To the Minister, Elders, and Deacons of the
Dutch Reformed Church at Raritan, N.J.
Middlebrook Camp June 2d 1779.
To meet the approbation of good men cannot but be agreeable. your affectionate expressions make it still more so.
In quartering an army and in supplying its wants, distress and inconvenience will often occur to the citizen—I feel myself happy and in a consciousness that these have been strictly limited by necessity, and in your opinion of my attention to the rights of my fellow citizens.
I thank you gentlemen sincerely for the sense you entertain of the conduct of the army, and for the interest you take in my welfare. I trust the goodness of the cause and the exertions of the people under divine protection will give us that honourable peace for which we are contending. Suffer me Gentlemen to wish the reformed church of Raritan a long continuance of its present Minister and consistory and all the blessings which flow from piety and religion.1
DfS, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW supplied the dateline in his own writing.
GW responded to an address signed by Jacob R. Hardenbergh, minister of the Dutch Reformed Church of Raritan, and dated 1 June: “WE the Consistory of the Dutch reformed Church at Raritan, beg leave to embrace this favourable opportunity, to declare to your Excellency the real sentiments of our hearts.
“As we would wish to adore the directing hand of Providence, so we are bound to acknowledge that spirit of patriotism, which has induced your Excellency to sacrifice the sweets of an affluent domestic life, to put yourself, and your most amiable and virtuous Consort, to repeated and affecting separations, for no other reasons than defending the just Rights and Liberties of your bleeding Country. Here, Sir, permit us to express our grateful sense of your Excellency’s vigilance and care for this part of our country, in the trying winter of the year 1777; when, after two memorable victories, your Excellency by masterly strokes of generalship, defended us with a handful of undisciplin’d militia against the depredations of a formidable army of our enemies, collected and quartered in our vicinity.
“We cannot help admiring that gracious Providence, which has made the success and victories of your arms to bare down the remembrance of discouraging disappointments. And we cordially hope, that the agreeable prospect of a speedy termination of the present troubles in favour of our distressed nation, may fully answer your and our witnes, and support your Excellency under the present weight of perplexing cares and concerns, inseparable from your station.
“Though quartering of armies among citizens, is always attended with unavoidable inconveniencies to the latter, yet we are agreeably constrained to acknowledge that your Excellency has been pleased to take particular care throughout the course of this last winter, to prevent and alleviate these calamities as much as possible. Your Excellency’s concern for the support of civil government, in its just and equitable execution, has endeared you to your fellow citizens: And the strict discipline which the gentlemen officers under your Excellency’s more immediate command, at this place, have observed, not only at head-quarters, but also throughout the body of this army, we are persuaded has merited the approbation and applause of the good people of this neighbourhood.
“We beg your Excellency will do us the justice to believe us sincere, when we declare our affection and true regard for your person, and the deep sense we entertain of the important services your Excellency, and the gentlemen officers and soldiers under your command, have rendered their country in the course of this severe contest: And when we assure you, Sir, that we shall ever deem it both our duty and privilege to make our warmest addresses to the God of Armies, for the preservation of your health, an[d] invaluable life, as also that of the brave officers and soldiers of your army; praying that indulgent Heaven may direct your councils, and crown your exertions the ensuing campaign with such victory and success, as shall compel a haughty, cruel, and relentless enemy to consent to terms of a safe, honourable and lasting peace” (New-Jersey Gazette [Burlington], 16 June 1779).
Jacob R. Hardenbergh (1736–1790), part of a prominent Dutch family from the Hudson River valley in New York, studied theology in Somerset County, N.J., prior to his ordination as a Dutch Reformed minister in 1757. The next year he became pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Raritan. Hardenbergh soon took a leading role among those favoring independence from the church in Holland and the establishment of a college to train ministers in America. Defying church authorities, he obtained a charter from New Jersey in 1766 for Queens (now Rutgers) College in New Brunswick and served on that institution’s first board of trustees. A staunch Patriot, Hardenbergh was a member of the New Jersey legislature for several sessions. The Wallace House, GW’s headquarters during the winter encampment (December 1778–June 1779) at Middlebrook, was adjacent to Hardenbergh’s home. He took charge of churches near Kingston, N.Y., in 1781, but left his pastorate in 1786 to assume the presidency of Queens College.
1. For the burning of the Dutch Reformed meetinghouse at Raritan during a British raid in late October 1779, see Simcoe, Operations of the Queen’s Rangers, description begins John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe’s Military Journal: A History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps, Called the Queen’s Rangers, Commanded by Lieut. Col. J. G. Simcoe, during the War of the American Revolution . . .. 1844. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 114; see also GW to John Sullivan, 27 Oct., Robert Hanson Harrison to William Heath, 28 Oct., and GW to George Clinton, 29 Oct. (all DLC:GW).