Friday, November 20, 2009

You Won't Believe Your Ears! New Bridge Not A Revolutionary War "Battleground"?

The astounding and frankly bizarre claim is now made that Historic New Bridge Landing is not a "battleground" of the American Revolution and therefore is somehow not entitled to the protection from modern intrusions that we have long fought for so diligently or to the reverence it is due as "sacred ground" where American blood was shed in defense of Liberty. This assertion is just the latest literary contortion of those who wish to pursue their own agenda at the expense of truly historic ground.

Please note that we call New Bridge a "battleground" to recall that this strategic pass, arguably, "the crossroads of the American Revolution," was repeatedly contested by opposing armies throughout the war, preferring this description to "battlefield," which carries the more temporal connotation---at least in my mind----of a site where a major clash of arms, decisive or otherwise, occurred on one or more consecutive days. In fact, we proudly assert that New Bridge witnessed more of the Revolutionary conflict than any other place in America.

The Bergen County Historical Society and the Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission organized the initial campaign in 2001 to include Bergen County sites associated with the American Revolution within the boundaries of the then proposed Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. Below is the form of the resolution, which we prepared, and which was subsequently adopted in support of our efforts by the County of Bergen, several local municipalities, historical societies, Federal and state legislators. I think it summaries the historical facts as well as expresses our undiminished commitment to proper stewardship:


(County or Municipality)

WHEREAS, the United States Congress has authorized the Department of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study and National Heritage Area Feasibility Study for the Crossroads of the American Revolution in central New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the (Name of County of Municipality) has a rich heritage of Revolutionary War history; and

WHEREAS, Historic New Bridge Landing, where the Zabriskie-Steuben House, a State Historic Site, still stands, is the site of the Bridge That Saved A Nation, where General Washington and the American garrison of Fort Lee crossed the Hackensack River in the face of the British invasion of November 20, 1776, as immortalized in Thomas Paine’s American Crisis; and where British troops under Major General Vaughan attacked the American rear guard on November 21, 1776; and where British and Loyalist troops under command of Captain Patrick Fergusen attacked about 40 Bergen militiamen on May 18, 1779; and whence Major Henry Lee led American troops on August 18, 1779, to attack the British earthworks at Powles Hook (Jersey City); and where a force of Bergen Militia and Continental troops attacked 600 British troops and German auxiliaries on their retreat from Hackensack and Paramus on March 23, 1780, during the two hours it took for the British to repair and cross the New Bridge; and where a body of 312 British, Loyalist and German infantry, attacked and overwhelmed an American outpost commanded by Lieutenant Bryson on April 15, 1780; and where 8 British soldiers were killed, and several wounded, by friendly fire when British troops attempted to attack a body of Bergen Militia in the Zabriskie-Steuben House on May 30, 1780; and whence Brigadier General Anthony Wayne led American troops on a raid against the Bull’s Ferry Blockhouse on July 20, 1780; and where General Washington made his headquarters in the Zabriskie-Steuben House during the encampment of the Continental Army at Steenrapie (River Edge) on September 4-20, 1780; and

WHEREAS, New Bridge was strategically located at the narrows of the Hackensack River and set in a no-man’s land between the two opposing armies, it served as a fort, military headquarters, intelligence-gathering post, encampment ground and battleground throughout the American Revolution; and

WHEREAS, American soldiers fought and died upon this ground, leaving future generations with a sacred trust for its stewardship in their honor and memory; and

WHEREAS, John Zabriskie and Lt. Colonel Abraham Van Buskirk, of the Third New Jersey Volunteers, were prominent Loyalists whose homes at New Bridge were confiscated by the State of New Jersey; and

WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey presented the use and income of the confiscated estate of Jan Zabriskie at New Bridge, to Major-General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, Inspector-General of the Continental troops, on December 23, 1783, in recognition of his “many and signal services to the United States of America,” and

WHEREAS, General Steuben “thoroughly rebuilt” the Zabriskie-Steuben House before selling the premises in 1788, making it the only extant dwelling owned by him in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the (Name of County or Municipality) recognizes that a National Heritage Area (NHA) designation will recognize the unique importance of the NHA to our country’s history, and will provide additional benefits to local communities toward resource protection, heritage tourism, and other economic activities, and related educational initiatives.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the (Name of Endorsing Entity) supports the designation of a Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in central New Jersey, and will take such action as it deems appropriate to support the designation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT copies of this resolution be forwarded to the following:

New Jersey Congressional Delegation
Senator Robert Torricelli and Senator Jon Corzine
Members of the New Jersey Legislature
Michael Henderson, Superintendent, Morristown National Historic Park
Linda J. Mead, Project Leader, Crossroads of the American Revolution
New Jersey Historic Preservation Office
New Jersey Historical Commission
All Local Officials

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