New Jersey has been called the “Crossroads of the Revolution,” because the state saw so much action in the war for independence from Britain.
Situated as it was between the Loyalist haven of New York and the fledgling nation's capital at Philadelphia, the state was a strategically critical and heavily fought-over place during the war years.
Hundreds of battles and skirmishes big and small took place in New Jersey during the Revolution. Today, we can visit many of these battlegrounds, including the site of what’s believed to be the last land engagement of the war right here in Ocean County.
Washington Crossing State Park, 355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Titusville. Though Washington’s Continental Army had a difficult start in the war, they turned the tables at Christmas in 1776 with a string of decisive battles around Trenton.
Washington famously crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania on Christmas night, with the aim of surprising an encampment of Hessian troops fighting for the British. You can visit Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville today to see the site of the troops’ arrival in New Jersey. A restored house used by commanders still stands, and historical markers show the path the army took toward Trenton.
The Old Barracks Museum, 101 Barracks St., Trenton. The Battle of Trenton was won with relatively few colonial troops, and is remembered as a major victory for Washington. The old Trenton barracks were recaptured by the colonists and are preserved today as a museum that offers guided tours.
Princeton Battlefield State Park, 500 Mercer Road, Princeton. Days after the victory at Trenton, Washington defeated the British again at the Battle of Princeton, commemorated today with the 200-acre park. The fight proved to be and important strategic win – and morale booster – for Washington’s men.
Monmouth Battlefield State Park, 16 Route 33, Manalapan: British and colonial troops clashed at the famous Battle of Monmouth on a burning hot day in June 1778. The British were falling back toward New York, and Washington met them at what is now Manalapan.
The legend of Molly Pitcher was born during the battle after a woman bringing water to the soldiers supposedly took over her fallen husband’s place at cannon. Today you can walk the battlefield and visit the possible site of Molly Pitcher’s spring.
Battle of Paulus Hook Monument, Washington and Grand Streets, Jersey City: In a small Jersey City park stands a monument marking the site of the Battle of Paulus Hook, a small but significant raid that took place in August 1779.
General “Light Horse Harry” Lee led a cavalry raid on the fort, originally held by the colonists but captured by the British, in an attempt to reclaim it. Though he took more than 100 prisoners, Lee wasn’t able to retake the strategic fort.
Morristown National Historic Park, 30 Washington Place, Morristown: Revolutionary history is all over this park. The remains of a fort built after the battles of Trenton and Princeton remain, and visitors can tour the site of the Continental Army’s encampment during the winter of 1779-1780.
The last major battles of the Revolution in New Jersey happened nearby in 1780 as Washington’s troops defended Morristown from the British and drove the redcoats south.
Cedar Bridge, Old Cedar Bridge Road, Barnegat: Even after the British surrendered in Virginia, what amounted to a civil war between Patriots and Loyalists raged on in the pinelands of New Jersey.
On Christmas Day in 1782, loyalist pirate John Bacon and Patriot Captain Richard Shreve had a surprise run-in at Cedar Bridge Tavern in present-day Barnegat, and, though it was a very local fight, the ensuing skirmish is believed to be the last land battle of the war.
At the tavern, Loyalist locals came to Bacon’s aid and fought off the Patriots, who then rallied and pursued Bacon to Parkertown, where he was killed. The old tavern still stands on Old Cedar Bridge Road, which runs parallel to Route 72 in the Warren Grove section of Barnegat, between Old Halfway Road and Warren Grove Road.