The Aides-de-Camp

During the course of the Revolutionary War, 32 different young men served General Washington in the capacity of Aide-de-camp either officially or unofficially. During the Hard Winter of 1779-1780 in Morristown, the five men who filled the role were:

James McHenry

Born 16 November 1753 at Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland into a Scots-Irish family. He was the son of a prosperous merchant, and received a classical education in Dublin. At eighteen, McHenry was the first of his family to immigrate to America. In May 1778 the General Washington selected him to serve as assistant secretary on his staff. McHenry remained on Washington's staff as a volunteer without rank or pay for two and a half years. During that period he saw action in the battles of Monmouth and Springfield, New Jersey, and became a valued member of Washington's immediate "military family," along with men like Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette. McHenry's lifelong friendship with Lafayette dated from this experience. Near the end of 1780 he transferred to the French officer's staff, a change that led to a commission as major. McHenry resigned his commission at the end of 1781 to enter politics. Elected to the state legislature, he served for thirteen years, using this forum to argue the cause of federalism. Between 1783 and 1786 he sat in the Continental Congress, and in the following year he represented Maryland at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He died 3 May 1816, at Fayetteville, Baltimore County, Maryland and is buried at Westminster Presbyterian Churchyard, Baltimore, Maryland.

Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton was probably born on 11 January 1755 in Charleston on the West Indies island of Nevis. He was a child of Rachel Faucitt Lavien and James Hamilton. She had previously been married to a Danish proprietor on St. Croix before divorcing; the court then prohibited her remarriage. The marriage to James Hamilton was common law, acceptable socially on Nevis, but not elsewhere. It was not a very successful union. Hamilton senior abandoned the family in 1765. By 1773 Hamilton entered school at Kings College (Now Columbia) in New York City. On 14 March 1776, was commissioned Captain of the Provincial Company on New York Artillery. Hamilton was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and made Washington’s aide-de-camp on 1 March 1777. His writing and organizational skills as well as fluency in French made him a useful man. On 14 December 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler one year after having met her at Morristown. Washington and Hamilton had a run-in on 16 February 1781 which resulted in a parting of the ways for both men. Attempts at reconciliation were not successful, and Hamilton's wish was to simply continue his duties until a replacement could be found. Several months later, in July, Hamilton was given command of a battalion of Lafayette's Division in Moses Hazen's Brigade. He was successful in leading an attack at Yorktown and aided in the success of the surrender there. He continued in the military for a couple of years when he was made Colonel on 30 September 1783. He left the service by the end of the year. He spent a year in Congress from 1782-1783. He became an important member of the Cabinet under President Washington as the first Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795). He became a leader in the Federalist Party. He resigned from his position at the end of January in 1795 and returned to private practice. After years of political frustration laid at Hamilton’s feet, Vice-president Aaron Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. On 11 July 1804, Hamilton was mortally wounded and he died the following afternoon at the age of 47.

Robert Hanson Harrison

Born in Maryland in 1745 Harrison was educated in law. He succeeded Joseph Reed as aide to General Washington on 6 November, 1775, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He remained in the military until the spring of 1781. He became chief justice of the general court of Maryland on 10 March, 1781, but declined the appointment of judge of the United States Supreme Court in 1789. He died in Charles County, Maryland, 2 April, 1790.

Tench Tilghman

Tilghman was born on Christmas day, 1744 at his father’s plantation on Fausley Creek in Talbot County, Maryland. He was educated privately until the age of 14, when he went to Philadelphia to live with his grandfather, Tench Francis. In 1761, he graduated from the College and Academy of Philadelphia. In 1776, Tilghman was commissioned captain in the Pennsylvania Battalion of the Flying Camp. In August 1776, he joined George Washington's staff as aide-de-camp and secretary. He served without pay until May 1781, when Washington, calling him a "zealous servant and slave to the public, and faithful assistant to me for nearly five years," procured for him a regular commission in the Continental Army. On 9 June 1783, Tilghman married his cousin, Anna Maria Tilghman, they had two daughters. On 1 January 1784, Tilghman formed a business partnership with Robert Morris in Baltimore. Tilghman died on 18 April 1786. He is buried at Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, Maryland.

