1741 – 1821
Was I a Patriot? Was I a Loyalist? Either way, I was a critical actor at the Turning Point of the Revolution.
In 1776, I was a leading citizen of the city of Trenton. I married Theodosia Pearson in 1764. Between the end of the French and Indian War and the outbreak of the American Revolution I was a frontier block house inspector and supply agent and was barrack master in Trenton. My firm of Furman and Hunt had the largest store in town, providing groceries to citizens of Trenton. I was active in civic affairs, including helping to manage the construction of a stone bridge over the Assunpink Creek at Trenton and improving navigation on the Delaware River. I had actively supported the patriot protests against the acts of Parliament, and supplied the rebel militia with military equipment and ammunition. Even though I had no military experience, my fellow citizens chose me to be lieutenant colonel of the First Hunterdon militia regiment.
When the British arrived and occupied our town, I stayed in my home rather than retreat across the river with my militia. Maybe that’s why some have accused me of being a Loyalist, or more concerned with my own self-interest than the Patriot cause.
On Christmas night, when General Washington and his troops were crossing the Delaware eight miles upstream, I was entertaining Colonel Johann Rall, the leader of the Hessian mercenaries in the British army, at my home. During the dinner, Colonel Rall received a note which may have alerted him to an emergency, but he put it in his pocket, rather than go out and investigate.
Perhaps I distracted the Colonel from his duties. Perhaps my hospitality provided the Patriots the advantage of surprise. Because, the following morning, they arrived unexpectedly in the town, attacked the Hessian garrison, won a surprising and decisive victory at the First Battle of Trenton, and killed Colonel Rall.
What happened next was a small miracle. The patriots won a second victory at the Second Battle of Trenton, and then a third at the Battle of Princeton. It was a turning point in the war, and what some historians call the Ten Crucial Days of the Revolution.
I continued to contribute to the cause of independence throughout the war, and remained a respected citizen of Trenton until my death in 1821. So, maybe I wasn’t a Loyalist after all.