26 June 1777
During the American Revolution, British troops ransacked and pillaged hundreds of American communities, but there was rarely any attempt to accurately account for what was taken. One exception is the ransacking of Westfield, when 13,000 Redcoats camped outside the small New Jersey town on the night of 26 June 1777. They marched away the following morning leaving, in the words of one American officer, ‘a shocking havoc.’ Entering the town later that day, he ‘saw many famalys who Declared they had Not one mouthful to Eat, (nor either a) bed or beding Left, or Stitch of Wearing Apparel to put on, only what they happened to have on.’1
The Redcoats forced their way into at least ninety two farms, houses and other properties, plundering a colossal list of goods and at the property where the commanding British general, William Howe, stayed, ‘breaking and destroying what they could not take away.’2 The loot included 2,365 fence rails and posts (used for firewood), hundreds of items of clothing and bedding, miles of cloth of all types, 665 sheep, 106 hogs, 342 fowl, 28 beehives, three barrels of soap, 105 pounds of candles, 11 tables, 18 chairs, 26 mirrors, 12 hammers and 19 axes.3 They even carted away the church bell of the local Presbyterian meeting house, which they dedicated much energy to desecrating, possibly because Presbyterians were considered anti-Anglican, having an undesirable reputation for speaking out against British abuses. After rounding up all the local cattle and sheep. they used the church as a slaughter house, throwing the entrails of the carcasses into the pulpit, and decorating the putrefying pile with a horned rams head.4
- Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth, Crown, New York, p. 131 and Colonel Israel Shreve of the 2nd New Jersey cited in Jason R. Wickersty, ‘A Shocking Havoc: The Plundering of Westfield, New Jersey, June 26, 1777,’ online at ‘Journal of the American Revolution‘ at url https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/07/a-shocking-havoc-the-plundering-of-westfield-new-jersey-june-26-1777/
- Colonel Israel Shreve cited in Jason R. Wickersty, op. cit..
- Holger Hoock, op. cit..
- Michael Harris, ‘Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that lost Philadelphia but saved America, September 11 1777,’ Savas Beatie, California, 2014, p. 47 and Al Frazza, ‘Revolutionary War Sites in Westfield, New Jersey,’ accessed online at url https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/westfield_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm
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