Oliver Cromwell, an Indian of possible “mixed descent,” served in the 2nd New Jersey Regiment in the Revolutionary War. While in his mid twenties, he enlisted at the beginning of the war. He served in the 2nd Regiment of the New Jersey Continental Line and in the New Jersey Militia under Captains James Lawrie, Nathaniel Bowman, Jonathan Dayton and Absalom Martin.
He was born May 24, 1753, at Black Horse (now Columbus, Burlington County, New Jersey. He lived with the family of John Hutchin and was raised as a farmer. Cromwell had a light complexion and it is believed that he was never a slave.
A look at Cromwell’s pension application reveals the soldier’s clear recall of events in his Revolutionary service. He states he was serving under Captain Lawrie at the Battle of Short Hills on June 26, 1777 when Lawrie was wounded and taken prisoner. Captain Lawrie was a Quaker who was disowned by the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting for entering military service. He died as a prisoner of war in New York on July 10, 1777.
During the Revolutionary War, Cromwell enlisted in a company commanded by Captain Lowery of the Second New Jersey Regiment, Colonel Isreal Shreve commanding. Cromwell was present at the battle of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown and at the memorable crossing of the Delaware on December 25, 1776.
A copy of Cromwell’s discharge, signed by George Washington, is in his pension file. Cromwell was awarded both a federal pension and bounty land for his six years of service. Washington also designed a medal which was awarded to Cromwell.
Some years after the war, Cromwell applied for a veteran’s pension. He was well-liked in Burlington, and although he was unable to read or write, local lawyers, judges and politicians came to his aid, and he was granted a pension of $96 a year. He purchased a 100-acre farm outside Burlington, and fathered 14 children, then spent his later years at his home at 114 East Union Street in Burlington.
Cromwell died in Burlington County, January 4, 1853 at the age of ninety‐nine years and 10 months, outliving 8 of his children, and is buried in the cemetery of the Broad Street Methodist Church. His descendants still live in the city.
It is possible that Oliver was of both Indian and African descent. The 1850 census for Burlington Co., NJ lists Cromwell and some of his family a mulatto. He is 97 years of age and under occupation “Drummer in the Revolution.” He was obviously quite proud of his service.
In the New Jersey state military records, Cromwell is listed as an Indian. The 1850 census did not have a category for Indian, so the census taker may simply have recorded him as mulatto, meaning “not entirely white.” I have to wonder if he was also mixed European given his light complexion noted in his memorial at www.fold3.com.