Caldwell’s rare New Jersey Militia Company flag from the War of 1812 has come home.
After a year and a half undergoing conservation and stabilization, the fragile, 200-year-old artifact is on display at the , Westville Avenue, West Caldwell. It may be viewed after the Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Although there were no battles fought within the state of New Jersey during the War of 1812, New Jersey residents were painfully aware of the risks they faced if the British attacked New York Harbor. Many people then living were veterans or civilian survivors of the Revolution when New Jersey earned the title, “Crossroads of the Revolution.”
Throughout the Revolution, New Jerseyans experienced the violence of military skirmishes and foraging raids by the British and Loyalists as well as the hardships of finding food and supplies. In 1812, the possibilities of British troops landing on the Jersey Shore or in New York Harbor were realistic and cause for concern.
Local Caldwell Revolutionary veterans, such as General William Gould (1757-1847) and Rev. Stephen Grover (1758-1836) of the First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell, and other residents, including NJ Governor Joseph Bloomfield (1753-1823), all veterans of both the Revolution and the Pennsylvania Insurrection of 1794, reactivated their active military status a third time to serve in the War of 1812. Gov. Bloomfield was commissioned a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army in the spring of 1812, but it was in his role as governor that he issued orders that organized and then activated N.J. militia companies. Subsequently, he left New Jersey and was on active duty in the Army at the Canadian border until after the end of the war in 1815.
Gen. Gould remained in New Jersey and commanded the Essex Brigade, a group of Essex County local militia companies that sought to provide defense of the county as well as the shoreline and entrances to New York harbor. Caldwell militia companies were among the first to volunteer in the spring of 1812 and were among those encamped only one mile across the Hudson River from New York City at Paulus Hook (Jersey City) during the summer of 1812. Rev. Grover was their chaplain. When this first period of active duty ended, these militia companies continued to drill and prepare for additional active duty as the war continued.
After the burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814, Essex County militia members were alerted to defensive measures to be taken for Essex County by the Essex Squadron under the command of Gen. Gould. Gould was aided in his command of the Essex County defenses by Major Peter Kean, twice great grandfather of former governor Thomas Kean. Beginning in September and October of 1814, until a truce was signed that December, militia units from Essex County again were activated and stationed at Paulus Hook. Rev. Stephen Grover served throughout the war as Chaplain to N.J. militia soldiers.
One cavalry company, Caldwell Troop, Essex Squadron of the 2nd Regiment, N.J. Militia, obtained a militia flag for their company. Painted with the Seal of New Jersey on one side and a cavalry soldier on horseback on the other side, this flag has survived to the present as a reminder of the devotion to liberty and commitment to defense of the United States by Caldwell residents. It may also have been carried by a Caldwell honor guard lead by Gen. Gould when his militia unit greeted Gen. Lafayette during his visit to the United States in 1824.
The Historical Society of West Caldwell, which owns the flag, was supported by a to have it conserved in Massachusetts at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.
The flag will be on display for the first time to the public on Memorial Day, May 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the , Westville Avenue, West Caldwell. Admission is free. For more information, contact HSWCaldwell@gmail.com or 973-364-0155.
This artible was contributed by the Historical Society of West Caldwell.