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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Second River and the Confusion of History

Just north of Branch Brook Park in Newark is a plaque on a boulder that commemorates the Battle of Second River in September 1777.  Here is a view of it.

At the time, the current town of Belleville was known as the Village of Second River.  Second River, which flows under the bridge in the image, is the Watsessing River, a tributary of the Passaic River.

The battle was part of a foraging expedition of British General Henry Clinton, and various sources, including at least one pension record, corroborate a stand made in this area by local militia that ultimately fell back when British reinforcements arrived.  Sources indicate two Americans killed and eight British killed, so as Revolutionary War skirmishes go, this was somewhat significant in terms of casualties.    And yet, there is no mention of this on these dates in Howard Peckham's The Toll of Independence.  In David Munn's Battles and Skirmishes of the American Revolution in New Jersey, there are two listings for actions at Second River--one on January 27, 1777 and one on June 1, 1779, but no mention of the September action.  

We do have the rather graphic description of one Nathaniel Broadwell who said that in 1777:

"this Deponant apprehends in the month of September of that year that a battle was fought between the British and the Americans in late War between them, at Second River in the County [of Essex] and State aforesaid that during the said Battle this deponent being in the advanced Guard under the command of Cap't Daniel Brown found Stephen Ogden of Morristown at Head Quarters at Ward Session after said Battle confined with a wound it was said he received in said Battle with a Bullet entering his left side and that he this Deponent saw Doct'r Bern Budd with his instruments cut and take out the Ball from the right side of the said Stephen Ogden's Body and that the said Stephen Ogden remained at his own house for some time afterwards Confined with the said Wound."

Other local historians put the action in September 1777 and note that the final action occurred in this area of the boulder.

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