Richard Kidder Meade

Meade was born in Nansemond County, Virginia, 14 July, 1746. He was educated at Harrow in England. In December, 1775, he commanded a company at the battle of Great Bridge, near Norfolk, Virginia, the first fought in that state. He joined General Washington's military family as one of his aides with the rank of colonel; he served in that capacity throughout the war. He superintended the execution of Major Andre. About 1765 he married Elizabeth Randolph, aunt of John Randolph, of Roanoke. In 1780 he married for his second wife the widow of William Randolph, of Chatsworth. He died in Frederick (now Clarke) county, Virginia, in February, 1805.
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The Soldiers

Joseph Plumb Martin

Martin was born on November 21, 1760, in Beckett, Massachusetts. He was sent to live with his grandparents when he was seven, to work on their farm in Milford, Connecticut. Though his grandparents disapproved, Martin enlisted in the Continental Army; he was only fifteen years old. He was eventually sent to New York, witnessing first hand the American defeats at the Battle of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Martin also survived the winter encampment at Valley Forge.
During the 1779-1780 winter encampment at Morristown, Martin was nineteen, a private in the First Connecticut Brigade. After the war, Martin remembered that "hard winter" many year after the war. He wrote down his memories of the war, eventually having a narrative published in 1830, detailing his adventures, along with humorous anecdotes and his wry commentary. Martin would rise in rank to segreant in the Corps of Miners and Sappers of the Army, experiencing first hand the siege of Yorktown. In 1794, Martin wed Lucy Clewly and settled in Prospect, Maine, where they raised five children. Joseph served as a town clerk and also a member of the state legislature. He died May 2, 1850, in Prospect, Maine at age 89. His gravestone simply cited: A Soldier of the Revolution.

Oliver Cromwell

Cromwell was born a freeman May 24, 1752, in Black Horse (present day Columbus) in southern New Jersey. Raised as a farmer, he enlisted in the Continental Army in his early twenties, joining the ranks of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment. He witnessed the retreat to the Delaware, the night time crossing of the Delaware for the surprise attack at Trenton, and at the battle of Princeton, where in his words they "knocked the British about lively." He fought through the entire war, witnessing at Yorktown the last man killed (as he claimed.)
Cromwell's unit, the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, was part of the winter encampment at Morristown. Cromwell served six years and nine months. He received an honorable discharge from the army, personally signed by General Washington, on June 5, 1783. He also was the recipeint of the Badge of Merit (future Purple Heart Award.)
After the war, unable to work, he applied for a pension from the government. Eventually he received a monthly pension of $96. With these funds, Cromwell purchased a 100-acre farm in Burlington County, where he sired 14 children. He died January 24, 1853, at the age of 101. (It is claimed that, in Emmanuel Leutze's 1851 painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware River, Cromwell is the soldier depicted in the bow of the boat, between the soldier in the very front and Washington himself. He is on the starboard side, facing to the rear,with an oar, helping push the boat thru the floating ice chunks.)

Richard Lord Jones

Born at Colchester, Connecticut March 15, 1767, he enlisted in Col. Samuel Webb's Regiment of the Continental Army in June 1777. As he was only ten years old, he was too young to carry a musket and join the fighting ranks. Placed under the Master of the Band, Jones learned to play the fife. Arriving in Morristown in 1780, Jones lived in a tent until January 12th, when he and others finally moved into a log hut. Jones did entertain while in camp, including singing a song for Mrs. Martha Washington. She gave him a three dollar bill for his performance which he "kept, folded as she gave it to me." His enlistment expired on June 20, 1780. To reach his home in Hartford, CT, Jones had to walk 150 miles, all "without an accident."
Richard Lord Jones later worked in cotton manufacturing, before becoming a farmer near New Albany, Indiana. Jones wed Elizabeth Clark and reared two children. He died July 23, 1852, at 85 years of age. His grave marker states that he was a "ten year old fifer" in the service of his country.

Samuel Shelley

Born on August 7, 1760, in Hempstead Plains, Long Island. His father was a ship's carpenter, who was forced into service by the British (he later escaped.) When the family property was confiscated, Samuel escaped with his family to New Jersey. Samuel worked as an indentured servant for a time. When the recruiting party for the Continental Army came to town, he claimed that he was only twelve years old. As he was very young looking, he escaped service for "a good many years." Alas, military service caught up with Samuel (after his aunt spilled the proverbial beans about his real age!) He was forced to sign up, joining Capt. Reeve's company of the NJ Brigade in March of 1780. Fortunately his 'enlistment" lasted only nine months. Surviving the encampment at Morristown (having joined the New Jersey Brigade while they were encamped there), his discharge came at the end of 1780, Shelley eventually settled in Wantage Township. He wed Elenor Cuddaback, with whom he raised five children. At age 91, he applied for, but failed to receive a pension for his military service. On March 18, 1863, he died at 102.

The Civilians:

Theodosia Ford

Theodosia Ford was born in 1741 to the Reverend Timothy Johnes, the pastor of the Presbyterian Churh in Morristown. In 1762, Theodosia married Jacob Ford Jr., a lawyer, gentleman farmer, and prosperous owner of ironworks. His wealth enabled Jacob to build the largest home in Morristown. The couple had five children. When war broke out, Jacob was appointed a colonel of the militia, but contracted pneumonia and passed away on January 10, 1777. Delaware troops, quartered at the mansion after

Last updated: March 16, 2018

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