Sunday’s Salute ~ Nathaniel Hughes ~ Matross in the Revolutionary War

Nathaniel Hughes RW 35Nathaniel Hughes, my 4x Great Grandfather, was born in 1760 in Prince William, Virginia. He was the 3rd of 7 children born to Edward and Elizabeth (Grigsby) Hughes. He married Rebecca Dodson (1745-1812) in 1764. They had 3 children, one son and 2 daughters by the start of the Revolutionary War. On February 14, 1777, Nathaniel enlisted in Captain Nathaniel Burwell’s Company in the 1st Regiment of Artillery commanded by Colonel Charles Harrison. Their first assignment was to the Southern Department. Nathaniel served as a Matross, which was a gunners mate. His duty was to assist in the loading, firing and sponging the guns. By the end of his service, 3 years later he had become a Bombardier. In May of 1777, Nathaniel took the Oath of Allegiance which is recorded as being taken by Reuben Pain in Pittsylvania, Virginia.

For the next year, Nathaniel stayed close to home in Virginia where he trained and fought in defense of Pluckemin_Academy picthe State. In February 1778 the regiment was reassigned to George Washington’s Main Army and that is where he served until his discharge. They moved the regiment north to Pluckemin New Jersey the site that would become West Point Military Academy. Here they lived in a cantonment. This was a group of buildings constructed primarily for the purpose of housing the troops. It was also used as a laboratory where they repaired and produced ammunition. It was used as a storage facility to house the ammunition and powder. In the winter of 1779-1780, it was used as a hospital.

valley_forge_mapWithin a few weeks, this regiment was sent to Valley Forge. There were a total of 289 men that made the trek through the snow and the freezing temperatures. They stayed and assisted General Washington until June of that year when they made their way Ramapo, New Jersey. Here they had many skirmishes with the British.

The only known battle that Nathaniel participated in was the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse taking Battle of Monmouthplace on June 28, 1778. It was the last battle of the Philadelphia Campaign that began the previous year. The Continental Army was led by Washington and the British Army was led by General Sir Henry Clinton. Thanks to the Franco-American alliance the Americans had become stronger and this forced the British to abandon hopes of a military victory and to go on the defense. Clinton was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia and Washington’s army followed them. At the courthouse in Monmouth, the infantry battle gave way to a two-hour artillery duel, during which Clinton began to retreat. The duel ended when the Continental brigade established artillery on a hill overlooking the British lines, forcing Clinton to withdraw his guns.

Nathaniel and the regiment then removed to Smith’s Clove in New Jersey arriving there in June and there they continued to make ammunition for the troops. Here the stayed for 3 months before finally making their way north to Camp Haverstraw, located on the banks of the Hudson. This position was the dividing line between New England and the other colonies. In January 1780, Nathaniel was honorably discharged after 3 years of service.

Upon returning home he moved his family to Pittsylvania Co, Virginia. Here he received 269 acres for his service in the war. His land was situated on the Branches of Burches Creek. They built a comfortable home, barns, and gardens. He sold this land and all that went with it to Benjamin Morris for the price of 2000 pounds shortly before his death in 1784. There is no record of his burial location.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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