New Jersey's congressional delegation was divided when considering President James Madison's request for a declaration of war against Great Britain, with some voting for the declaration and others against it, including Senator John Lambert, of Madison's own Republican party. With the outbreak of war, however, the state rallied ‘round the flag. Governor Joseph Bloomfield, a veteran of the Revolution, was appointed a brigadier general in the U.S. army and ordered 300 militiamen to report to active duty at a “camp of instruction” at Paulus Hook (now Jersey City).
In 1812, New Jersey had more than 35,000 men of military age, 2,500 of them in uniformed militia companies. By the end of the year, militia forces were stationed on Staten Island and the Highlands. As the war continued more New Jersey militiamen were called to duty to help protect the state’s coast from the British blockading fleet, which sent raiding parties into Barnegat inlet. British raiders captured a number of coastal trading vessels between Sandy Hook and Cumberland County’s Maurice River in 1813-1814. New Jersey responded by activating more militiamen. Active duty militia strength reached 3,529 men in December 1814, with thousands more Jerseymen drilling monthly in preparation for such duty.
In addition to the militia, New Jersey contributed volunteers to the regular Army, Navy and Marine Corps. In 1812, the 15th U.S. Infantry, known as the “New Jersey Regiment” was almost entirely recruited in the state for service on the Canadian border. Initially commanded by New Jersey born Colonel Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a renowned western explorer before the war, the 15th fought in a number of battles in Canada and upstate New York. Pike, promoted to general, led a force including the 15th in an amphibious attack across Lake Ontario and into Canada against the town of York on April 27, 1813. He was killed in a mine explosion after the British abandoned the town.
The 15th helped capture Toronto and Fort George in 1813, and covered the withdrawal from Fort George that December. During the retreat the regiment suffered heavy casualties, yet lost not a single man captured. One of the best regiments in the American army, the 15th vanished in the Army's massive post-war reorganization and consolidation, in which no thought was given to preserving unit cohesion or continuity.