Friday, April 9, 2010

New Jersey, Crossroads of the American Revolution

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851

Our state of New Jersey has more than 500 farmlands, hillsides and homesteads that played some part, saw some action in the American Revolution.

NJ's Revolutionary War heritage has been federally recognized by the designation of the "Crossroads of the American Revolution Nation Heritage Area"  in New Jersey.

Located between the British base at New York and the rebel capital at Philadelphia, New Jersey was the most war-ravaged of the 13 original states. More than 600 skirmishes and battles were fought on its soil and more than 150 naval actions on its waters.

Then, as now, New Jersey straddled roads connecting north and south. In 1775 and 1776, state regiments marched north. During November and December 1776, the remnants of the main Continental Army fled south across New Jersey, pursued by a British army. Just a month later, they retraced part of their route to defeat German and British detachments in Trenton and Princeton and march on to Morristown. This was the first of three winters that the Continental Army spent in New Jersey.

In 2006, legislation designating the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in New Jersey was passed. This journey toward recognition by the Federal Government of our state’s significant role in the American Revolution began in 2000 when Congress directed the National Park Service to determine whether remaining resources related to the American Revolution in central New Jersey were of national significance.

The study area comprised 14 counties between Bergen and Passaic in the north and Camden and Gloucester in the south. This area includes Morristown National Historical Park, Princeton and Monmouth Battlefield State Parks, Washington’s Crossing State Park, New Bridge Landing, the Old Barracks in Trenton, 13 National Historic Landmarks and more than 250 other National Register of Historic Places sites and districts. All these sites have significant Revolutionary War period resources and that has secured their protection.

Ultimately, the goals of the Crossroads Association will be to raise popular understanding of the historical significance of these sites, to provide an area-wide network between established historic sites, state parks, private property owners, local governments, not-for-profits, and other civic organizations in order to facilitate further preservation (including open-space preservation) and to offer a forum for new initiatives on site use, management, education and historical interpretation.

Battleground NJ

James Caldwell

Revolutionary Chaplain James Caldwell was a Presbyterian minister from Elizabeth who served during the Revolutionary War. At the battle of Springfield, June 23, 1780, his company ran out of the paper wadding used to load their rifles. Caldwell was said to have gone into a nearby Presbyterian Church, grabbed as many Watts hymnals as he could carry, and distributed them to the troops. "Put Watts into them, boys," he said, and the soldiers ripped out the pages to use. Caldwell and his wife were both killed before the war ended.

From July 1776 until November 1783, a British, German and Loyalist army occupied Staten Island, western Long Island and Manhattan, launching expeditions to collect supplies, probe local defenses and attack the Continental Army. Between January and June of 1777, skirmishes were fought up and down the Raritan River, as Continentals sought to limit British foraging and the British attempted to lure the Continentals from the safety of the Watchung Mountains. When Washington eluded them, the British withdrew from the Raritan Valley to attack Philadelphia.

The September 1777, British occupation of Philadelphia brought the war to southern New Jersey. Fierce battles were fought for control of the Delaware River and surrounding countryside. On June 18, 1778, the British army evacuated Philadelphia and began marching toward New York, as Washington led the Continental Army eastward from Valley Forge. The resulting Battle of Monmouth was the last time the two armies met in New Jersey. In 1780, the British moved offensive operations to the south.

Battle of Monmouth

In June 1780, the New York garrison launched two large probes to test the Continentals at Morristown. These probes resulted in the burning of Springfield and Connecticut Farms. Along the coast, small British and Loyalist units continued pinpoint attacks.

"Put Watts into them, boys!"  Battle of Springfield
One of the American Revolution's last skirmishes was fought December 27, 1782, at Cedar Bridge, Ocean County.

After a peace treaty was signed in Paris, word reached the Continental Congress, assembled in Princeton, on November 1, 1783.

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