On September 22nd, 1778, approximately 5,000 British & Loyalist troops under Lieutenant General Charles Lord Cornwallis entered Bergen County. Facing this threat was a detachment of local militia at the Liberty Pole, and a small regiment of Continental cavalry from Virginia, stationed at Paramus. Over the course of the next three weeks, the British troops would eliminate or scatter both groups, while helping themselves to the harvest of Bergens farmers.
The primary reason for the British incursion was the acquisition of cattle and forage. With the entry of France into the war, the British needed to protect their distant posts, such as the West Indies, Nova Scotia and West Florida. Consequently large detachments had to be detached from New York to meet the threat. These forces, and those that would remain behind, would need as many supplies of provisions that could with relative ease be secured. Bergen County, adjacent to British-held New York City and Paulus Hook (Jersey City) and containing a large Loyalist population, would provide that need.
The county was defended by a very small force of Continental troops, mostly in the form of the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, a cavalry regiment. Added to this was a picket of sixty militia at the Liberty Pole in Englewood. These men were the first line of defense in screening Washingtons main army in the Highlands from any British surprise.
During the period of September 22 to October 14, four major clashes would occur:
September 23rd a detachment of British cavalry would attack and disperse the Bergen County Militia outpost at Liberty Pole. This initial engagement, while brief and few in casualties, alerted the county to the British presence. Several were killed, while twenty seven were taken prisoner.
September 28th a large British force under Major General Charles Grey in the darkness of early morning attacked and defeated the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons while sleeping in their makeshift quarters in River Vale. This would go down in history as The Baylors Massacre after the commanding officer of the dragoons, Colonel George Baylor. At least fifteen soldiers, plus their major, were killed or mortally wounded in the attack, most being buried in that town. Their remains were discovered and exhumed after an extensive dig in 1967. A park and memorial stands on the site now.
September 28th a second force of British & Loyalist soldiers crosses the Hudson and endeavors to surprise a militia outpost near Tappan. Most of the militia had withdrawn after being alerted by two British deserters from Liberty Pole alerting them to the danger. A few militia under Captain Abraham Blauvelt were somehow not informed of the impending danger and were consequently killed, wounded or taken.
A final engagement occurred near New Bridge when a force of Bergen County & other militia, joined with some Continentals and a piece of artillery, attempted to attack a fort on Brower Hill, apparently garrisoned exclusively by Loyalist troops, including those raised in Bergen County. After judging the fort too strong to be attacked, the troops marched off. This fort was started on September 25th and one of two built by the British during their stay in the county. They were demolished upon their being abandoned.
The Bergen County Historical Society (BCHS) is pleased to host a weekend commemoration of some of these important events in our history. The event will take place the October 11th & 12th (Columbus Day Weekend) and center around Historic New Bridge Landing (HNBL.) The Brigade of the American Revolution (BAR,) an international living history association, will hold an encampment on the site, recreating some of the events that took place during this incursion, including the attack on the Liberty Pole picket, the American attack on Brower Hill, the British Forage (including the use of boats and carts) and a refugee camp.
The Bergen County Historical Society, a non-profit volunteer organization, promotes preservation, study and appreciation of local history. Its museum collections are displayed at the Steuben House, a State Historic Site and the Campbell-Christie House. Public programs include placement of informative roadside historic markers, educational events, museum exhibits, monthly lectures, and a library collection.
New Bridge was a prosperous mill hamlet, centered upon a bridge strategically placed at the narrows of the Hackensack River, Bergen County, New Jersey. The Steuben House, Campbell-Christie House and Demarest House are landmarks of Bergen Dutch sandstone architecture, popularly called "Dutch Colonial" and frequently seen and admired throughout northern NJ. The Steuben House still stands on its original site.
The Brigade of the American Revolution is a non-profit living history association dedicated to recreating the life and times of the common soldier of the American War for Independence, 1775-1783. Members represent elements of all the armies then involved: Continental, Militia, British, Loyalist, German, French, Spanish, and Native American forces plus civilian men, women and children.
Since 1962 the BAR has been recreating a broad spectrum of the 18th Century. Its activities include military encampments, tactical exercises, firelock shooting competitions, craft demonstrations and social activities. The Brigade also conducts annual schools and educational seminars featuring experts from several fields of 18th Century study.
For further event information, contact:
Todd W. Braisted
569 Holly Court
Mahwah, NJ 07430
This page was last updated 09-29-03
Webmaster Deborah Powell
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