Ephraim Anderson Full Biography

I was born about 1740 into a family that came to the colonies from Holland and settled on Long Island before migrating to New Jersey. My father was Captain John Anderson and my mother Maria. My family prospered and owned land in both Maidenhead (now Lawrence) and Trenton townships by the time of the Revolution. In 1758, when I was 17-years-old, I was commissioned as an ensign in the British 44th Regiment of Foot, then at Fort Ticonderoga, but soon resigned my commission in 1759. I married Regina Lovell, known as Rezine, in 1766.

When New Jersey enacted a militia law in June 1775, I was chosen to be First Major of the First Regiment of Hunterdon County and I had Trenton silversmith John Fitch repair and polish a sword for me. Soon after, when New Jersey began raising two regiments for the Continental army, I resigned my militia major’s commission to accept a second lieutenant’s commission in the Second New Jersey Continental regiment. Even though second lieutenant is a much lower rank than major, a Continental commission had greater respect than a militia commission, and provided a foot in the door for promotion to higher rank. I had no doubt that I would be an outstanding officer. I became regiment adjutant, an additional job with extra pay that called for high level administrative skills and working closely with the regimental commander, Colonel William Maxwell. It wasn’t combat recognition, but it was still recognition. While my regiment was being raised at Trenton and Burlington, I petitioned for a higher rank in another New Jersey  regiment just authorized to be formed. I explained my qualifications and even offered to take a pay cut, if necessary, but was rejected and remained a second lieutenant, and adjutant.

My regiment finally began marching from Trenton for Quebec, Canada on February 5, 1776. I made out my will, authorizing Rezine to dispose of my property as she saw fit, “if I never return from service to my country.” General David Wooster took command at Quebec on April 1 and ordered me to work with Freegift Arnold, mate of the brigantine Peggy, to fix his ship up with flammable items, such as tar, that would burn strongly and serve as a fire-ship to set on fire the British ships anchored at Quebec City. Fire was a deadly enemy of the wooden ships of the day. This was obviously a secret mission, but Colonel Maxwell and I were partly responsible for British General Carleton learning about it. As adjutant, I quartered with Colonel Maxwell and we were visited by an old acquaintance whom we trusted, but who was secretly a loyalist and spy, and from our too trusting conversations he learned about the fire-ship and informed the British. The Peggy was sent out to attack at nine or ten o’clock on the evening of May 3. We were challenged by a British ship and then fired on when we didn’t respond. We lit the fires on our ship and steered it towards the British fleet at anchor in the harbor while we abandoned ship. However, the attack failed to set any British ships on fire and I was severely burned before I could get off the burning ship.

I was sent home to recuperate and while there convinced General Washington that I could rig up fire ships to destroy British warships in New York harbor. This attempt also failed, although luckily I didn’t get injured again. While the Continental army retreated across New Jersey after its defeats around New York in the fall of 1776, I was named a captain, a promotion, in the new version of the Second New Jersey regiment being formed to replace my regiment, whose enlistments expired at the end of December. Before joining that new regiment, I was with General Washington in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in December 1776 and led several raids across the Delaware River to harass the Hessians stationed at Trenton. These raids were part of the reason the Hessians were sick and exhausted when Washington attacked and captured most of them on December 26.

When fighting resumed in the spring, I served as captain in my regiment at the Battle of Short Hills on June 27, where I was killed by artillery fire. Rezine and others in Trenton received the news of my death within a few days. The military did not have a system yet for taking care of widows and orphans of Continental soldiers killed in battle, so Rezine petitioned the New Jersey Assembly for relief to assist her and our two young sons. The Assembly awarded her half my monthly pay until she remarried or the boys reached adulthood. I am just one example of the many men who offered our talents, worked extremely hard to help win battles, and ultimately suffered death and left our families to face hardships.


Kidder, Larry. A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution. CreateSpace: 2013.

Susan Kollock Pension File W3143, NARA

Genealogies of New Jersey Families, from the Genealogy Magazine of New Jersey, Volume 1, Families A-Z, by Joseph R. Klett, Genealogy Publishing Company, Inc., 2000.