Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Jersey: The Crossroads of the American Revolution

For my initial post, I've taken the text from the Crossroads of the American Revolution guidebook. The guide is a good first step in identifying the major sites across New Jersey -- and I hope to visit all of them withing the year. The guide is online here, but you can also buy a convenient hard copy for $5.00 at pretty much any one of the sites I mention in this blog.

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.

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.

The war was not over for New Jersey even then. In June 1780, the New York garrison launched two large probes to test the Continentals at Morristown–probes that resulted in the burning of Springfield and Connecticut Farms. Along the coast, small British and Loyalist units continued pinpoint attacks. One of the American Revolution’s last skirmishes was fought December 27, 1782, at Cedar Bridge, Ocean County.

In August 1781, the French and Continental armies marched across New Jersey toward Yorktown and victory. Two years later, after a peace treaty was signed in Paris, word reached the Continental Congress, assembled in Princeton, on November 1, 1783.

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