Cockpit of the Revolution: New Jersey in the War for Independence

Cockpit of the Revolution: New Jersey in the War for Independence

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Wednesday, May 31 (7:30pm) – Saturday, June 3, 2017  (5:00pm)

Tour Leader: Bill Welsch

HQ: Bridgewater, New Jersey

Tour Registration Fee: $475 

New Jersey has been called the Cockpit of the Revolution, with more battles and encampments occurring here than in any other state. Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth are familiar names of New Jersey battlefields. This tour will provide an opportunity to visit some of the other important, but less well known, sites in this state. This is not a campaign tour as such, but rather a survey of important places and critical events that impacted both the state and the Revolution.

Our first day will begin with a visit to Fort Lee Historic Park on the Hudson River. We’ll explore the reconstructed earthworks that were designed, in conjunction with Fort Washington across the river, to deny the British passage up the river. The view is spectacular! The fall of Fort Washington, which we’ll also discuss, necessitated the evacuation of Fort Lee and began the American retreat in the fall of 1776, eventually ending on the Delaware River at Trenton. We’ll follow the initial stages of this historic retreat through Bergen County to New Bridge Landing.  At this vital river crossing over the Hackensack, the troops from Fort Lee just barely evaded Cornwallis and his pursuing British regiments. We’ll visit the Zabriskie House at the Landing which served as headquarters for both the Americans and the British.

After lunch, we will visit the grave and monument to Brigadier General Enoch Poor, one of Washington’s most competent and much overlooked generals.

The home of Col. Theunis Dey in Wayne served as Washington’s Headquarters in 1780, when his army was camped in the Preakness Valley. This well-preserved Georgian mansion hosted Greene, Arnold, Stirling, Lafayette, and Wayne during this period. We’ll finish the day with a visit to the Great Falls in Paterson. Washington and his staff visited here in 1778. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton developed plans to make this place a manufacturing center for the new nation.

“There never has been a darker hour in American prospects than this,” said General Nathanael Greene in February 1780. With the Continental Army experiencing the worst winter of the century at Morristown and the British Army in control of New York City, the fight for independence seemed to be at a low point. While the spring brought milder weather, it also heralded two British efforts to breach the American defenses in New Jersey and capture Morristown, the American headquarters and supply depot in New Jersey. The forgotten battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield, the last major encounters in the north, proved critical to the survival of Washington’s army and the faltering revolution.

Our second day will begin at the site of the British landing from Staten Island. We’ll follow their route to Connecticut Farms, where action took place during both battles. We’ll stop at the Rahway River crossings where Continentals and Redcoats battled in the heat. Our morning will conclude with visits to Springfield’s Presbyterian Church and the Cannonball House, where some of the heaviest fighting occurred.

After lunch, we’ll head through the critical Hobart Gap in the Watchung Mountains and on to Morristown, the site of two Continental Army winter encampments and perhaps the Military Capital of the Revolution. Often overshadowed by the more famous winter at Valley Forge, the second Morristown encampment was considered by contemporaries to be the harshest of the war.  We will begin at the Ford Mansion, Washington’s Headquarters, and stop at Fort Nonsense, one of the strangest named sites ever. A brief ride will take us to Jockey Hollow, where ten Continental brigades spent the winter. We’ll visit the Wick House, St. Clair’s headquarters, and see the Grand Parade Ground and a wonderful reconstructed soldiers’ hut.

We’ll conclude the day with a stop at the site of the Widow White’s Tavern, where General Charles Lee was captured in December, 1776 by the British 17th Light Dragoons shortly before the battle of Trenton.

Our final day will focus on Middlesex and Somerset counties in central New Jersey, beginning with the spring 1777 battle of Short Hills where Howe attempted to draw Washington from the mountains. We’ll stop at Washington Rock in Green Brook, where the Patriots watched British movements during winter encampments and spring actions. The panoramic view of the Raritan Valley is magnificent.

Next we’ll stop at Middlebrook, the site of two Continental Army encampments in the summer of 1777 and the winter of 1778–779. Legend has it that the new stars and stripes flag was first unfurled here. This is probably the most forgotten of the Continental Army’s winter quarters.  Also overlooked is the April, 1777 outpost battle of Bound Brook, an indecisive clash between Benjamin Lincoln and Cornwallis that occurred in the no-man’s-land between New Brunswick and Morristown. We’ll visit the site of the action, plus the Van Horne House, Lincoln’s headquarters. It was here that he hastily abandoned his breakfast to elude the fast approaching enemy.

We’ll tour the Abraham Staats House in South Bound Brook, the winter quarters of Baron von Steuben, the drillmaster of the Continental Army. We’ll drive by the Van Veghten House, which served as headquarters for both Generals Nathanael Greene and Anthony Wayne. The Pennsylvania Line also camped on the grounds, and John Graves Simcoe raiders fought locals close by in 1779.

Our first stop after lunch will be the Wallace House, Washington’s headquarters in Somerville where the commander-in-chief spent the winter of 1778- 1779. It was also in this house that he planned Sullivan’s expedition against the Iroquois Confederacy

We’ll go to Pluckemin to view the site of the Continental Artillery Park of the 1778-1779 Middlebrook encampment. Here we’ll discuss America’s first military academy. Artillery chief Henry Knox’s winter quarters at the Vanderveer House is nearby. This recently restored house offers good information about the encampment, the army, and Knox.

What’s included: motor coach transportation, three lunches, beverage and snack breaks, a map and materials package, all admissions and gratuities, and the services of an experienced tour leader. Our hotel will provide a complimentary hot and cold breakfast buffet each day. Tour participants are responsible for transportation to the headquarters hotel, and securing a room reservation, if necessary. Dinner is on your own. Tour goes out rain or shine. Please see our policy page for information about cancellations.

Hotel: We have arranged with the headquarters hotel for a group rate of $120.00 per night plus tax (King bed) or $130.00 plus tax (2 Queen beds.) Please call the Hampton Inn and Suites, 1277 Route 22 W, Bridgewater, NJ 08807 at 908-722-9910 and ask for the America’s History (Cockpit of the Revolution) group rate. This rate will be guaranteed until May 1, so please make your reservations soon.

Our Tour Leaders: William M. Welsch is a frequent speaker on the American Revolution and an experienced leader of Revolutionary War tours. He is a founding member and president of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, VA. His article “Washington’s Indispensable, Yet Unknown Lieutenants” appeared in American Revolution magazine. His article entitled “How Did Washington Cross the Delaware?” recently appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution, Vol. I.

Register Online

Tour Registration – $475.00

Register by phone, e-mail or postal mail:

  • Phone: 1-703-785-4373
  • Email us at:
  • Postal mail: America’s History LLC, P. O. Box 1076, Goochland, VA 23063

Visa, Master Card and Discover accepted. We take checks too!

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