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New Jersey: A Military History, by Joseph G. Bilby

Yardley, Pa.: Westholme, 2017. Pp. x, 294. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1594162778.

The Garden State at War

Bilby, author of The Irish Brigade In The Civil War, Hidden History of New Jersey at War, and several other books, is also the Assistant Curator of the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, and gives us a comprehensive look at the military history of the state.

Bilby opens with a look at warfare among Native Americans in what would become New Jersey and portions of several adjacent states, a much neglected topic, and then carries the story of the military role of the state down through the several wars of the colonial era, the American Revolution, 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the world wars, the Cold War and its hot manifestations in Korea and Vietnam, and down to the present.  Of particular value are his accounts of the colonial wars, in which he offers little gems such as conflicts between Dutch and Swedish settlements, the Revolution, during which New Jersey was the most fought-over state (a matter often overlooked in histories of the war), the Civil War, and the Mexican Border Crisis of 1914-1916, an important event in the history of the National Guard. 

Bilby’s approach is by no means the “nationalistic” treatment common to state military histories. Although naturally focused on New Jersey, he treats events and developments within the broader framework of American military history. Moreover, he not only covers operational activities, but also aspects of the state’s military experience often neglected in other works. So we get details on militia regulations and requirements from the earliest days through the establishment of the National Guard, accounts of the work of the militia in domestic crises, short profiles of arms, technology and equipment, and the state’s role in military production, particularly important in the world wars.

New Jersey: A Military History, a volume in the Westholme “State Military History Series”, is an excellent treatment of the military history of the Garden State, and a very good example of what a state's military history should contain.


Note: New Jersey: A Military History is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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