History of the West Jersey Artillery
An Ordinance from the Provincial Congress and Council of Safety of New Jersey:
“Whereas the present exigencies of the times to raise at least two companies of artillery for the defense of this Colony; it is resolved that two artillery companies consisting each of sixty-four men, officers included, be raised in both the Eastern and Western Divisions of this colony. Each company shall be commanded by a Captain, Captain-Lieutenant, First and Second Lieutenants,and to consist of a Fire-Worker, four Sergeants, for Corporals, one Bombardier, and fifty matrosses.
In pursuit of this plan, this Congress has agreed to raise forthwith two companies of artillery and to purchase twelve field pieces for the defense of this Colony to be stationed one half in East Jersey and the other half in West Jersey. The Provincial Congress has elected the following officers for the Western Company:
- Samuel Hugg, Captain
- Thomas Newark, Captain-Lieutenant
- John Westcott, First Lieutenant
- Joseph Dayton, Second Lieutenant
- Joseph Ellis, Paymaster & Commissary
This ordinance was approved on its second reading to the Provincial Congress of New Jersey in the Town and County of Burlington on Saturday, the 2nd of March, in the year of our Lord one-thousand and seven-hundred and seventy-six.”
The West Jersey Artillery company was originally formed after a letter was received by the New Jersey legislature from the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania advising them that it would be in the colony’s best interest to raise an artillery unit for its own defense. The men of the unit were originally taken into service of the colony for a period of one year, however the company served much longer past one year’s time. Most of the men were from Gloucester County, the largest county in the state, which at that time encompassed present day Gloucester, Camden and Atlantic counties. The men of the West Jersey Artillery were always referred to as Gloucestermen.
The West Jersey Artillery was active in the 1776 New Jersey campaign and was engaged at both the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, with First Lieutenant John Westcott crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night in the same boat as General Washington. In early 1777, both the West & East Jersey Artillery company’s were taken into Continental Army service, and for a short period were the only artillery units with the Continental Army.
During the year 1777 and into the Spring of 1778, the company remained in southern New Jersey, being assigned to both fort’s Mercer and Billings for the defense of the Delaware River approaches to Philadelphia. During this period, they were engaged in numerous actions throughout the region; Mantua Creek firing on British warships in the Delaware River, King’s Highway near modern day Swedesboro, and Quinton’s Bridge in Salem County. June of that year found the West Jersey Artillery with the main Continental Army and fought in the largest battle of the war at Monmouth. Shortly after, the West Jersey Artillery merged with the 4th Continental Artillery with men also being assigned to the 2nd Continental Artillery. The company continued to serve with both units for the remainder of the war until being mustered out of service at war’s end.
The West Jersey Artillery company would be called back to duty twice more in the 18th Century. In 1791 to participate in warfare with Native Americans on the frontier and to serve again under now President Washington in the 1794 Whiskey rebellion. The last service of the unit as the West Jersey Artillery was during the War of 1812.
The West Jersey Artillery would eventually morph into the Camden Light Artillery Company and served honorably in the Mexican War, Civil War, World War’s I & II, Korean War, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Noble Eagle immediately after September 11, 2001. Today, the modern day batteries of the 112th Field Artillery of the New Jersey National Guard trace their lineage back over 200 years to the West Jersey Artillery company of 1776.