Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Elias Dayton (1737-1807), wearing the uniform of the American (Continental) Army, his hair powdered 

American School 

Portrait miniature of Elias Dayton (1737-1807), wearing the uniform of the American (Continental) Army, his hair powdered, American School
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 7/8 in (50 mm) high
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This miniature was originally thought to represent George Washington but is far more likely to be a portrait of Elias Dayton, a captain of the New Jersey Militia during the American Revolutionary War, who was promoted to brigadier general at George Washington’s behest and later became Mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Dayton commenced his career as a merchant in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he met his wife Hannah Rolfe. The couple married in 1757 and went on to have eight children. Dayton joined the colonial militia in 1756 and fought alongside General James Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. Wolfe was killed during the taking of Quebec and was famously immortalised in paint by the popular history painter Benjamin West in The Death of General Wolfe (1770). Dayton became a commander in the Detroit region during Pontiac’s war in 1760 and was present at the signing of the peace treaty with Native American Chief Pontiac four years later.

He was promoted to colonel of the 3rd New Jersey Continentals during which time Dayton assisted General William Alexander in capturing the Blue Mountain Valley, a British Transport Vessel, in January 1776. In spring of that year, Dayton and his troops, including his son Jonathan, were sent to support an invasion of Canada but were rerouted to New York to assist with building fortifications including Fort Stanwix and Fort Dayton. Dayton’s regiment then joined the main army under General George Washington and subsequently fought at Brandywine and Germantown in 1777.

After proving himself a valuable asset at Monmouth and fighting alongside General John Sullivan during his raid of the Iroquois heartland, Dayton commanded the 2nd New Jersey Continentals and was present at Yorktown, where Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis and the British were forced to surrender. After an extensive military career and with peace on the horizon, Dayton was promoted to brigadier general by George Washington and returned to Elizabeth as a merchant after the war. In 1794 he served as recorder of Elizabeth and then was elected Mayor in 1796 and again in 1801.
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