What would it be like to retrace the steps of the American revolutionary war soldiers who engaged the British in Metuchen on June 26, 1777, and then fought a running battle across what is now Edison and Scotch Plains before retreating to the safety of the Watchung Mountains—through a pass by Seeley’s Pond that would become known as Bloody Gap?
In addition to several historic sites in Metuchen and Edison, hikers will pass the Frazee House, the Ash Brook Reservation, perhaps the only location in the entire battle that has not been developed since that time.
Colonial forces sought to slow the British by having their cannons bogged down in the Ash Swamp.
The British hoped that if they feigned a departure from New Jersey, they would lure the Continental Forces down from the Watchung Mountains, crush them, and finally end the Revolutionary War. The plan didn’t go so well, even though Washington’s troops of less than 6,000 were vastly outnumbered by a combined British and Hessian force numbering about 12,000.
There is also a nature trail leading into the swamp for those who would like to see the area. While the site was drained to some extent, there are still some wet sections that will give the visitor a sense of why the American troops wanted to draw the British through this area and slow their advance.
Hikers will also pass the historic Fanwood Train Station, where the historical society will have free refreshments for hikers. The route continues past the Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains and ends at the Deserted Village.
The Battle of Short Hills planning committee and the Brigade of the American Revolution are happy to announce the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are co-sponsoring the Battle of Short Hills 240th Anniversary re-enactment at Oak Ridge Park in Clark on Saturday, June 24th and Sunday, June 25th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free to the public.
“We are pleased to co-sponsor an event that highlights the historic importance of Union County in the founding of our Country,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen. “This re-enactment brings history alive and reminds us of the sacrifices our founders made in the name of liberty and love of Country.”
Paul Tofani, a participant and one of the organizers of the event thanked the Freeholder Board for their co-sponsorship.
“This is a great step forward for public education on our history,” said Tofani. “This event will bring to life what took place here and help our visitors to understand the complexity of the foundation of our nation. We appreciate the co-sponsorship and the opportunity to present this in a County park.”
Preceding the battle the night before (Friday, June 23rd), the New Jersey Symphony will also perform a free concert beginning 6:30 p.m. at Oak Ridge as part of annual Union County’s Summer Arts Festival series of concerts.
At the Battle of Short Hills in late June 1777, a numerically inferior force of 2,500 Local New Jersey and Pennsylvania troops serving in the Continental Line, along with patriot militia, achieved a strategic victory against over 10,000 British and Hessians troops seeking to trap the main body of Washington’s army. This strategic victory prevented almost certain destruction, allowing the Americans a tactical retreat to the Watchung Mountains.
The battle took place on June 26, 1777, at Scotch Plains and Metuchen, New Jersey, stretching through Clark (where the re-enactment is being staged) and all the way to Westfield. Despite the name, no fighting occurred in modern-day Short Hills, a section of Millburn.
On a related note, the Frazee House in Scotch Plains is a Union County landmark made famous by its sheer survival for more than 230 years and by the tale of Elizabeth “Aunt Betty” Frazee’s legendary confrontation with a British general during the battle of Short Hills. The house, constructed by Gershom Frazee, has received official recognition on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. The Frazee House is located at 1451 Raritan Road, near Terrill Road, Scotch Plains, NJ.
The County of Union also maintains a Battle of Short Hills historic trail link, which outlines the other historic sites in Union County, including Plainfield and Fanwood: http://ucnj.org/parks-recreation/paths-trails-greenways/battle-of-short-hills/
Visitors to Oak Ridge park should note that portions of the park, including the public parking lot, will be closed from June 23 to 26th for the re-enactment to be set up and take place. Also those attending are advised to bring hats, sunscreen and water as the re-enactment will take place in an open field at the height of summer.
Those wishing more information on this event or who may be interested in participating should go to either the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BoSH2017/
Schedule for Saturday June 24th, 2017
10:00 AM Site Opens to Visitors/ Pass in Review & Battalion Drills
11:00 AM Laundry and follower life (On going in camps) How did an Army on the march live and survive? Join as us we explore the life of the soldier and follower in their camp. Who are the women who accompanied the Army wherever it went? How did the men keep clean? Visit the laundry and see just how important hygiene and cleanliness were to keeping the Army alive.
11:00 AM Musket Demonstration (Starts at the American Battery) See how soldiers of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment were expert at all tactics on the field in 1777. Watch how a year’s worth of service in the Mohawk Valley formed this regiment into an elite fighting force.
11:30 AM Earthworks Construction (Starts at the American Battery) The Crossroads of the American Revolution, as New Jersey was called, looked a whole lot different in 1777. See how expanses of farms and small cities were converted into fortified ground by the end of a shovel or pick.
12:00 PM Soldiers’ Dinner (Starts at the Camp Kitchens in the British Camp) Imagine an army of nearly 5,000, all needing food to stay in the field. Imagine those same soldiers needed to cook their own. The use of the camp kitchens in 18th century camps were imperative to army efficiency. See how mess cooks made their own victuals to get through each day.
12:00 PM Seeds of Freedom (Starts of the Head of the American Camp) The young and young at heart are invited to enlist in the Continental Army. Learn step by step how the soldiers trained, what they ate, and where they step. By the end of the program you will be marching the exact steps these soldier’s did.
1:00 PM Cavalry of the Armies (Starts at the Head of the British Camp) New Jersey was nearly 75% farmland at the onset of the Revolution. See how the pastoral landscape played to the strength of mounted troops in North America. Examine how dragoons were the eyes and ears of the British Army.
2:00 PM Battle of Short Hills (Starts at the Visitor Crowd Line) As Howe’s Army divides in two parts to take the Mountain pass, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania line, aided by batteries of artillery, hold the ground long enough to close the pass.
3:00 PM Close the Pass (At the Conclusion of the Battle) With Howe’s army halted and the Watchung mountains secured, both armies retreat to their respective camps to prepare to fight another day.
4:00 PM Site Closes to Visitors
Schedule for Sunday, June 25th, 2017
10:00 AM Site Opens to Visitors
11:00 AM Cannon Demonstration (Starts at the American Battery) Cannons were huge investments to any government or king. Yet, their presence on the battlefield secured continents. See how gunners used a well calculated system of math and science to lay hell down on the enemy.
12:00 PM Soldiers Dinner (Starts at the Camp Kitchens in the British Camp) Imagine an army of nearly 5,000 all needing food to stay in the field. Imagine those same soldiers needed to cook their own. The use of the camp kitchens in 18th century camps were imperative to army efficiency. See how mess cooks made their own victuals to get through each day.
12:00 PM Seeds of Freedom (Starts of the Head of the American Camp) The young and young at heart are invited to enlist in the Continental Army. Learn step by step how the soldiers trained, what they ate, and where they step. By the end of the program you will be marching the exact steps these soldiers did.
1:00 PM People of the Armies (Starts at the head of the British Camp) From Gentleman volunteer to indentured servant, see how different people all came together in the formation of the armies. Explore how military uniforms influenced style in the 18th century up to today.
2:00 PM General Action The British return to South Amboy and Staten Island with Washington’s men hot on their tail. Can they make it back to safety or will the Americans exact a severe revenge?
3:00 PM Howe’s Retreat to Amboy. General Howe’s Army arrives in Amboy. If they cannot drive across by land, how will he take Philadelphia?
4:00 PM Site Closes to Visitors