhaps serving more directly under Lt. Robert Nixon elsewhere at the time. Per an accounting in a not yet obtained New Jersey Archive Record (further reference data unknown), Captain Vincent Wetherill was said to have been captured in the battle and died while a British prisoner. This would certainly explain why Cutlope never knew what had happened to him. An area that continues to raise a question is that Captain Wetherill remained listed under Col. Forman’s Regt. until at least Nov. 3, 1776. His name appears on Forman’s rosters as well as on “his own” corresponding “Strength Return” documents. Upon closer examination it appears that the writing on all of the Individual “Strength Return” documents from Forman, Wetherill, Nixon and so forth may have been written by the same person. It’s likely that these Strength Return records are transcriptions from original documents as they are in far too nice of a condition and look to be on paper that would not likely have been used in the field. While Capt. Wetherill may no longer have been physically with Forman as noted above, perhaps he was still “officially” considered/listed as the Officer in charge of his Company, when it was actually Lt. Robert Nixon who was then acting Company Commander.

Lt. Nixon was later promoted to Captain of a NJ Horse Company and eventually promoted to Major of 3rd Battalion, Middlesex, NJ Militia (National Archive Documents category, “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-ca.1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record Group 93, 1775-1785, NARA M881. Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War 1775-1783, Roll 0640, NJ, David Forman’s Regiment, Militia, Record Type: Individual, we find listed Lt., Capt., & Major Robert Nixon. The “Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey” lists him on page 368 (Major Robert Nixon – Captain, troop, light-horse, Middlesex, January 27th 1777; Brevet major, ditto; First Major, Third Regiment, Middlesex, October 13th, 1777) other than a Lt., but there appears to be a possible page missing as Lt. Nixon may have been listed as a 2nd Lt., but the alphabetically listing jumps from before Nixon (Newton) past any possible officers with the last name beginning with “O” to Painter.

On Sep 2, the following took place, ++ “ … the army was reorganized and stationed to meet the new phase of the situation. Several changes were made in the brigades, and the whole divided into three grand divisions, under Putnam, Spencer, and Heath. … Spencer’s, of six brigades, took up the line from that point (15th St.) to Horne’s Hook and Harlem … Greene had not sufficiently recovered from his illness and his old troops, under Nixon and Heard, were temporarily doing duty with Spencer’s command (Generals Sullivan and Stirling had been captured during the Long Island battle, but were later permitted to return).”

Cutlope said that he drew two months pay at New York (Manhattan).

The Battle of New York took place on Sept. 15, 1776 and the Battle of Harlem Heights began in the early morning of Sept. 16, 1776 and lasted until 3 p.m. Cutlope makes no mention of whether he directly took part in those engagements or not. Brigadier General Heard’s Brigade was re-assigned to Major General Putnam at some point on the island, specifically so by the 16th on Harlem Heights. Cutlope may have retreated there under Putnam on the 15th. On the 16th, Heard’s Brigade was not utilized in the battle. Cutlope’s former sister Brigade commanded by Brigadier General John Nixon was a major factor in the fighting. This Brigade was still under the command of General Greene and was on the front lines at Harlem Heights. Putman’s forces were just to their rear. Note: General Putnam personally participated.

A decision was made for a full retreat to New Jersey or further north into New York. While leaving a portion of the troops in lower New York to slow the enemy upon which point they would likely embark troops upon the island in that vicinity, Washington marched the bulk of his forces north to Harlem Heights to prepare defensive works and lines as it was identified by the nature of its name; a place of high ground and far more defensible than earlier positions. Those southernmost units were pushed northward on Sept. 15 to Harlem Heights and Fort Washington by the enemy with embarrassing ease.

