Continuing our series on the book: Jack Cudjo. Newark’s Revolutionary Soldier & 1st Black Businessman

Military Service

In 1777, the Continental Congress asked New Jersey to come up with four regiments with a total of close to three thousand men. This was General Maxwell’s Brigade, a major force of General George Washington’s army. 

Cudjo was a Newark slave who fought on behalf of his master, Benjamin Coe during the Revolutionary War.

According to Charles Cummings, Cudjo’s “military service was associated with Morris County and not his home county of Essex. The reason for this was that he chose to serve under Captain Peter Dickerson of Morristown who organized the First Company, First Battalion of the Continental Army.” Indeed, between 700 and 1,000 New Jersey militia assembled at Morristown, according to Charles Lundin in” Cockpit of the Revolution.” 

Cummings says that Cudjo’s “military service included fighting in the First Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of Germantown, spent Winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, defended Elizabethtown Point in 1778, guarded Paulus Hook (present day Jersey City) in 1779, served with General Sullivan’s Expedition in 1779, and took part in the final and winning Battle of Yorktown in Virginia in 1781.”

It is alleged that in the Battle of Monmouth on June 27‐28 1778 Cudjo was with Brigadier General William Maxwell’s Brigade of the Continental Army that consisted mostly of Jersey men combined with Morgan’s Riflemen. The army performed excellently. Described as the last great and largest single battle of the War, the Battle of Monmouth had more than 800 black troops that fought under General Washington in an attack that rattled the main core of the British army. 

The Battle of Monmouth was as intense as the steaming summer heat that characterized it. General Washington had a total troop of about 13,424 out of which more than 12,000 was made up of Continental troops and about 800 of New Jersey’s militia under Brigadier General Dickinson.  He was among the New Jersey line of the Continental troops who wintered for six months with George Washington at the retreat to the Valley Forge in 1777‐78 when several white soldiers deserted camp because of the severe winter weather. They later crossed the Delaware and surprised the Hessians in 1776. Elsewhere Cummings writes that Cudjo also served in both the Essex/Morris militias. Essex County raised two militia regiments under Colonels Elias Dayton and Philip Van Cortlandt.

Like Cudjo, another New Jersey black war veteran who excelled at the Battle of Monmouth was Oliver Cromwell. And like Cudjo, Cromwell is said to have lived to more than 100 years but, unlike Cudjo, Cromwell’s military pension records are known, for George Washington signed his discharge from the military in Newburgh, New York on June 5, 1783 and given an annual pension of $96.00.

According to Atkinson’s History of Newark, “Cudjo was a black man, a slave owned by Benjamin Coe. He entered the army as a substitute for his venerable master, and it is possible may have been one of the seven hundred Black American patriots who imperiled their lives for their country at the battle of Monmouth—bravely fighting side by side with the whites”.

Here, he fought on the New Jersey Line with other slaves like Samuel Charlton, Samuel Sutphin and Peter Williams. 

Thomas Fleming explicitly adds “he (Cudjo) had fought so well at the battle of Monmouth in 1778 that Coe had given him his freedom and nearly an acre of ground.” Elsewhere, Fleming describes Cudjo as a ‘husky black man, known only as Cudjo” and owned by Benjamin Coe. Woodruff writes, “During the Revolutionary War a black slave named Cudjo conducted himself with great bravery. He was given at the termination of war, a tract of land of almost an acre on High Street, near Nesbitt Street in Newark and also his freedom by his owner Benjamin Coe of that place.” Simeon F. Moss citing Atkinson says in “Slavery and Involuntary Servitude”, “Cudjo, a slave owned by Benjamin Coe, served as a substitute for his master as a member of the Continental Army. Here he fought side by side with the white Patriots.”  

Several slaves were among the military that made a daring attack on the British at Germantown on October 4, 1777. Amongst the most known slaves in this attack was Samuel Charlton, then 17 years. An entry in the diary of a Hessian officer on October 23, 1777 reads:

“The Negro can take the field instead of his master; and, therefore, no regiment is to be seen in which there are not Negroes in abundance and among them are able-bodied strong and brave fellows.”

Frances D. Pingeon in her book, “Blacks in the Revolutionary Era,” writes about other blacks’ participation in the Revolutionary War. She writes, “A number of blacks, probably more than records show, drove wagons for the Continental Army at Trenton when many white inhabitants would not leave their farms. Caesar, Pomp, Will, Andrew, Jack, and Dick, all listed as Negroes were among those who furnished the army with corn, flour, and other essentials as teamsters”. These were usually the teamsters. Coincidentally, a Caesar and a Pompe were among the slaves of Sayres Coe (first son of Benjamin Coe V) that constructed the Springfield Turnpike in 1807.

