French and Indian Wars

An English colony removed from the frontier, New Jersey was not significantly threatened by the wars for empire (1689-1763) fought by the English against the French and Spanish. Although Native Americans variously declared neutrality or fought on one or the other sides in these conflicts, many allied themselves with the French, who provided less of a threat to their way of life.

The New Jersey Assembly provided for militia training in 1668, but pacifist Quaker settlers in “West Jersey” largely ignored it. The colony’s militia did not participate in King William’s War (1689-1697) but provided a garrison for New York City in 1709 and assembled at Albany for a proposed, then abandoned, Canadian invasion in 1710, during Queen Ann’s War (1703-1713). In 1740, 300 New Jersey volunteers joined an expedition to attack Cartagena, Columbia during “The War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1744). Most died from combat and disease in the failed expedition.

The uniform that gained NJ militiamen the nickname “Jersey Blues”.

In 1744, during King George’s War (1744-1748) the New Jersey legislature appropriated money and raised 500 volunteers, now called “Jersey Blues” because of the color of their uniforms, to assist New York in capturing the French fort at Crown Point. Bad food, ill discipline and a mutiny resulted in the abandonment of the expedition, however.

The final conflict for empire, the French and Indian War (1754-1763) witnessed the most significant New Jersey participation. Indian raids along the colony’s northwest border in the summer of 1755 prompted the raising of a thousand man regiment of “Jersey Blues,” as well as a force to garrison forts along the Delaware. The Blues saw considerable combat. One detachment of the regiment was captured at Oswego in 1756, and another wiped out in a fight at Sabbath Day Point on Lake George in 1757. Another 300 were surrendered to the French at Fort William Henry in 1757, and some of these men were massacred by the Indians. A 1758 truce with the Lenape ended raids into New Jersey, and victory finally came as the Jersey Blues helped General Jeffrey Amherst capture Montreal in 1760.

The French and Indian War provided valuable military experience for New Jerseyans who would later fight in the American Revolution.