New Jersey, in both 1860 and 1864 presidential elections, had the distinction of being the only free state that rejected Lincoln twice. In 1864, furthermore, the war-weary states of Delaware and Kentucky voted also for McClellan, and, while New York cast a total of 730,721 votes, Lincoln won the Empire State by a meager 6,749 votes. While New Jersey served the Union faithfully, it was the last of the Northern states to abolish slavery completely.
New Jersey native George McClellan organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly (November 1861 to March 1862) as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Although early in the Civil War, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union, he was subsequently dismissed from Union service by President Abraham Lincoln himself.
Through the course of the Civil War, the 1st New Jersey Brigade, also known as the First Jersey Brigade or Kearny's New Jersey Brigade, was the only brigade composed entirely of regiments from New Jersey. Philip Kearny, an officer from the Mexican War, led the First Jersey Brigade, under Brigadier General William B. Franklin, and he distinguished himself as a brilliant officer during the Peninsula Campaign and was subsequently promoted to the rank of major general. The brigade served with valor and saw action in several major battles and campaigns and it suffered hundreds in killed and wounded, and six of its soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.
New Jersey was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution and it was the site of several battles. New Jersey became the third state by ratifying the United States Constitution on December 18, 1787.
The Quaker population of New Jersey was especially intolerant of slavery. However, New Jersey was the last of the Northern states to abolish slavery by enacting legislation which caused the gradual abolishment of slavery. Though New Jersey passed an act for the gradual abolition of slavery on February 15, 1804, it wasn't until 1830 that most blacks were free in the state. However, by the close of the Civil War, approximately one dozen African Americans in New Jersey were still apprenticed freedmen. Although New Jersey was a major part of the extensive Underground Railroad system, the state initially refused to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment that banned slavery.
Slavery in New Jersey began in the early 17th century, when Dutch colonists imported African slaves for labor to develop their colony of New Netherland. After England took control the colony in 1664, its colonists continued the importation of slaves from Africa. They also imported "seasoned" slaves from their colonies in the West Indies and enslaved Native Americans from the Carolinas. Most Dutch and English immigrants entered the colony as indentured servants, who worked for a fixed number of years to repay their passage. As conditions in England improved and the number of indentured laborers declined, New Jersey's colonists imported more Africans for needed labor. To promote increasing the number of laborers and settlers in order to develop the colony, the colonial government awarded settlers headrights of 60 acres of land for each person transported to the colony.
During the American Revolution, enslaved African Americans fought on each side. The British Crown promised freedom to slaves who would leave their rebel masters and fight for the British. The number of blacks in Manhattan increased to 10,000, as thousands of slaves escape to the British for the promise of freedom. The British refused to return former slaves to the Americans and they evacuated many Black Loyalists together with their troops and other Loyalists; they resettled more than 3,000 freedmen in their colony of Nova Scotia. Others were transported to England and the West Indies.
New Jersey was one of the few states to favor Stephen Douglas over Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860. The citizens of the Garden State, embracing the Peace Platform, also cast their electoral votes for former Union General George B. McClellan when he ran for president against his former commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, in the election of 1864. New Jersey had the distinction of being the only free state that rejected Lincoln twice. In 1864, furthermore, the war-weary states of Delaware and Kentucky voted for McClellan, and, while New York cast a total of 730,721 votes, Lincoln won the Empire State by a meager 6,749 votes. McClellan, however, was later elected Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1878 to 1881.
On January 29, 1861, the legislature of New Jersey passed a series of joint resolutions, which set forth that it was the duty of every good citizen, in all suitable and proper ways, to stand by and sustain the Union of the States as transmitted to us by our fathers; that the government of the United States is a national government and the Union it was designed to perfect is not a mere compact or league; that the Constitution was adopted in a spirit of mutual compromise and concession by the people of the United States, and can only be preserved by the constant recognition of that spirit.
The first company (100 men) received under the requisition for the militia was the "Olden Guards." Capt. Joseph A. Yard, of Trenton, a veteran of the Mexican-American War, who raised and equipped a company for that service in 1846, reported and was mustered into the service of the United States on April 23, and a sufficient number of companies to compose the four regiments reported and were mustered in, in quick succession, until April 30, when the brigade was complete.
When the Civil War commenced in 1861, Kearny was appointed a brigadier general, commanding the First New Jersey Brigade. His brigade, even after he left to command a division, performed spectacularly, especially at the Battle of Glendale. He received command of the 3rd Division of the III Corps on April 30, 1862, and led the division into action at the Battle of Williamsburg and the Battle of Fair Oaks. At Williamsburg, as he led his troops onto the field, Kearny shouted (in a notable quote), "I'm a one-armed Jersey son-of-a-gun, follow me!" The general led the charge with his sword in hand, reins in his teeth. He is noted for urging his troops forward by declaring, "Don't worry, men, they'll all be firing at me!" His performance during the Peninsula Campaign earned him much respect from the army and his superiors. He disliked the commander of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, whose orders (especially those to fall back) he frequently ignored. After the Battle of Malvern Hill, which was a Union victory, McClellan ordered a withdrawal, and Kearny wrote: "I, Philip Kearny, an old soldier, enter my solemn protest against this order for retreat. We ought instead of retreating should follow up the enemy and take Richmond. And in full view of all responsible for such declaration, I say to you all, such an order can only be prompted by cowardice or treason."
On May 14, 1861, New Jersey native George B. McClellan, age 34, was commissioned a major general and later served as general-in-chief of the United States Army. George McClellan organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly (November 1861 to March 1862) as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the Civil War, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union. Although McClellan was meticulous in his planning and preparations, these characteristics may have hampered his ability to challenge aggressive opponents in a fast-moving battlefield environment. He chronically overestimated the strength of enemy units and was reluctant to apply principles of mass, frequently leaving large portions of his army unengaged at decisive points.