Somerset County, New Jersey
 Revolutionary War Losses


The revolutionary war resulted in loss for many citizens of Somerset County by both the British destroying property and/or the Continental Army taking property for its needs.  One humorous note involved Washington and his officers who stopped at the Abraham Van Doren house south of Griggstown after the Battle of Princeton for some rest before continuing on to Millstone and the John Van Doren home.  Earlier, Mrs. Van Doren had spread some clothes on bushes to dry.  When she saw the clothes vanishing, she complained to General Washington, who ordered his men to return them. Upon the restoration of her laundry, Mrs. Van Doren graciously prepared food for the men and gathered up whatever clothes she could spare, and gave them to the soldiers.

The army reached Millstone (Somerset Courthouse) by dusk.  British prisoners were locked up in the courthouse jail.  Just an hour earlier, a party of 100 British troops had evacuated the village.  They had been stationed to guard supplies and took 20 baggage wagons with them.

After the war, in 1781, the Continental Congress enacted a law that would reimburse citizens from losses incurred by both the British and Washington's army.  In 1782, Abraham Van Doren was appointed as the appraiser for Somerset County and took statements from owners and witnesses concerning their losses.  (Just some of our family is noted) (There are many more listed in the source)

Value for Losses incurred by the Enemy:                                          Pounds / Shillings

William Baird                    Griggstown                                107         12
Samuel Garretson             Middlebush                                 82           3
Peter Schenck                   Raritan Landing                        218           8
Abraham Van Doren        Griggstown                                   26         10
Abraham Van Doren        Middlebush                                  67         10
Benjamin Van Doren        Middlebush                                208           2

Property Loss incurred by the Continental Army:

Reverend John Leight, Minister of the Gospel, lost two hives with bees, two cords of wood, and 200 wt. of hay.

Abraham Quick for loss from his barn, taken, leather collars, leather bridles, shaft lines and gears.  Quick claimed the items disappeared prior to the Monmouth Battle when Gen. Washington's baggage came along by his door and made a halt.  Also claimed were the loss of two pocket handkerchiefs and three pairs of woolen socks.
 
John Stryker said his 23 year old slave and his 11 yr. old horse were pressed into service by Gen. Washington.

Peter Pumyea testified he saw the slave driving a wagon with the Army.  Stryker put a value of 80 pds on his slave and 11 pds on the horse. 

Abraham Van Doren of Griggstown testified that he lost a horse from his pasture and that a neighbor saw the horse later with the Army.  He valued the horse at 25 pds.
 
Cornelius Van Doren claimed his horse, 10 yrs old, was taken by the militia commanded by Col. Middagh.

John Van Doren claimed, losing a 4 yr old bay mare that James Wheeler testified he saw being ridden by Lt. Martin.

William Baird of Griggstown claimed he lost a horse, 25 panels of fence, a pair of stockings, and
"one looking glass and sheets for the hospital"

For what it is worth, the claims were never paid. 

These are just some of the reports of the property loss suffered by the patriots.  William Baird, my 5th Great Grandfather, had 4 sons fighting with the 2nd Battalion of the Somerset County Militia, all had attained ranks of officer.  This included my 4th Great Grandfather, Major John Baird, who would remain a prominent citizen of Griggstown until he died in 1834 at the age of 79.  In 1832, he applied for and received a $480.00 annual pension for his service during the Revolution.

The next older brother was Captain William Baird,  who was 12 years older than John. William Baird Jr., must have had an optimistic view the colonial situation, or at least a practical one, so as to take the time to marry Catalina Hoagland, on July 23, 1775.  This left only a short honeymoon period, before he and his brothers began organizing the 2nd Battalion of the Somerset County Militia.  The oldest brother, Benjamin Baird, would serve as the battalion's Lieut-Colonel.  However, as we see above, the Baird family had property loss in the revolution, but they would incur even greater loss, the loss of life.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Baird would give up his life,  just 2 months after the army's first significant victories at Trenton and Princeton.  On the last day of March  1777,   Benjamin Baird passed from this life.

Details are not quite as clear for this family's oldest son, Robert Baird.  He,  like his brothers, geared up in the same battalion, but not as a commissioned officer.  All that I know is that because of the respect the battalion had for the Bairds, special effort was made to grant Robert Baird an officer's commission on his death bed.   The story is supposedly set forth on page 495 of a Somerset County historical journal called "Our Home".  If I can locate a copy of this journal, I will gladly update my notes on the Bairds.

-Tom Van Doren   7/21/2006

Parts Excerpted from:
Franklin Township, Somerset County, N.J., A History by William B. Brahms