Early on Sept. 16, Washington sent a detachment of elite Rangers under the command of Col. Knowlton on a reconnaissance mission. This unit came across the advance units of the enemy and a heated skirmish ensued. Knowlton, facing much greater numbers was ultimately pushed back. Adjutant-General Col. Reed, who bore witness to the action, advised Washington to dispatch reinforcements. Washington hesitated, not wanting to engage in full scale battle. His current strategy was to attack when convenient then retreat (until his troops were more seasoned, after reviewing the Long Island debacle), but when Reed further revealed to him that someone on the British side decided to insult Washington and his men by blowing a bugle call for a Fox hunt during their chase, the normally coolheaded Washington became enraged. This manifested into a significant error on the part of the egotistical British. Hearing of this and satisfied that this smaller force was sufficiently beyond it’s lines easily convinced Washington to not only comply, but also to devise a larger plan; a frontal feint to draw in the pursuing forces while at the same time sending units to flank the enemy, cut them off and capture them. The first part of the plan was successful. The overconfident enemy was sucked in. The second part was less so as the units ordered to conduct the flanking maneuver attacked too soon, doing so while they were still to the side rather than rear. At this point Col. Knowlton was killed, but his unit and another now accompanying it (who’s commanding officer was also wounded and put out of action – died later), continued the assault, while a larger force advanced from the center (Genl. Nixon’s among them) forcing the British to retreat, but they reformed on better ground and were reinforced by other British & Hessian units. Washington, elated to see his troops full of vigor, many of whom had earlier fled in the face of even lesser forces, unleashed more units, all of which continued to viciously attack, successfully driving back the larger force of British and Hessian soldiers to their main line, where awaited the bulk of the British army. At that point it was prudent for Washington to retreat back to his main lines on the Heights. Facing an emboldened enemy and desiring a break in the action, British General William Howe in conjunction with his brother Admiral Richard Howe who was in command of the Naval and Amphibious operations ultimately decided to regroup in the city, leaving Washington temporarily in command of the northern part of the island.

The Battle of Harlem Heights was one of the most crucial of the war, for at that point, Washington had suffered horrific losses in manpower, materials and ground. His enemy was emboldened. He was on the run, verging on collapse. His leadership was under serious question even though he was not to blame for much of this. While this battle was not a major engagement, his forces suddenly displayed bold stamina at a most critical time; not just rallying in defense, but offensively driving back strong, allied British and Hessian forces, proving to their countrymen and most importantly themselves that they possessed the capacity to do so, re-instilling belief that they would be victorious. Conversely, the once invincible British were taken aback. This set the stage for the upcoming battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Col. Forman’s Strength Return Reports show his Regiment to be at Mount Washington (Fort Washington) on Sep. 19, which was on the northern neck of what was then referred to as New York (Manhattan today), then advancing south to the Heights of Harlem (Harlem Heights) by Sep. 28; still at that position on Oct. 5, then falling back again to Mount (Fort) Washington by Oct. 12. A Strength Return record for Captain Wetherill’s Company or as noted above, now under the command of Lt. Nixon coincides with the latter location/date.

While it was generally felt amongst Washington’s staff that the city of New York (Manhattan) should be burned to deny the British it’s usage as a comfortable base of operations, the Continental Congress decided otherwise on the grounds that doing so would unnecessarily inflame local animosity and because they determined that it would be retaken by American forces in the future. On Sept. 21, 1776, a significant portion of the central city was burned to the ground regardless. It was never proven that any order was given to do so, but the British captured several American culprits lighting fires.

Also on Oct. 12, 1776, the British made another attempt to overrun Washington’s position, but due to a tactical error in their ship-born landing zone onto unfamiliar ground, which turned out to be wet, muddy marshland and facing rebel Troops growing in confidence, they were forced to retreat and abandon the effort.

On Oct. 18, 1776, both British General Howe and American General Washington decided to depart (Manhattan); Washington to the high ground of White Plains, NY (State). He arrived there on Oct. 21, 1776 with his main force, having left behind a mostly ill-fated garrison at Fort Washington.

Cutlope also noted the departure from New York to White Plains. Col. Forman’s Strength Return of Oct. 22, 1776 confirms the Regiment’s arrival there (Natl. Archives Record).

