The Dutch and the Swedes

Based on Henry Hudson’s explorations, the Dutch West India Company founded New Netherlands in what is now New York City in 1624. In succeeding years they established satellite communities at Pavonia, Bergen, Vriessendael and Achter Col, the present day sites of Jersey City, Edgewater and Bogota. To defend their colony against Native Americans and European enemies, the Dutch employed a small garrison of regular soldiers supplemented by militia or “trained bands” of male colonists between the ages of 16 and 60 who were required to provide their own armor and weapons, which included muskets and swords.

Fort Elfsborg

Between 1638 and 1643 Swedish settlers, many of them Finns, established “new Sweden” in the Delaware River valley, building “Fort Elfsborg” at present-day Salem, New Jersey to protect the settlement, which covered areas in what are now the states of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Swedes also employed regular soldiers supported by militia citizen soldiers.

Conflict between the Dutch and Swedes resulted in the Dutch conquest and annexation of the Swedish colony in 1655. The expanded New Netherlands was, in turn, conquered by the English in 1664. Most of the Dutch and Swedish colonists remained, and traces of their culture are evident to the present day.

The colors of the reproduction Dutch uniform of the era on display at the NJ National Guard Militia Museum reflect the traditional blue and gold colors of the Netherlands. The two helmets at the upper area of the case are variants of the type called “Morions,” while the bottom helmet is a “lobstertail” type usually associated with cavalry use. The weapon is a halberd, used more as a badge of rank and implement to keep troops aligned than as an offensive weapon after the advent of firearms. All would have seen service in 17th Century New Netherlands, New Sweden and New Jersey.

Dutch settlers founding New Netherlands, which eventually encompassed New Jersey