William Maxwell

1733 – 1796

I led a new kind of military force that fought in many battles throughout the Revolution.

I was born to Scotch-Irish parents in Northern Ireland in 1733, and all my life people called me “Scotch Willie.” We came to American in 1747 and settled on a farm in northern New Jersey. I joined the British army as a young man, rose in rank to become a colonel, but I disagreed with British policies toward the colonies, so I switched sides. On November 7, 1775, I was appointed colonel of the Second New Jersey Continental Regiment, and then a Brigadier General on October 23, 1776, and led troops in the Battle of Short Hills.

During the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777, General Washington ordered me to lead an elite group of 700 light infantrymen to be an advance guard, scouting and harassing the enemy.  This was the first light infantry in the Continental Army, and we fought at Brandywine that September and then Germantown in October. Some men were jealous of my success had me charged with misconduct and drinking to excess, but I was acquitted of all charges.

My brigade played an active role during the long and complicated Battle of Monmouth campaign of June 1778. In the Battle of Connecticut Farms on June 7, 1780, we held off a British force of 6,000 men with only 1,500 American soldiers. We then fought at the Battle of Springfield on June 23, 1780.

After that, my time was done, I resigned and returned to my farm. I died there on November 4, 1796, leaving behind no wife or children.


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