Joseph Mulliner

???? – 1781

I was a raider at the center of a sensational trial.

My family came from England to Little Egg Township sometime before the Revolutionary War. There isn’t much that people know about me for certain, my life is a bit of a mystery. It’s likely that I was a Loyalist privateer, a ship captain who preyed on Patriot boats and people. But I may have been just an outlaw who pretended to be a Loyalist to justify my actions.

Either way, I developed a bad reputation. In March 1781, I was charged by the Patriots with waging war against their rebel state, capturing and holding citizens as prisoners of war, and other “acts of Hostility”. I was captured in June or July 1781 and on July 25 indicted for “High Treason.” My trial was a sensation and I was prosecuted and defended by some of the most famous men of the day. I was found guilty, and on August 8 I was hanged in public, with perhaps hundreds of citizens witnessing it.

Later, my trial raised questions about justice during the war. Should Loyalist raiders like me be treated like soldiers, or like criminals? Were Patriot trials fair to Loyalist defendants? Does a rebellious state like New Jersey even have any legitimacy to try anyone?

Centuries later, I and people like me are called “the inarticulate” by historians, because we left behind no diaries or documents, and it’s hard to know the whole truth about us.


Learn More
Image Joseph Mulliner