Thomas Okerson


I was a Loyalist whose dedicated service was not rewarded.

I was born into a well-established Dutch family in Monmouth County in 1749. During the Revolution, when Washington’s army retreated through New Jersey in 1776, I was a Loyalist, and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the First Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers. After the Patriot victories at Trenton and Princeton that winter, my battalion joined the British army in New Brunswick, and I led a raid toward Shrewsbury in February 1777.

When the British army set sail for Philadelphia in 1777, we stayed behind on the west end of Staten Island. On August 22, Continental troops surprised and captured more than ninety of us. I managed to escape.

Salt was crucial for preserving provisions like meat, and the Patriots had set up a new salt works near the coast at a place called Squan. On April 5, 1778, I led troops to that place and we destroyed it. Soon after, the New Jersey Volunteers were reorganized, and I was retired on half-pay.

I was recommissioned in May 1779 and that June I led a raid on Tinton Falls where we destroyed militia property and captured their leaders, before fighting our way back out. I was celebrated in Loyalist papers in New York, but was again retired on half-pay.

Things went sour for me. I got involved in a bad financial scheme. I undertook a spy mission to try to get some Patriot soldiers who had mutinied at Morristown to join the Loyalist side. And I led a party of men into Pennsylvania to intercept a Patriot dispatch rider. But I wasn’t paid for any of this, and by 1783, my family evacuated to Nova Scotia to try to build a new life.


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