The Battle of White Plains commenced on Oct. 28, 1776. Washington had the benefit of the high ground and the opportunity to fortify it in advance of the joint British/Hessian attack. Fighting was fierce. Washington’s right, mostly defended by militia was eventually flanked, ultimately leading to a full, but organized fighting retreat. Casualties were significant on both sides and both paused for two days to rest and take stock. The British received reinforcements. General Howe prepared to renew the attack on Oct. 31, but a heavy rain caused a cancellation. By the next day, Howe discovered that Washington had once again slipped away in the night, retreating towards NJ.

Washington arrived at Fort Lee, on the opposite bank of the Hudson River across from the contingent that he had left at Fort Washington. Major General Nathanael Greene, one of Washington’s most trusted officers had been in charge of fortifying and manning both forts. General Washington, making observations from across the river and re-evaluating the present situation came to the conclusion that with the overwhelming British forces apparently turning back towards Fort Washington, that they would overtake the much smaller garrison and thought best to abandon it. Greene, perhaps out of pride, disagreed. Washington grudgingly gave way. Both, particularly Washington would pay dearly for the miscalculation.

Fort Washington consisted of several outworks. The Fort itself was well constructed, heavily armed, sufficiently stocked with munitions and food, but it lacked an internal well. Water had to be hauled in from the river. Further, because of the breadth of the entire defensive network, there were far too few men to adequately man all of the necessary approaches and at least some of the men, including the officers were aware that they were in somewhat of a precarious situation. This was made all the worse due to the presence of a spy in their midst. On the night of Nov. 2, 1776, adjutant William Demont slipped out of the fort and informed the British of the Forts condition and weaknesses. Taken together, the fate of the Fort and most of its gallant defenders was now essentially set. On Nov. 16, 1776, General Howe’s British forces in concert with his Hessian mercenaries launched a massive assault from multiple directions, first overrunning the outer defenses and finally breaching the walls of the central fort. Many Patriots tried to surrender and many were brutally bludgeoned with fearsome bayonets to the horror of the on-looking Generals Washington and Greene. Washington was devastated. Some began to more seriously question his leadership. Both men had learned a tragic lesson in the most horrific way.

Later that same day, writing from General Greene’s quarters at Fort Lee to then President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, Washington mentioned his orders for “Genl (Rezin) Beall’s and Genl (Nathaniel) Heard’s Brigades to preserve the Post and Stores here, which with the other Troops I hope we shall be able to effect.” This plan to also hold Fort Lee was soon to be abandoned.

By Nov. 19, 1776, Washington was again on the move. He would not repeat the same mistake with Fort Lee, a much lessor installation. He had lost many men and valuable resources at Fort Washington, both badly needed. He ordered that Fort Lee be abandoned and to recover as much material as possible. The heavy guns had to be left as well as tools and much desired camp equipage, including tents. British General Charles Cornwallis was upon them the next day, skirmishing with stragglers who had remained behind at the fort.

Washington continued on, often remaining with his rear guard, skirmishing with his antagonists while attempting to hold them back long enough for his pioneers to destroy key bridges and foul the road with debris. His lead Troops reached Newark, NJ on Nov. 23 and the rear remained there until the 28th, with Cornwallis again arriving shortly thereafter. It was here that Washington decided to send his sick and wounded west to Morristown, NJ where they would hopefully be safe to recuperate and he could gain added mobility.

Between Newark and New Brunswick they passed to the west of Spanktown, NJ (today Rahway) as Cutlope described, crossing the Rahway River.

General George Washington, while Commander in Chief of all Continental forces, actually only directly led one Corps out of several at this juncture in the Revolutionary War and not exactly with the greatest of authority due to some predominately unwarranted misgivings by some members of the Continental Congress who were also being unduly influenced by some duplicitous Officers (Genls. Horatio Gates and Charles Lee, the highest ranking among them) who were commanding the remainder of the soldiers. The largest single American force at that moment was led by former British Officer, General Charles Lee. Lee was an odd character with a challenging disposition. Washington’s and Lee’s positions would soon change in dramatic ways.

