Cortlandt Skinner – Loyalist


Cortlandt Skinner (16 December 1727 – 15 March 1799) was the last Royal Attorney General of New Jersey and a Brigadier General in the loyalist forces during the American War of Independence.

== Origins ==

Skinner was born on 16 December 1727 at Perth Amboy, Middlesex county, New Jersey, British North America, the eldest son of the Reverend William Skinner. and Elizabeth Cortland (the daughter of Stephanus Van Cortland, the first native born mayor of New York). There was a firm family tradition that William Skinner (later the Rector of St. Peter’s Church in Perth Amboy) had participated in one of the Jacobite risings, and was related to the chiefs of the Clan Gregor – changing his name from MacGregor to avoid the persecution inflicted upon all those of that name.

== Legal and political career ==

Skinner studied law at Newark while clerking for David Ogden, a member of the governor’s council, and then began practising at Perth Amboy. At the age of twenty-seven, he was appointed Attorney General of New Jersey in 1754 and also acted as speaker of the provincial Assembly between 1765 and 1770 and between 1772 and 1776. Sources differ as to his conduct as Attorney-General of New Jersey, but his general reputation was one of integrity and ability.

== Military career ==

As a prominent loyalist, Skinner accepted service under the Crown in 1776, and was authorized to raise a corps, to consist of two thousand five hundred men. He was allowed to nominate his own officers. Three battalions were organized and officered, and called the New Jersey Volunteers (Skinner’s Greens). But the enlistments of common soldiers were slow. After several months of active exertions, the whole number of men who had rallied under his standard was but one thousand one hundred and one. Skinner continued in command of the corps, with the rank of Brigadier General.

At the outbreak of hostilities in the colonies he was offered by the rebels the pick of all civilian and military posts. In January 1776 he fled having received an intercepted letter authorising his arrest.

Skinner was one of the three current or past speakers of colonial assemblies, who actively opposed American independence. Upon his appointment as brigadier-general in the British army on 4 September 1776 he recruited the largest of the loyalist units in the British army. The 2000 men of his New Jersey volunteers mercilessly harassed their rebel opponents throughout the war from New York’s defensive outposts on Staten Island throughout 1783. Skinner was one of the three highest ranking loyalists to fight in the war.

== Later life ==

His wife and family embarked for England in the summer of 1783, in the Le Solitaire, and were forced into Halifax by stress of weather. He himself followed after the evacuation of New York. His claim to compensation for his losses as a Loyalist was difficult to adjust, and caused the Commissioners much labour ; but an allowance was finally made; and he also received the half-pay of a Brigadier-General during his life. He died at Bristol, England, in 1799, aged seventy-one. He is buried in St. Augustine’s Church, Bristol.

== Family ==

In 1751, he married Elizabeth Kearney (1731–1810), the daughter of Philip Kearney, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. They had numerous children, including Cortlandt Skinner Jr. and Maria Skinner, who married General George Nugent MP (later Field-Marshal).