Stryker in his Historical Monograph: The New Jersey Volunteers‐Loyalists‐ in the Revolutionary War for example documents a “Jack (negro), who was a teamster in Captain Kinnan’s Team Brigade.” William Kinnan was a Wagon master and Conductor of his Teamster’s Brigade. Benjamin Coe, Jack Cudjo’s slave master was a supplier of hay and oats for the army, according to “Certificates and Receipts of Revolutionary New Jersey Volume II, by Dorothy Agans Stratford and Thomas B. Wilson.

That teamsters played significant role in the war is attested by Richard B. Marrin who quoted The New Jersey Gazette of February 25, 1778 in his work “New Jersey During the Revolution as Related in the News Items of the Day.”

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN to all persons capable of driving a team, who are willing to enlist for caters, to serve for three years, that they have twenty dollars bounty, six pounds per month from the time of their enlistment, a suit of new clothes every year and a great coat (if possible) and shoes and boots, by their producing a certificate from their wagon master of their good behavior. All persons willing to enlist on the above term are desired to meet me at my quarters in Trenton.

Samuel H. Sullivan, D.Q.M.G.

Not only did blacks furnish the Continental Army with essentials of life, they were taken prisoners on both sides of the War. Among prisoners taken from New Jersey into New York under the command of Col. Howard of the Guards and Lt. Col. McPherson of the 42nd Regiment and reported in the New York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Number 1484 issue of March 27, 1780 were Will, Jack, John, Venter and Hector all negroes. Cornelius C. Vermuele in an essay, “Service of the New Jersey Militia in the Revolutionary War,” points out that July 26, 1780 brought an order for 1000 New Jersey Militia to serve with the Continental Army and took part at the Battle of and surrender of Yorktown. 

Cudjo versus Cudjo

During the Revolutionary War, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore and governor of Virginia established the Ethiopian Regiment for the loyalists. While General George Washington was being pressured by his commanders to recruit slaves for the war, Lord Dunmore, on the other hand would promise liberty to any slaves who would fight for England against the colonists. Slaves captured by the British during the war were mostly resold in the Caribbean.

 It must be noted that Washington’s strong opposition to include slaves in the war did not stem from slaves inability to fight. Rather he feared that slaves, once armed, and on mounted warhorses could turn against his army or desert camp and join the enemy. It is interesting to note that both George Washington and Lord Dunmore were slave owners.

Notwithstanding the deplorable conditions at Dunmore’s camps, slaves risked their lives to escape from their masters to fight for the Crown. It was apparently clear that Dunmore wanted to use slaves “by any means possible” to attain his goals, for slaves were summarily returned by Dunmore to their colonists’ masters upon the latter swearing allegiance to the Crown – a tactic employed by colonists who wanted their slaves back from Dunmore’s camp. “Between eleven and twelve hundred runaways responded to Dunmore’s call to help save the King,” says Charles W. Carey (Jr). Carey says about one hundred and twenty (blacks and Tories) fighters of Dunmore arrived in New York on August 14, 1776. Included was a black Major Cudjo.  The Virginia Gazette newspaper reported on September 13, 1776 from New York:

“It is said the enemy on Long Island have been reinforced, and are now supposed to be 20,000 strong. Yesterday several skirmishes happened between our troops and theirs, but we cannot obtain any particular account. All we can learn is that we have taken 22 prisoners, viz. a captain, sergeant, corporal, and 16 privates, belonging to the marines, and Major Cudjo, commander of Lord Dunmore’s black regiment. Never did troops behave with greater courage and resolution, than ours did, on the occasion. They made several attacks upon our lines, but were repulsed with considerable loss. Our troops are in high spirits. We hourly expect to hear of their renewing the attack.” 

 Jack Cudjo, a.k.a. ‘Cutjoe Banquantee,’ was known to have fought with the Virginia Militia during this period. Fate had brought Cudjo against Cudjo in a Revolutionary War that each was fighting for a common goal – freedom! In a War such as this, only one victor emerges. Major Cudjo in military fatigue of Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment with “Liberty to Slaves” emblazoned on it, lost. Whatever became of Major Cudjo is not known, for Lord Dunmore dissolved the regiment after arriving in New York from Virginia and the 300 or so blacks among them, out of about 800 who had answered the call by Dunmore in the summer of 1776, were left at the mercy of their own fate. 

The author, Kofi Ayim, is the editor of Amandla. The book is available @

Posted by on Feb 27 2021. Filed under Artcultainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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