Cutlope’s Regiment was a part of those troops under General Washington’s immediate command (not captured or stationed elsewhere), who were now retreating to set up defenses and winter quarters along the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River, adjacent Trenton, NJ, pursued by British Lt. General Cornwallis. General Howe arrived later to re-claim full command. They passed through the heart of Middlesex Co., NJ, New Brunswick from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, 1776, north-east of the old Monmouth Courthouse, which was in Middlesex Co. Monmouth Co. borders Middlesex along its southern border.

The vanguard of Washington’s dwindling Troops had reached Princeton, NJ by Dec. 2; remaining until Dec. 6 before pushing on to Trenton, then crossing the Delaware River into PA. Note the reference to “dwindling” Troops. Recall that General Washington had dispatched the sick and wounded to Morristown when they had reached Newark. The following quote is from patriot soldier William Beatty, published in the book, “Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer, “Two or three days after our arrival at New Brunswick, being the first of December, and the Expiration of the flying Camp troop’s time…leaving our Brave Genl (Washington) with a very weak army.” Further, Washington himself recorded, “…all the men of the Jersey flying camp…have refused to continue.”

Cutlope made the statement, “from Spanktown unknown we went to Monmouth and the last night we stayed there was Saturday night the next day Sabbath Morning about day break Colonel Forman ordered us to parade & marched off until about the Middle of the day – towards home – the Colonel then discharged us. And told us to make the best of our way home. It was early in the Spring when I enlisted and returned home a little before Christmas. That I served out my full five months now at that time…”

It’s unclear if Cutlope was referring to Monmouth County in general or something more specific such as the Courthouse. Cutlope’s home of Cranbury was approximately centered between Monmouth Courthouse and New Brunswick. The quotes and statements above obviously point out that the enlistments of many of the New Jersey militia flying camp had expired on December 1, 1776 as originally intended and coincide with Cutlope being discharged on that date, which was a Sunday (Sabbath) and that he then made his way back home shortly before Christmas.

The latter aspect of Cutlope’s pension statement, “during all this time to the best of my knowledge were under the command of Colonel Forman who was a hard man to the soldiers,” will be further explored in sequential historical context before continuing with a description of Cutlope’s next periods of service.

Throughout December 1776, Washington had requested several times for General Charles Lee to join forces. As noted previously, Washington’s Troops were highly depleted and worn, while Lee’s amounted to more than twice his number and were rested. Lee did not like Washington and had his own ideas of grandeur. He continually resisted, but grudgingly began to move. At the same moment that Washington arrived on the western shore of the Delaware River, General Lee had foolishly wandered off to spend a frivolous evening in a tavern well away from the main body of his Corps. He was sold out by some Loyalists and captured by the infamous British officer, Banastre Tarleton on Dec. 13, 1776. Unbeknownst to Washington at the time, this was actually a blessing, as Lee was plotting against him for his own glory.

With Lee currently out of the picture, Washington ordered those formerly under Lee’s command to unite with him along the Delaware River. Several other Brigades led by other Generals also heeded the call and joined Washington. In consultation with his officers, two key decisions were made. One was to somewhat reorganize the makeup of the army. This was due to reduced strength and to increase efficiency. **Regimental commands would be eliminated, thus Companies would report directly to Battalion Commanders. This also had the effect of having a better ratio of officers and sergeants to lower ranking soldiers, which translated to better overall experienced leadership. The second decision was to launch a surprise attack on the Hessian forces occupying Trenton the day after Christmas. This was a critical turning point for Washington, the war, and the cause.

December 1776 was known in New Jersey as the “Dark Days” of British and Hessian occupation. It was also in stark recognition of Washington’s dire situation, having been chased across the state after losing many battles and many men, the remainder being mostly in an extremely tattered condition. In spite of that they remain determined and upbeat, but cautiously so.

