Washington Camped Here.

Did you know that one hundred battles were fought in New Jersey during the American Revolution? Did you know that the state was considered a strategic battlefront by both the Americans and the British, owing to it separating New York and Philadelphia? Did you know that George Washington spent more time in New Jersey than in any other state during the war?  Did you know that there are over 650 historical sites in the state that are connected to the conflict that helped to found the United States? Did you know that one of New Jersey’s nicknames is The Crossroads of the Revolution?

When we visited the Cornelius Lowe House this past spring, my wife picked up a map that detailed fifty-nine of the most important historical sites in New Jersey that are connected to the American Revolution. She immediately began devising a series of road trip adventures, centered around different geographical regions of the state. On a beautiful Sunday in early November, we set off for the area known as the “mountain refuges,” where American forces hid from the British Continental Army for three winters. 

After exploring central New Jersey’s connection to the Revolution, there will also be a feature on a special birthday road trip, a milestone for a friend, and a vehicular update.

Let’s begin:

The Mountain Refuges

Map of NJ with pins in locations in the center of the state.
Our journey down through central New Jersey would take us to a total of 8 locations connected to the Revolutionary War, the furthest located no more than 45 minutes from our front door.

Jacobus Vanderveer House

Exterior of Jacob Vanderveer House.
Located in a public park in the town of Bedminster, the Jacob Vanderveer House was the winter headquarters of American General Henry Knox. It is also the only remaining building from the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, the nation’s first military academy.
Window of Jacob Vanderveer House.
Built in the 1770s, the house still features much of its original construction. I got a kick out of how the original glass windows created a surrealist reflection in the panes.

Middlebrook Encampment

Sign indicating park of location of Middlebrook Encampment.
Venturing into the Watchung Mountains, our next stop was the Middlebrook Encampment. From this location atop the hillsides, Washington’s army of 8,000 soldiers was able to deter the British army of 22,000 men from marching southward from New York to Philadelphia. General Henry Clinton, commander of the English forces, knew that any attempt to dislodge the Americans from high atop the mountains would be met with furious resistance.
Flag and cannon in front of tree line.
By a special act of Congress, a thirteen star flag flies over the Middlebrook Encampment 24-hours a day, commemorating the weeks that Washington’s army spent on this hillside.

American Redoubt

Sign outside of 1777 Redoubt.
In the middle of a residential neighborhood in the town of Bridgewater, the 1777 American Redoubt is one of the last remaining earthenwork fortifications from the Revolution. It was built to defend the right flank of Washington’s army at Middlebrook.
Remains of redoubt in clearing in forest.
“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.” -Han Solo. This depression in the ground – measuring 75′ square and 4′ deep – once held cannons and a detachment of soldiers who were tasked with guarding Washington’s army from any British units attempting to attack the flanks. This is the last remaining redoubt in New Jersey, and one of only a handful left in the nation.

Abraham Staats House

Abraham Staats House
Our next stop was the Abraham Staats House in South Bound Brook. Originally built in 1740, this house was used as the headquarters of Baron von Steuben, the Prussian army officer who was General Washington’s chief of staff. Von Steuben endeavored to train the young American army and instill a sense of discipline. Readers of The Open Road Ahead may remember von Steuben from a previous post!
Front door of Staats House.
Originally built as a small, two-room home, the Staats House has been continuously expanded over the centuries since its initial construction. Listed on both the National and New Jersey Register of Historic Places, the historic property is overseen by the Friends of the Abraham Staats House.

Washington Rock State Park

Entrance sign to Washington Rock State Park
High atop the Watchung Mountains is one of the oldest state parks in New Jersey : Washington Rock. Established in 1913 on the site where General Washington surveyed British forces in 1777, the park features a panoramic view of eastern New Jersey and New York, along with hiking trails and picnic spots.
Picnic lunch and water bottle on table.
No expensive take-out meals for this lunch… just homemade sandwiches and a gorgeous autumn afternoon!
View of marker with flagpole and American flag.
From this spot, General Washington was able to monitor British forces and coordinate attacks by his soldiers.
Panorama of New jersey from atop Washington Rock State Park.
The view from the top was truly impressive. With a set of binoculars, it is possible to see the New York City skyline. A thick haze impacted my photos – it just means I’ll have to come back on a clearer day and take more photos!

Van Horne House

Exterior of Van Horne House.
Across the street from the stadium of the semi-pro Somerset Patriots baseball team is the Van Horne House. Built in 1750 by Philip Van Horne, the house was used as quarters by General William Alexander during the Second Middlebrook Encampment.

