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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Second Battle of Trenton

So today was the reenactment of both the first and second battles at Trenton; I attended the second.  The actual battle occurred January 2, 1777, with the British essentially charging three times the bridge across the Assunpink Creek, and being repelled three times by the Continental forces.  In this interpretation, the British and Hessians battle the American forces on what is now called Broad Street (then, Queen Street).  I managed to get "flash" as they fired.

Here are the Americans:

And facing them, the British:

Mill Hill Park is where the main British assaults occurred; here is a representation of the British artillery firing on the American position:

The yellow house is the Douglas House.  It was originally on Queen Street south of the creek, and was eventually moved to its present location after other moves.  Washington held a council of war in this house on January 2.

Kudos to the reenactors; watching them and listening to the officers bark commands (in German, for the Hessians), and watching the process of loading and firing, in such close proximity, drives home just how personal this war was.  Unlike the drone operator moving around a joystick, these men looked, quite literally, into each other's eyes as they fired.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Washington's Crossing Reenactment, December 25, 2013

In temperatures ranging from 17 to 22 degrees, a hardy crowd turned out to watch the even hardier reenactors interpret the most iconic moment in American history, the crossing of the Delaware River by General George Washington on Christmas Day, leading to the successful attack on Trenton on December 26, 1776.

Here is the man himself, in the third of three boats that crossed today:

The river is as impressive in winter, even without the ice, and we get some sense of scale as the first boat makes its way across from Pennsylvania to New Jersey:

They would march along this road, still preserved in Washington Crossing Park in New Jersey, now called Continental Lane.

At the time, they left bloodstains in the snow.  This remains hallowed ground.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Iron Works Hill, Greatness and the Mosaic of the Revolution

December 22 marks the Battle of Iron Works Hill in 1776 in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, on which I previously posted.  The "battle" was actually more of an artillery duel, with no casualties. The Americans suffered three wounded at the companion skirmish at Petticoat (Rancocas) Bridge.

Here is Mt. Holly today, giving a taste of the historic center of town.  This feint was part of Washington's diversionary plans in anticipation of his attack on Trenton on December 26, 1776.

So much of what passes for political discourse today is elevated gossip, focused on a handful of people.  Journalists focus incessantly on whether a particular president had a good day or bad day, as if that were the important news.  Washington's success at Trenton was of course in large part due to his leadership and determination, but would not have been possible but for the efforts of others.  Even the idea of attacking Trenton was not just Washington's; his aide, Colonel Joseph Reed, actually suggested the crossing of the Delaware and the attack.  The engagement's sole purpose, spread out over a wider geographic area around Mount Holly, was to draw Colonel Carl von Donop's 2000 man Hessian force from Bordentown, far enough from Trenton so as to remove a threat of reinforcement when Washington attacked.  And it worked.

It's good to remember this.  No one is great alone.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kingston Mill, the Revolution and History

Kingston Mill, shown here during the East Coast snowstorm on December 14, is an historic spot.  

The bridge was a replacement built in 1798 for the wooden bridge destroyed by Washington after the Battle of Princeton.  About 100 yards away is a marker referring to the "horseback conference" in which Washington decided to take his force to Jockey Hollow for the winter rather than attack the British at New Brunswick.  After the Revolution, during the early part of the nineteenth century, the Delaware and Raritan Canal was built; there is a lock at Kingston past the left edge of the photograph.  Past the right edge of the photograph, the road was part of the Lincoln Highway designation in the early twentieth century.  The mill itself, testament to the Industrial Revolution, was built in the late nineteenth century.  This place is filled with history across the formation and growth of the country.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Obscure Confluence of Place

One of the most intriguing places I have found in my exploration of place, history and the Revolution is Proprietors' Park in Gloucester City, NJ.  It was once known as Gloucester Point Park.  A lot of activity seemed to occur in what is now a relatively obscure spot, though one with outstanding views of the Delaware River, the Walt Whitman Bridge and Philadelphia's distant skyline.

We are looking at a marker that identifies the spot on which stood Huggs Tavern, where Betsy Ross was married.  We are looking at the Delaware River; David C. Munn, in Battles and Skirmishes in New Jersey of the American Revolution, notes several events in this area.  On December 31, 1777, Americans stripped and burned two British ships between here and Philaelphia, just to the north.  Also in this park is a plaque identifying the courthouse's site, and another spot where the proprietors met, and apparently still meet, once a year.  Munn notes that on November 25, 1777, a reconnaissance force under Lafayette exchanged fire with a small British force in Gloucester; some sources refer to this as the Battle of Gloucester. On November 27, having cleared this area of American forces, Cornwallis returned to Philadelphia.

Standing here, we are reminded of the many small cities of New Jersey and paths that crossed--here Betsy Ross and Cornwallis, separated briefly by time.