The Cockpit of the Revolution

12_13_12_IndianKingTavern_008-680x1024-199x300From August 1776, when the British drove the Continental Army out of New York, until 1783, when the British evacuated New York, northeastern New Jersey knew no peace. Between major military campaigns, army foraging parties “purchased” livestock and crops at gunpoint and neighbors settled political differences through murder and kidnapping.

After evacuating Fort Lee, Washington led a dwindling Continental Army west and south through New Jersey, passing over the New Bridge across the Hackensack River (now New Bridge Landing), and through Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick and Trenton, where they crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania on December 7 and 8, 1776. They took with them every boat the pursuing enemy could have used to come after them.

An important port directly across the northern end of the Arthur Kill from British-held Staten Island, Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) was repeatedly occupied by British and Loyalist troops.

In June 1780, the British made two attempts to strike the Continental Army base at Morristown. Both failed, but the villages of Connecticut Farms (now Union) and Springfield were burned in the fighting that repulsed those attacks. The American victory at the Battle of Springfield was the last major battle of the war fought in the north.

The Raritan River Valley was a natural corridor into central New Jersey. The British garrisoned it, December 1776 through June 1777. Just before leaving to attack Philadelphia by sea, the British tried to lure the Continentals into battle by advancing from New Brunswick to Middlebush. When that failed, they withdrew to Perth Amboy, then lunged back at the advancing Continentals-action that resulted in the inconclusive Battle of Short Hills. Having failed to draw Washington into battle, the British withdrew to Staten Island, June 28-30. This area would see raiders again in October, 1779, when the Queen’s American Rangers penetrated all the way to Somerset Courthouse.

The important port of Perth Amboy was the capital of East Jersey from 1684 until the union of East and West Jersey in 1702, and then remained one of the twin capitals (with Burlington) until 1790. Its strategic location at the mouth of the Raritan River meant that both armies occupied it at different times during the Revolution.At the head of navigation on the Raritan River and at the crossing of the main road from New York to Philadelphia, the villages of New Brunswick and Raritan Landing were the hub of the Raritan and Millstone Valleys. The British Brigade of Guards was stationed at Raritan Landing from December 1776, through June 1777, and archaeological excavations have uncovered evidence of both British and American encampments in the area.From 1777 through 1780, Loyalists and British repeatedly raided the port of Shrewsbury. Four historic structures occupy its center, two of them from the 18th century, the Allen House (northwest corner) and Christ Church (southeast corner).

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