A section from Chapter 6, "Washington Rocks: Perches of the American Eagle (1777-1778)" in Revolutionary New Jersey: Forgotten Towns and Crossroads of the American Revolution, Robert A. Mayers .
Another Middlebrook Rock
I was asked to be the speaker at the annual meeting of the Washington Campground Association in February 2017. I took this opportunity to venture the possibility that the Rock at Middlebrook on the Patullo property was the observation post along the ridge mentioned in the British account of 1785, and the same one visited by Lossing in 1851. Soon afterward I was contacted by local historian Don McBride. He claimed to have found another observation rock that more closely matched Lossing's sketch, one that was only 1,000 yards north of the Patullo Rock and nearer to Vosseller Avenue.
McBride lives on the ridge adjacent to the former campground, and for many years has explored the area on foot. He has identified remnants of trenches and stone walls and has cleared paths to the crest of the ridge. I stopped by to join McBride to visit the Vosseller Avenue Rock a few weeks after my talk. We tramped through the foliage to the edge of the cliff and stood on the Rock to observe its field of view. We found the same sweeping panoramic 6o-mile vista. We then descended about fifty feet down the hill to the base of the cliff to observe the lookout from below. We then compared the two Rock observation posts to the Lossing sketch and narrative.
The Vosseller Avenue rock formation looks much more like Lossing's drawing. Its location atop a distinct cliff closely resembles his sketch, and the site is closer to the road (Vosseller Avenue), as described by Lossing. In addition, the site is where Wayne Brigade was camped, and its elevation is 375 feet, 65 feet higher than the Patullo Rock. However, if trees were removed, the view from Petullo's Eagles Nest would be better to the South-South East toward New Brunswick. Moving down the ridge toward Petullo's home also allows a better view of the Sandy Hook area.
You can move about 100 yards down the ridge to get a view of Sandy Hook in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees. It is impossible to see the Vosseller Avenue Rock in profile looking south towards New Brunswick, so it is likely that Lossing used some artistic license in his illustration. It is also probable that General Washington moved to several places along the ridge between Vosseller Avenue and Patullo's Eagles Nest in 1777 to detect the movement of his Redcoat adversares.
The Middlebrook Encampment has never been regarded as a significant New Jersey tourist attraction. Most people that are acquainted with it are residents of nearby towns who attend a July 4th ceremony each year held at a commemorative park which is maintained by the Washington Campground Association located on Middlebrook Road east of Vosseller Avenue.
In 1888 the LaMonte family donated twenty acres near the camp to the Washington Campground Association. The LaMontes donated the land on the condition that the Declaration of Independence be read every 4th of July, and that the 13-star version of the American flag be flown twenty-four hours a day. They also stipulated that the land would revert back to the heirs of the family if these requirements were not fulfilled. Since the Association had clear title and it could be easily reached via Vossellor Avenue, the area was suitable for a commemorative park. The Association has faithfully respected the wishes of the LaMonte family each year since that time. Unfortunately, few visitors are aware that the park is not on land occupied by the Middlebrook Encampment; it was actually positioned about a quarter of a mile away.
In the 1990's the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission explored the feasibility of establishing some historial landmarks in the area south of Miller Lane. They retained Hunter Research, an archaeological investigative firm, to perform a study in the area near Middlebrook Washington Rock to determine if there was any evidence of remains from Revolutionary War encampments. They only found a few pieces of pottery, parts of a cook pot, buckshot, buckles and some gun parts. The Cultural and Heritage Commission did not pursue this any further. This may be fortunate since this forgotten place remains undisturbed to this day, and the Middlebrook Washington Rock appears very close to the way it did in 1777.
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