Monday, February 4, 2019

Loyalists in the family tree!

I found another surprising branch of my family tree yesterday. Not through, but while reading Volume 3 of Patrick O'Kelley's highly informational series Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas.

The books in the series are a wellspring of inspiration for small unit actions that can be played out using Rebels and Patriots. I haven't been reading cover-to-cover from Volume 1, the first three volumes are all nearly 600 pages each! Instead, I've been flipping through the books stopping at skirmishes that stand out as possible games. My efforts for the upcoming year—barring any "Oh look! Shiny!" moments—is to work on AWI units for the Southern campaign 1780-81.

As I was perusing the aforementioned tome, I came across a skirmish that took place on March 6, 1781 at a place called Wiboo Swamp where Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," fought a short, sharp skirmish with forces under British Lt. Col. John Watson. I was going over the OOBs and something caught my eye. The bulk of the British forces were several companies of light infantry drawn from Provincial regiments. The captain commanding the light company of the 4th New Jersey Volunteers bore the interesting name Jacob van Buskirk.

Loyalist light infantryman
Van Buskirk isn't a common name. In fact, it's a made up name coined by my 9th great-grandfather who came into this world as Laurens Andriessen in 1630 in Slesvig Sonderjylland, Denmark. When he was 25, he migrated to what was then New Amsterdam. He married a Dutch widow, Jannetje Jans, in 1658. They bought land in Bergen County across the Hudson in what later became Hackensack, NJ. As a Dane living among Dutchmen, he figured it was a good idea to Dutchify his name. Since he lived in a wood near a church, he decided henceforth he would be van Buskirk, "from the church in the wood."

My grandmother's family were van Buskirks, so whenever I come across the name, I figure we must be related. Sure enough, Jacob van Buskirk is a distant cousin (second cousin 6x removed). I trace my lineage through Andries Laurens van Buskirk, who was Laurens' eldest son, born in 1659. Jacob traces his lineage through Thomas Laurens van Buskirk, Laurens' youngest son, who was born in 1668. Some generations later, Thomas' line stayed loyal to the crown while my line adopted the patriot cause.

Battle of Eutaw Springs
Jacob served in the 4th New Jersey Volunteers in the campaign in the South. Apart from Wiboo Swamp, he also shows up as commanding the light company of the 4th during the siege of Ninety-Six, some other skirmishes, and the the Battle of Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded. There's no mention of Jacob van Buskirk or the 4th New Jersey Volunteers in the other volumes, although vols. 1 and 2 show the involvement of the light company of the 3rd New Jersey Volunteers and the 2nd New Jersey Volunteers were at Charleston in 1782.

Remains of the star fort at Ninety-Six
Jacob survived the war, but as a loyalist, he wasn't exactly welcome to remain in the new republic he'd tried to strangle at birth. So he emigrated from New Jersey along with his father Dr. Abraham van Buskirk. They settled in Nova Scotia where Jacob was a merchant and later justice of the peace. He died at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1834. He married but had no children.


  1. Great that you could find all this info Dave.

  2. We might be related. My family (Brinkerhoffs, from Denmark) are from Hackensack in exact same period. My direct male ancestor was an ensign in the "Flying Camp."