Sunday, August 12, 2012

The End of the Revolutionary War

There seems to be some disagreement over the actual last land battle of the Revolutionary War.  Contrary to what many lay people seem to believe, hostilities did not end at Yorktown in October 1781.  Howard Peckham's invaluable The Toll of Independence notes dozens of engagements in 1782, resulting in 277 American deaths,  124 wounded, with 80 captured; he lists only 5 land engagements for 1783.  Among the final actions, the Battle of Cedar Creek Bridge in Stafford Township, New Jersey, is his last listed for 1782 and among the six final "engagements" of the war.  Here we see a view of the area, with the Cedar Bridge Tavern (now a private residence) glimpsed to the left and the creek at the bend in the road in the center of the picture.
The engagement occurred on December 27, 1782, when local militia under Captains Richard Shreve and Edward Thomas sought out the hated Loyalist, Captain John Bacon.  They and their men stopped at the tavern, were surprised themselves by Bacon and his forces, and when they were gaining the upper hand, Bacon was supported by fresh Loyalists, which facilitated Bacon's escape.  The Patriots lost 1 killed and 1 wounded; 1 Loyalist was killed, 4 wounded, and 7 taken prisoner.  Shreve's militia did manage to kill Bacon on April 3, 1783, Peckham notes, after the peace treaty was signed.  The Stafford Township Historical Society lists this as the "last battle" of the war.

Whether it owns that distinction or not of being "last," the place remains sacred: at least one man on each side of the civil war divide lost his life here.  While the bitterness of the internecine nature of this war is often discussed in the context of the Carolinas, here in "southern" Jersey, the divide was often just as broad and brutal.

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