Home(s) for the Holidays

In October of 1777, General George Washington’s Continental Army was beaten and demoralized after losing control of Philadelphia and failing to successfully counterattack at the Battle of Germantown. Washington’s soldiers desperately needed to regroup and retreat from their position north of Philadelphia. British forces, however, were unable to mount an attack against the diminished American army, as they lacked sufficient soldiers and supplies. If the Redcoats could get supplies and additional soldiers to Philadelphia by moving them up the Delaware River, Washington’s army would be imperiled. Two American forts – one on either side of the Delaware – were all that stood in the way of certain defeat. The British dispatched over a thousand Hessian soldiers – German mercenaries under their command – to attack Fort Mercer in New Jersey. On October 22, American forces, outnumbered three to one, repulsed wave after wave of attack, killing, injuring, or capturing over 400 Hessian soldiers. Holding out until November 18th, the vastly outnumbered Continental Army soldiers bought enough time for Washington to move his army to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to regroup and rearm for the winter (via Wikipedia).

Over the past week, I have traveled from New Jersey to the Adirondack Mountains of New York, hosted family for Thanksgiving, and then made my way to explore a historic battlefield located close to home. It’s been a whirlwind! Before detailing my exploration of Red Bank Battlefield in National Park, New Jersey, I wanted to offer some more updates.

Time for Updates:

The Salem Oak

You may remember in a previous post my exploration of the Salem Oak, a 600-year old tree in southern New Jersey. Not only was it the oldest white oak in the state, but at 103-feet tall, a trunk that had a 22-foot circumference, and a 104-foot span of its branches, it was also one of the largest. Sadly, this great oak collapsed in June of this past year. You can read about it more in this “tree obituary” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. While it’s sad that the tree has passed, I feel fortunate to have seen it while it was still alive. Happily, its seedlings have been planted in towns throughout New Jersey, allowing its legacy to live on.

Another Adirondack Visit

Roadside sign that says ENTERING ADIRONDACK PARK alongside snow-covered road shoulder.
What is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit – Adirondack Park in upstate New York. Note the ground – while winter has not arrived in New Jersey yet, the Adirondacks had already seen several snowfalls.
Sunset sky along tree-lined lake.
While we spent most of our time with my wife’s relative who lives in the mountains, I did manage to catch some spectacular sunsets along the Fulton Chain of Lakes.
Sunset sky with tree-lined lake view.
The views were well worth the cold temperatures beside the lake as I snapped photo after photo!
Twilight at tree-lined lake.
As the sun set behind the mountains, twilight was even more beautiful and serene.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee in front of Blue Mountain Lake.
With snow on the ground, we opted to take my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee up to the mountains… and to stop for a souvenir photo in front of Blue Mountain Lake!
Exterior of Oscar's Smokehouse.
On the way home from the mountains, we stopped by Oscar’s Smokehouse in Warrensburg, NY. Founded in 1943 (and in its current location since 1946), Oscar’s offers ham, bacon, sausage, and cheese to hungry passersby, including my wife and I! We stopped in to pick up some goodies for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Packages on refrigerator shelves with chorizo, kielbasa, bratwurst, knockwurst, and other sausages.
Long a favorite of TV personality Rachael Ray, Oscar’s prepares and smokes all of its meats, bacons, and sausages on site.
Two shelves of bottles of spices, including burger seasoning, kosher salt, chili powder, cajun spice, chipotle pepper, and others.
The selection at Oscar’s is enormous. Even the spice rack seems to offer endless choices. In the end, we opted for some bacon, kielbasa, and horseradish cheddar cheese. The verdict? Yum!
Exterior of Jack's Diner, with chrome, yellow, and red striping.
On the way home, we stopped for lunch at Jack’s Diner in Albany, NY. Long a favorite of locals, this historic diner is also a favorite spot for celebrities such as Jeff Goldblum and Danny Glover.
Interior of diner, including two counters with seating for twelve, and an open doorway looking into the kitchen.
Talk about a classic! Forget about asking for wifi… put the phone down and enjoy the ambiance!
Plate with waffle and bacon, along with glasses of orange juice and water, and a cup of coffee.
Our food arrived quickly, and was absolutely delicious. Diner waffle and diner bacon, with diner OJ and diner coffee? Yes please! How good was the waffle? By the time I remembered to add the maple syrup, I had already taken the last bite!