While Washington’s posture was primarily defensive, it did not prevent him from launching hit and run raids against his foes on the other side of the river, which caused them much irritation. The British position established by the Howe’s remained one of containment and eventual dissolution or destruction of Washington’s forces as well as an effort to entice the overall populace to renounce ties to the Revolution and to return to the fold of the British monarchy. The British achieved the opposite of their goals. Steadfast perseverance by Washington and his fellow Patriots; overconfidence, misunderstandings, lack of unity on the part of key British and Hessian officers; time, distance, limited resources and worst of all, dastardly deeds committed by an increasingly disorderly “foreign” army against a wary citizenry was their ultimate undoing. Against the orders of their superiors, British and Hessians began to pillage and plunder the inhabitants of New Jersey. Wanton destruction of property, stealing, cruelty and rape became common place. Many officers also took part and/or looked the other way. Instead of winning people over, they turned a steadily increasing number against them, including a good portion of loyalists who had originally favored them. They took up arms and organized limited assaults against the occupying forces, particularly the Hessian contingents in Trenton and those just to the south (those threatening Hessian Col. Carl von Donop from the south had joined with reconstituted remnants of mostly Patriot VA forces who had also fled from Long Island), further antagonizing and distracting them and other elements of the invading army, thus contributing to Washington’s ability to launch his somewhat desperate and thankfully critically successful large-scale counter stroke against Hessian Col. Johann Rall, who was in command at Trenton.

An often sad fact of wartime is that deplorable acts are not exclusive to the invading enemy, which alludes to Cutlope’s statement related to Col. Forman’s harsh treatment of his own men. This personality trait became further evident when on Nov. 24, 1776 General Washington assigned Col. David Forman and his Regiment, “to march with your regiment” to subdue combatant American Tories aka British Loyalists who were a thorn in Washington’s side, sniping at and spying against his forces and, “apprehend all such person as from good Information appear to be concerned in any Plot or Design against the liberty or safety of the United States.” Washington referred to this disconcerting uprising as, “an insurrection of the Tories in Monmouth County.” It’s not known if Col. Forman began his new assignment before or after Cultope’s discharge on December 1st, but it appears that Forman commenced his duties with a passionate vengeance, exceeding Washington’s somewhat vague orders of intended reasonable restraint, which would conform to Washington’s demonstrated actions. He had further instructed Col. Forman to, “attack any Body of men who you may find assembled or in Arms” yet, “be cautious against proceeding against any but such as you have the fullest ground of Suspicion” and “not suffer your Men to give the least molestation to the property of any in the Course of your March,” but “if you find any Stock of Cattle or provision that you may judge in danger of falling into the hands of the Enemy, you are first to desire the Inhabitants to remove them, and upon their Refusal you are to have it done yourself.” Quotes in this paragraph were also extracted from the book, “Washington’s Crossing.”

As earlier stated, Col. Forman took it upon himself to go out of his way to brutalize his new quarry. Beyond possibly misusing his militiamen to carry out his misdeeds in violation of orders and normal protocol, he assembled the Association of Retaliation, a group of Monmouth County vigilantes. Forman as previously noted was from Monmouth County. Perhaps because of this he developed an increased animosity towards his disloyal neighbors and sought personal revenge or he was simply taking illicit advantage of an opportunity or maybe a combination of both; regardless he and his band of marauders readily and often seized Tory estates for themselves. Loyalists thusly bestowed upon him the infamous name, “Devil David.” This activity was either unknown to Col. Forman’s superiors or they ignored it as it apparently didn’t adversely impact his advancement throughout the war.

Special Notes: Per information directly received from Roi Taylor, Col. David Forman’s first cousin and best friend was also named David Forman. The cousin was also from Monmouth Co. where he served as a Capt. in the militia as well as the sheriff and member of the state assembly, which is primarily why his Revolutionary War service was confined there. The two often joined forces against the Monmouth Co. Tories. His nickname was “Black David”, which was derived, in part anyway, from his swarthy complexion. As one can imagine, the correct identities of the two are often mixed up. Roi is the 5th great-grandson of Sheriff David and related to Col. David through his 1st cousin. Further, in conjunction with the raids against the area Tories, Roi related a story handed down within the family describing how both men held “Sheriff sales” or auctions of property that they confiscated from the Tories who had fled to Canada. These sales were held at 3 a.m. while most people slept, thus allowing, albeit rather deceitfully for them to purchase a majority of the properties. Sheriff David expanded his original property by adding connecting land that he “bought” via this process, which swelled his farm to two square miles. It later became known as the “Forman Neighborhood”.

