Washington Campground Assn. Park | Map | Archaeology
The area north of Bound Brook was the scene of two encampments of major portions of Washington's Continental Army, May 28 to July 2 1777, and from December 1778 to June 1779. The first encampment was of strategic importance since it compelled British General Howe to alter his campaign for the summer of 1777.
When the 13-star flag was officially adopted by Congress in 1777, the first place it was flown over continental troops was at Middlebrook.
The "Battle of Bound Brook" was fought on April 13, 1777, when Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis launched a four-pronged attack on the village of Bound Brook.
After his successful surprise attack against Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton on December 26, 1776 and the battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777 Washington moved his troops to Morristown.
In May of 1777, Washington moved his small army of about 6-8,000 men from his winter encampment at Morristown to the Middlebrook Heights, to observe the British troops at New Brunswick and Perth Amboy. Wayne's Brigade, commanded by General Anthony Wayne, from Pennsylvania was camped at the top of the first range of the watchung mountains in an area extending west from the intersection of Vosseller Ave. and Hillcrest towards Chimney Rock. They converted the area into a natural fortress. From this mountain, Washington kept an eye on the British in New York and New Brunswick. More importantly , he was in a position to flank the British if they attempted to cross New Jersey to Philadelphia.
At this time General Howe had 16-18,000 troops in New Brunswick.
This caused Howe to have to move his army by sea, causing a delay which prevented Howe from joining Burgoyne, which led to the defeat of Burgoyne's British army at Saratoga in October, the turning point of the of the Revolutionary War. Hence Middlebrook Heights has been called, "The Beginning of the Winning of the War."
In July and Aug. Washington's army move toward Philadelphia where they eventually lost the battle of Brandywine on Sept 11 and the Battle of Germantown on Oct. 4. They clashed again in the Battle of Red Bank in Nov. and eventually retreated to Valley Forge in December. At that time nearly 3000 men of this force were sick or too nearly naked to do duty.
In Nov. 1778 Washington started moving the army back to the Middlebrook area. The Main army, consisting of the Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania Brigades, with the Delaware regiment, the artillery Corps, and the artisans and attached support units, were along the base of the Watchung Mountains. Here they were protected from some of the weather, had a good supply of trees for construction and firewood, and were supported by a generally patriotic population, with an active militia.
Washington set up his headquarters at the Wallace House in what is now Somerville.
The Virginia troops were posted just west of the gap where Middlebrook creek flows out of the mountains, at Chimney Rock. The Virginia position extended along today's Foothill Road. The Maryland Brigade was posted east of the gap, past Vossler Avenue along what is now Middlebrook Rd. almost to Mountain Avenue. The Pennsylvania Brigade were posted south, at Weston, in today's Manville. Several miles north west along the ridge, at Pluckemin, the Artillery Corps was stationed, with an extensive academy/barracks construction
In "Report on the Middlebrook Encampment by the Continental Army during the middle of 1777 and the winter of 1778-79" by A. A. Boom, 1975, Boom says,
"Possible weak spots in Washington's bulwark, were the two ravines, the Basking Ridge Road [present day Vosseller Ave.] and the Middle Brook gorge [present day Chimney Rock rd.]. The former had a road, but the narrow gorge was almost impassable. Also he had a wide view of the country around New Brunswick, only seven miles awasy, the road to Pluckemin [present day Washington Valley Rd.], and the course of the Raritan. He could watch the British General Howe's movements continually.
Washington Campground Association
A 20 acre park at 1761 Middlebrook Rd., east of Vosseller Ave. is operated by the Washington Campground Association. It commemorates the encampment of the fledging American Army in the area from May 28 to July 2, 1777 and again from December 1778 to June 1779.
The land was donated to the Washington Camp Ground Assn. on the condition that the Declaration of Independence be read every 4th of July, and a meeting be held around Washington's birthday, February 22.
The army actually covered a large area in the first and second range of the Watchung Mountains from Chimney Rock Rd. to King George Rd. (which continued all the way down the mountain then) and up to Dock Watch Hollow Rd. The park on Middlebrook Rd. has a small monument, flag and seating for the July 4th ceremony.
A Historical and Archaeological Study of Washington Valley Park, East of Middle Brook including Part of the Sight of Wayne's Brigade Encampment of 1777 was prepared for The Somerset County Park Commission -by Hunter Research in 2003.
The report is available at "The Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission" in Somerville.
In 1973-74, A. A. Boom, a local historian who conducted tours of the area around Miller Lane, did an extensive investigation of the rock walls in the area, which is documented along with a history of Washington's army encampments in Chapter 11 of "North of the Raritan Lotts: A history of Martinsville, NJ area".
Report on the Middlebrook Encampment by the Continental Army During Middle 1777 Winter 1778-79 - A. A. Boom - Google Books
In 1974, William Liesenbein, performed a archaeological investigation of the same area. He refutes some of Boom's claims that most of the walls were set up for fortifications, but did admit that some may have been. He also found features which he speculates could have been huts and kitchens in 1777.
Ernest Richard Bower - Describes some of his finds in the area described above in Revolutionary War "At the Crossroads", 1999.
Herb Patullo is a local businessman and leader in local cultural organizations, including
past president of The Washington Campground Association. He is also quite knowledgeable on local history.
Robert A. Mayers' new book "The Forgotten American Revolution in New Jersey", has a history of the area. It will be out in 2018.
Somerset County added the property south of Miller Ln (from Herbert Patullo and purchases) to Washington Valley Park in the late 1990's.
"Report on a Preliminary Archaeological Investigation of the Alleged Site of the 1777 Summer Encampment
of Wayne's Brigade at Middlebrook, NJ",
Wm. Liesenbein, Tucson AZ, 1974
"Images of America, Somerset County, Crossroads of the American Revolution", William A. Schleicher and Susan J. Winter.
"The Mapping of New Jersey, The men and the art.", J. Snyder, Rutgers University Press, 1973
Two Washington's Rocks
Washington Rock State Park in Green Brook (4 miles away) is supposedly where George Washington went to monitor British Trooup movements, when General Howe was moving toward Westfield in 1777.
However Historian Robert A. Mayers came across another rock observation post along the ridge in a British account written in 1785. This document mentions Washington's observation post as being on a rock on the south side of Middlebrook Heights. The area of the Middlebrook Encampment
He found several other more recent references to a Middlebrook Washingon Rock, including Boom's reference to Benson Lossing's book, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the war for independence.. Lossing had a sketch of the Middlebrook Rock (below). Mayers is exploring 2 possibilities, one between Herb Patullo's place near Chimney Rock and another nearer Vosseller Ave. (red dots A & B on map below)
See more about Middlebrook Washington Rock
"Middlebrook, The American's Eagle's Nest" by Carl Prince, an 88 page booklet available from the Somerset County Historical Society
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