Van Veghten House

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of Van Veghten House.
Our journey next took us to the Van Veghten House. Built in 1725, the house, owned by farmer Derrick Van Veghten, was used by Nathaniel Greene, the Quartermaster of Washington’s army. General Washington once attended a party at the house, although it is doubtful he arrived in as good-looking a vehicle as the one my wife and I used for our visit!
Mile marker in front of Van Veghten House.
In front of the house is an 18th century milestone… consider it like the freeway exit sign of the 1700’s! This house once sat next to the Kings Highway, a colonial road that was completed in 1735 and ran from Boston, Massachusetts to Charlestown, South Carolina. Mile markers like these dotted the roadside.

Old Dutch Parsonage and Wallace House

Exterior of Wallace House.
Our last stop took us to the town of Somerville to visit two sites within walking distance of each other. First was the Wallace House, built in 1776, which served as General Washington’s headquarters during the winter of 1778-1779.
Rear of Wallace House, with small signs on sign posts around rear of house.
A series of signs along the back of the house tells the story of famous women who inhabited the home, including Martha Washington, husband of the first President, along with stories of women such as Mary Wallace, and a woman who was a freed slave. Interestingly, the Wallace family were slave-owners. Although technically banned in the state in 1804, slavery did not end in New Jersey until the Thirteenth Amendment was passed in 1865 (via Wikipedia).
Old Dutch Parsonage exterior.
The Old Dutch Parsonage was built in 1751 to house the ministers of the region’s Dutch Reformed churches. One of its first inhabitants was Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, who petitioned King George III to establish a college in New Jersey to train the colony’s ministers. The school was named Queens College, and Hardenbergh was appointed as its first President. Queens College goes by another name nowadays: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Entrance to Old Dutch Parsonage, with jack o'lanterns along sides of front steps.
In 1913, the house was sold to the Central Railroad of New Jersey and was slated to be knocked down, but a concerted effort by citizens caused it to be saved, and moved across town to its present location. I can’t imagine what it took to move a solid brick house!
Jeep Grand Cherokee odometer reading 58599 miles
After several hours of driving, we arrived back home. Despite visiting eight historic sites around central New Jersey, we only drove 90 miles! One of the benefits to living in such a compact state – traveling is pretty easy! Meanwhile, the Jeep continues to provide a comfortable, fun drive as it nears 60,000 miles.

Updates

There are definitely some fun updates to share! First, I want to take you along on the small road trip my wife and I took for an early birthday celebration. From there, I’m going to hand the blog over to a reader who prepared a special feature on the longterm ownership of Honda Ridgeline pickup, before finally closing with a short update on my Accord.

Wife of the Year* Birthday Road Trip

Map of New Jersey with red pin in location of Batsto Village.
My wife and I have a tradition of planning road trips for each other’s birthdays. I presented my wife with a list of possible road trip choices, and she selected a visit to Batsto Village, a historic iron-making factory town deep in the Pine Barrens. *And more about “wife of the year” in a future post!
White 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of historic village.
Originally settled in the 1760s as an iron-working town, Batsto Village has been preserved by the state of New Jersey and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Exterior of Mansion at Batsto.
The centerpiece of the village is the mansion, the palatial 32-room home where the village’s ironmaster would reside.
Exterior of worker's homes.
Many of the worker’s cottages have been preserved. These single-family homes featured three bedrooms and were well-appointed for the time period. During the late 19th century, rent was two dollars per month. Sign me up for that!
Kitchen table in cottage with food.
Several of the houses are open, with rooms set up to present village life from the 19th century.
Stagecoach in barn.
Peeking into the carriage house, I spotted this well-preserved stagecoach. Fun fact – the board fitted at the front of the stagecoach was designed to keep mud and rocks from the horses’ hooves from flinging up at the driver, or in the parlance of the day, to keep those items from “dashing up.” From that, we get the name “dashboard,” a word which continues in cars today.
Interior of gristmill.
The gristmill, designed to grind and process grain, was built in 1828. The grain was then sold to the families in the village store.
Exterior of sawmill.
A sawmill has existed on the property for over two hundred years! Lumber cut here was sent all over the east coast, bringing in a tidy profit of $10,000 per year… or over $265,000 in today’s dollars (via Batsto Village website).
Interior of saw mill.
Although tours and demonstrations were cancelled due to COVID-19, many of the buildings were open. Spotting no one else around, my wife and I wandered through the sawmill.
View of Batsto Lake beneath a blue, clear sky.
Before leaving, we ambled down to Batsto Lake and enjoyed the view on a gorgeous fall afternoon.
2014 White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in vineyard.
After departing Batsto Village, we drove to the nearby White Horse Winery in the town of Hammonton for a wine tasting.
Two glasses of wine in front of fire pit.
White Horse currently offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Although my wife and I aren’t comfortable with eating indoors at a restaurant, we were feeling adventurous enough to try an outdoor tasting. To ward off the chilly temperatures, we were seated at a fire pit. Each fire pit was at least 5-6 yards apart, allowing for excellent physical distancing. Oh, and by the way… the wine was amazing!
Cheese and fruit spread on wooden platter beside fire pit.
By this point, we were both starving, so we asked the waitress for a recommendation, and she suggested the antipasto pairing board. It was phenomenal. For the quality of food, the careful attention to safety, and the excellent wine, White Horse Winery gets two thumbs up!