Cutlope stated that about a month after returning to his home near Cranbury, that he was drafted into the Militia for one month. This 2nd period of service occurred from Feb. 1, 1777 until Mar. 3, 1777. Natl. Archives Revolutionary War Payroll records indicate that he served in Captain James Morgan’s Company, 2nd Battalion (** see related reference above) of the Middlesex, NJ Militia commanded by Col. John Neilson; that he was absent for 3 days, serving 28 days, and paid the amount of 2 pounds, 10 shillings. (Cutlope is found in National Archives Publication M881, Catalog #570910, Title, “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War”, compiled 1894-circa 1912, documenting the period 1775-1784, Record group 93, 1775-1785, Roll 0595, NJ, Second Battalion (Middlesex), Record type: individual, Surname: Hankock <Hancock>, Given name: Cutlope).

Col. Neilson was promoted to NJ Militia Brigadier General on Mar. 15, 1777. On July 15, 1780, the Continental Congress appointed him Deputy Quartermaster for the State of New Jersey (his pension documents simply refer to him as Col.). (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 350, Col. John Neilson – Colonel, battalion, “Minute Men;” Colonel, Second Regiment, Middlesex, August 1st, 1776; Colonel, regiment, State Troops; Brigadier General, militia, February 21st, 1777; also Deputy Quartermaster General (NJ)).

Captain James Morgan (Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey, pg. 402 – Ensign, Second Regiment, Middlesex; Captain, ditto, also Captain, State troops).

Additional documentary evidence for Col. Neilson, Capt. Morgan and Cutlope is found in National Archives Publication M246, Publication title: Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Catalog #602384, Title: “Revolutionary War Rolls, compiled 1894-1913, documenting the period 1775-1783, Record Group #93, NARA M246, Muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83, Roll #0063, NJ, 2d Battalion of Hunterdon <Middlesex>, Date range: 1777, Folder #61.

During this tour of duty, Cutlope stated that his unit, “… marched to Bennet’s Island – on a scouting party when we took fifty or sixty prisoners I cannot recollect the Commanders names – we lost but one man – as we had surrounded the house when the enemy was before the guards got time to get up …” The historical record shows that this took place on Feb. 18, 1777.

Cultope’s description of the capture of prisoners is confirmed and further detailed in Col. John Neilson’s Revolutionary Pension File; Natl. Archives Publication M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Catalog ID 300022, Catalog Title: Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 – ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 – ca. 1900, Record Group 15, NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NJ, Veteran Surname: Neilson, Veteran Given Name: John, Service: NJ, Pension Number S. 4607.

Col. Neilson’s account is as follows (orig. verbiage): “Early in 1777, soon after establishing this post (Cranbury, NJ), information was given me by a deserter from the British Lines at S. Brunswick, that an outpost of British Troops was formed at Bennets Island; two or three miles from the main army at New Brunswick under the command of a refugee Field Officer. We immediately contemplated the measure, and formed a plan to surprise them. I dispatched a messenger to General Putnam, then commanding at Princeton for assistance, the General very promptly sent me forty or fifty Virginia riflemen, with these men united with those of my command at Cranbury we took up our line of march near sundown and proceeded with a steady march, without being discovered, altho <sic> there was snow on the ground and frosty night, untill <sic> we were in the midst of the British quarters at Bennets Island, and succeeded by completely surprising & capturing the whole of the party, with Major Richard Stockton (***See note in next paragraph) their Commanding officer with their arms etc. and returned in safety to our quarters near Cranbury having but lost one or two men; and next day forwarded the Prisoners, between sixty & seventy with their arms and accoutrements, to the order of General Putnam at Princeton. On this expedition Mssr. Andrew McDowell was our guide.”

