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Historic Circa 1812-1820 Essex County Militia Flag to be Restored

NJ Historical Commission Awards Grant to Historical Society of West Caldwell

The New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State, has announced that a grant of $3,000 has been awarded to the Historical Society of West Caldwell. The money will go toward the restoration and preservation of a painted militia flag believed to have been flown by members of a Caldwell Township, Essex County Cavalry Militia unit between 1812-1820.

During this time period the name “Caldwell” referred to old Caldwell Township, which today includes the towns of Cedar Grove, Verona, Roseland, Essex Fells, Livingston, Fairfield, North Caldwell, Caldwell and West Caldwell, making this flag a historical artifact of interest to the residents of all these towns.

Once the flag is restored, the Society plans to provide opportunities for people of Essex County to view it and learn about it in the context of the War of 1812 during the upcoming Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The flag is approximately 30” high by 42” wide and is painted on each side. On one side is a profile of a uniformed man wearing a shako helmet and carrying a sword,  mounted on a rearing horse. Above him is a red ribbon that reads “2__ REG: ESSEX [S]QU[A]DRON” in gilded letters.

The other side shows the seal of New Jersey: two women flanking a central shield of blue, with the figure on the left holding a red flag; the figure on the right holding a cluster of large flowers and a shield with three images of a plow, painted in white. A horse’s head in profile rests above the shield. A red ribbon below the shield reads “CALDWELL TROOP” in gilded letters.

Former Caldwell Historian E. Lesley Byrnes received the flag from the late Raymond Francisco Dey (1905-1995), who donated it to the Society in the 1990’s. Dey believed that the flag was associated with Gen. William Gould (1757-1847), who served in the Revolution, the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania and the War of 1812. Joseph G. Bilby, Historian and Assistant Curator at the National Guard Militia Museum of NJ, Sea Girt, states that the uniform and type of headgear indicate that the flag probably dates to the period 1814-1820. Bilby also notes that the term “Squadron” referred to a cavalry unit.

New Jersey’s involvement in the War of 1812 continued until the end of the war in 1815. Although the records are sparse, the available data indicate that there were at least two dozen Essex County militia companies activated for this conflict. Two of them are described as Caldwell companies.

One was part of the First Regiment, an infantry company lead by Captain Isaac Crane, while the other was part of the Third Regiment, a rifle company lead by Captain Simeon Crane. A third company, called the Columbian Volunteers, was organized in Caldwell in 1814 and was lead by Captain Rufus Harrison. It is not yet known if this unit served in the War of 1812. Research on the topic is ongoing.

The Historical Society of West Caldwell is a not-for-profit corporation whose purpose is to bring together those people interested in history, especially that of West Caldwell and vicinity; to acquire and encourage the preservation of documents, pictures, other artifacts, buildings and sites of historical significance.

The Society is seeking additional funding to enable the creation of an exhibit for the flag. For more information, contact the , PO Box 1701, West Caldwell, NJ 07007-11701 or at hswcaldwell@gmail.com.

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