 A Honda Update

Black 2017 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck.
Some of you may remember my friend Steve, who accompanied me on my drive up the Mt. Washington Auto Road and my journey to Newburyport, Massachusettswhen my Accord rolled 100,000 miles. Steve has been a longtime Honda owner, and in 2017 traded in his 2008 Honda Accord LX sedan (with 160,000 miles on the odometer) for this gorgeous 2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport pickup. Steve recently crossed a major milestone, so I asked him to update us on how his truck is holding up, three years later.

Here’s a check-in for my 2017 Honda Ridgeline, which has now hit the 50,000 mile mark! I live in southern New Hampshire, and the Ridgeline has been a gem of a pickup truck. My family and I have had countless adventures in this Ridgeline. The truck performs great on the dirt roads in my area, and handles the snow well. It’s easy to head to hiking trailheads – I just throw the gear in the truck bed and go. No jamming stuff in the trunk!

I saw a moose this summer in the Ridgeline. I took a ride on a clear night and saw a meteor fall through the sky from a hilltop in my town. It’s been on camping trips in Vermont and New Hampshire. The pickup handled all of our camping gear with ease. I’m able to haul my mountain bike to all the local riding spots. I’ve taken it to Plum Island to enjoy the ocean views, and even took it to visit a glacial erratic in New Hampshire!

It’s also great for taking whatever needs hauling. I recently moved across town, and the Ridgeline handled bureaus, shed tools, and seemingly everything else I threw at it. I helped a buddy get marble slabs for his kitchen island last week using the truck bed. 

I’ve had no issues with the Ridgeline. I take it to the dealer to get the factory recommended servicing. After my 2008 Accord, I wanted a vehicle that would be good in the snow and ready for adventures, and the Ridgeline hit a home run! It’s been a great 50k of hauling gear and having fun. Looking forward to the next 50k, and beyond!

Car instrument cluster with dashboard reading 50000 miles.
It seems like just yesterday that Steve texted me to let me know he had gotten his new ride – and in the blink of an eye, it’s been three years and 50,000 miles. In the words of Ferris Beuller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Honda Ridgeline parked on side of road.
Steve took this photo while awaiting a meteor crossing the sky in his hometown. Congratulations on the milestone, and keep us posted on your quest for 100,000!

A Quick Accord Update

Car odometer reading 163203 TRIP A 14.4
As for my Accord, it simply keeps on rolling. I recently passed 163,000 miles on the odometer, and the only thing it needs right now is a good wash and wax. Onward!

Proving that even in the age of COVID-19 there are plenty of adventures still to be had, our drive to eight important places of the American Revolution was fun, educational, and free! Do check the websites for the parks and museums listed in this post, as pandemic restrictions have impacted the availability of some of the locations. However, if you are looking for a safe way to spend time outside, exploring state and local parks with historical significance can be a great way to pass an afternoon!

Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.

10 thoughts on “Washington Camped Here.

  1. So much rich history out your way! I wanted to see what was inside that picnic lunch of yours! It’s kind of fascinating how a building like the Old Dutch Parsonage can be picked up and moved across town. I’d love to watch an endeavor like that. To think that they did it around 1913 is even more impressive. I think Steve is really going to enjoy his Ridgeline. Those pickups seem to be just a really fantastic all-around utility vehicle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed about moving the Old Dutch Parsonage – to undertake that kind of engineering feat over 100 years ago is really impressive, especially without more modern construction equipment! Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  2. That’s a lot of history in your backyard. I enjoyed reading about all of the connections to the Revolution. The dashboard explanation was nice. I had not heard that before.

    I think the Batsto Lake picture is really beautiful. Great colors in it.

    Thanks to Steve for that long term Ridgeline review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t realize how much history was packed into NJ! And that view you captured was really beautiful (even through the blue haze). Also-I totally thought the milestone was a gravestone. And I love that both you and your wife have the tradition of planning birthday road trips for each other! That is so sweet! I enjoyed reading about the ones she planned for your birthdays so it’s cool to see what you planned for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You learn something new everyday – I had never heard about Plum Island’s animal research center. Steve’s journeys have been to Plum Island in Massachusetts, though, not New York (although that would make for a truly unique blog post!). Thanks for reading!

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