A detailed accounting can be found in the article, “The Battle of Bennett’s Island: The New Jersey Site Rediscovered” by Christian M. McBurney in collaboration with researcher Chris Hay of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, who shared his extensive studies of the battle, which was posted on the website, Journal of the American Revolution (https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/07/battle-bennetts-island-new-jersey-site-rediscovered/) 10 July 2017. The battle is described as well as the lead-in and aftermath, including key participants, namely Col. John Neilson along with background information.  Cutlope Hancock is also mentioned and quoted (sourced from his pension file) by name among others.  Furthermore, what became of the site is also described.

***Not to be confused with Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who by an amazing coincidence lived nearby on the outskirts of Princeton, NJ. To add further irony, the American Richard Stockton, beyond being a member of the Continental Congress, had also been given a commission as a colonel in the Continental Army, but when the British arrived in his neighborhood in Dec. 1776, he fled to PA. He was captured by Loyalists and turned over to British authorities, who promptly put him in irons and locked him in jail, but he soon capitulated; signing the Howe brother’s offer of amnesty and declaring his allegiance to the king at which time he was released and returned to his palatial home only to find that it had been ransacked. Almost exactly one year later he was pressured by American leaders and renounced his pledge to the King. Mr. Stockton had been a wealthy lawyer and judge. He died in 1781 a broken and lost soul, no longer welcomed by either side.

The present location of Bennett’s Island is not known and may no longer exist or at least not by that name. At the time, it was just south-east of New Brunswick along the Raritan river.  The 10 July 2017 aforementioned article, The Battle of Bennett’s Island: The New Jersey Site Rediscovered, essentially states that the name was changed to Clancy Island and that the battle site was likely in and around the main house formerly owned by Thomas Lawrence in the land triangle at the confluence of the Raritan River, South River and Lawrence Brook, part of East Brunswick Twp.  When this home/farm was sold in Dec 1778, a statement was made regarding, “its situation is remarkably high and healthy, commanding a most beautiful and extensive prospect from the place where the house stood, so much so, that the city of Amboy lies open to view,” leading local historian, Timothy J. Lynch to conclude that the site has now been leveled and under part of the Edgeboro Landfill, albeit not an area used to actually bury trash or near the intersection of  present day Ellison and Milton Avenues at the highest point on the edge of a height of land running along Ellison, just outside the western boundary line of the landfill; to the west is Exit 9 of the New Jersey Turnpike (Rte. 95), just before the highway spans the Raritan River.

Cutlope was at some point called into service for the 3rd time, stating, “Again I was called out to Elizabeth Town and served one month – we had not fighting.” The precise time frame is unknown and there were no noted events or unit commanders to base anything on other than he was encamped at Elizabethtown, NJ.

Sometime after this period, Cutlope returned to service for a 4th and final time, stating, “Again I was called out for a month at the time of the battle of Monmouth (NJ) (Battle – 28 Jun 1778). I was not in the battle but was on furlough during the battle. Then we marched to Burlington (NJ).” Cutlope’s final Revolutionary War service was sometime between May to July 1778, serving at the time of the Battle of Monmouth, but not a participant due to a leave of absence.   His service apparently ended at Burlington.

In his answer to a pension question related to the names of some of the regular officers who were with the troops when he served; such continental and militia regiments, he responded as follows: “I recollect of seeing Genl Washington I recollect Lord Stirling at Long Island and also I recollect Colonel Forman and Lieutenant Nixon of the Jersey line of the Continental Army. I saw Genl Washington and Genl Lee at the Cross Roads near Cranbury New Jersey.”

We have already documented Cutlope’s encounters with Stirling, Forman, and Nixon, among others and their affiliations. It’s certainly likely that he also came in close contact with General Washington as he was often in the same proximity. It is hard to determine from the above statement if and or when Cutlope may ever have seen General (Charles) Lee, as he was often in a different theater of the war than Cutlope. It is possible, that while Lee was easily distinguishable, Cutlope may have mistaken someone else for him.

 

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One Response to Cutlope Hancock’s Military Service

  1. Patti Simpson Taylor says:

    I am also related to Cutlope (I believe) thru his son John who I believe married Sarah Riggle. Would like to compare notes with you. You can see my records on http://www.tribalpages.com/tribes/pattitaylor

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