Automotive Updates

Car odometer reading 143985 TRIP A 102.2
No major updates for the Accord – it has mostly been in the garage the last few weeks, although we do have some trips planned with it in the future. Closing in on 144,000 miles, it is still purring along nicely. As someone recently remarked, “You know, for 143,000 miles, what stands out to me is how solid it feels. There are no noises, and everything feels tight.” Thank you, kind passenger! As I said… it’s the best car I’ve ever owned.
Car odometer reading 23000 ODO 40 F OUTSIDE TEMP P
On the other end of the mileage spectrum, my mom recently rolled an achievement – 23,000 miles in her 2009 Toyota Matrix. Congrats, Mom! At the rate she is going, 30,000 miles should happen in about three years. Talk about going easy on your car!

Red Bank Battlefield Park

Map of New Jersey with red pin in the location of Red Bank Battlefield Park.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, with relatives visiting from out of state, we took a trip to Red Bank Battlefield Park, located in National Park, New Jersey.
View of two-lane county road with farmland on either side.
On the way to Red Bank Park, we criss-crossed the state, visiting family. Much of our drive took us through South Jersey, and a very different view of my home state than is popularly understood. No strip malls, oil refineries, or McMansion housing developments… just mile after mile of farmland.
Rusting GMC truck parked beside tree on farm.
As we made our way through the farms of South Jersey, this old, rusting GMC truck caught my eye.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of two-story brick colonial-era house.
We arrived at our destination: Red Bank Battlefield Park, located along the banks of the Delaware River.
Pyramid of cannon balls, with red brick two-story house in background.
Set on 44 acres, Red Bank Battlefield Park preserves the history of one of the most important, if least discussed, battles of the American Revolution.
Exterior of two-story brick colonial house, with sign WHITALL HOUSE MUSEUM in foreground.
The centerpiece of the park is the Whitall House. During the Battle of Red Bank, this house served as a field hospital for American troops. After the battle, the owner, Job Whitall, came home to a house filled with blood, bandages, and used medical equipment, as well as all of his stores of food gone. He petitioned the New Jersey legislature for reimbursement, which was never approved. A Quaker, Whitall did not take sides in the war, yet the war came to him regardless.
Revolutionary War-era cannon in permanent emplacement along river.
Revolutionary War-era cannons are permanently displayed around the park. During the battle, the defense of Fort Mercer was assigned to a company of soldiers from Rhode Island, a unit that included free African-American soldiers.
Piece of wall and culverts from Fort Mercer, with statue in background.
The remains of Fort Mercer are still visible, hundreds of years later. This small section of wall is located at the southeastern corner of what was once an earthwork fort. You can still see the culverts, or trenches, that ran through the fort. Hessian soldiers who attempted to cross these were easy targets for the defending American soldiers.
Tall monument of soldier on pedestal, in white marble.
This monument memorializes the dead soldiers, both Americans and Hessians, who fell during the battle. The Americans suffered 14 dead and 23 wounded, while the Hessians received a devastating defeat: 82 killed, 228 wounded, and 60 captured. The Hessian commander, Carl von Donop, told his soldiers before the battle: “Either this fort will be called Fort Donop, or I will have fallen.” He died on October 25, having been mortally wounded during the fight (via Wikipedia).
Black iron cannon from HMS Augusta.
The defeat was a complete victory for the Americans – the British even lost two warships during the battle that had come to aid the Hessian soldiers. This cannon is from the HMS Augusta, which exploded after taking fire from American cannons and fire rafts.
Stone marker with writing on it from 1829.
At the edge of Fort Mercer is this stone marker. Placed here on October 22, 1829, the marker commemorates the 50th anniversary of the battle.
View of Philadelphia Naval Yard and the skyline of center city, Philadelphia.
Three hundred and forty years later, a much different view of the Delaware River faces us. You can see the skyline of Center City Philadelphia on the left, and in the foreground is the Philadelphia Naval Yard. On the far right is the decommissioned USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier. In service from 1967 until 2007, this carrier is now available to be converted to a floating museum for any city willing to take her.
Stone mile marker says MILES TO COOPS FYES TO SALEM 1773
As we left, we spotted a row of stone mile markers. Dating to 1773, they marked the route from Coopers Ferry in Camden to Salem, New Jersey.
Car dashboard display with pop-up message WINTER STORM WARNING ENDS AT 13/03/2019 AT 6:00 PM.
On the way home, a weather alert popped up in my wife’s Jeep. I’ve never seen this before – kind of a cool feature!
Car odometer reading 43,711 miles.
By the end of our trip, the Jeep is approaching 44,000 miles. We have a monster road trip planned for the Grand Cherokee over the Christmas holidays… stay tuned!

The time in and around South Jersey was a great way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If you are looking for a fun, historical, and free way to spend an afternoon in the Philadelphia metropolitan region, I would highly recommend Red Bank Battlefield Park. The park is open year round from sunrise to sunset (although it is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). The Whitall House is open for tours from April through October, Thursday through Sunday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

I hope you had an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday, and thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.




4 thoughts on “Home(s) for the Holidays

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