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The Battle of Bound Brook

by Weldon Monsport

Convivial Hall and the Battle of Bound Brook, April 13, 1777. This painting by John Clymer was commissioned by American Cyanamid. The company once used the Van Horne House for offices and restored the property in the 1940s.

Among the battles and skirmishes to take place in New Jersey during the War of Independence, the Battle of Bound Brook was an early, though not crushing, defeat on the record of the Continental Army in New Jersey. Near what is recognized as the first Middlebrook Encampment, a small but stinging setback was brought upon the troops and militia of the rebel Americans, whose victory at Trenton (commemorated in the famous image on canvas, and coin, of Washington crossing the Delaware), closely followed by success at the battle of Princeton, had only recently been enjoyed. Much of the war fought in New Jersey in the winter and early spring of 1777 was a "foraging war", with the occupying British garrison at New Brunswick (numbering 17,000 soldiers at its height) resorting to raids of local farmers and merchants to sustain its forces. In the end, it was the success of the Americans in the area in foiling these foraging raids, many in January of that year, that fired the determination of the British to retaliate with a concerted attack on the garrison at Bound Brook.

The Battle

Much of what is known of the Battle of Bound Brook comes to us from the diary of Johann Ewald, a Hessian in the service of the British. Directed by Cornwallis to develop a battle plan that would avenge British losses during the unsuccessful foraging raids of January (Van Nest's Mill, near present-day Manville; Spanktown, now part of South Plainfield; and Quibbletown, now part of Piscataway), Ewald's plan for the predawn darkness of April 13th, 1777, from New Brunswick, put two columns of troops, with cannon, on the attack from the southeast, fording the Raritan at night between American outposts to avoid detection. A third column attacked from the west--where the engagement was the fiercest--and nearly succeeded in the capture at the Van Horne House of General Benjamin Lincoln, garrison commander, which had been Ewald's and Cornwallis' prime objective. A fourth column moving along the Watchung Ridge from the east was to arrive to cut off any escape from the garrison at the Raritan River to the hills and ridgeline to the north. Under attack by three columns, with the fourth arriving late, the American rebel garrison at Bound Brook was routed by the attack of Cornwallis' troops and Scottish highlander and Hessian mercenaries.

Success in the attack came mostly from surprise, but the support of the attack by mercenary forces was crucial. Regular British columns of the day were often spearheaded by German soldiers of fortune, the shocktroop Hessians. Recognized as fearsome fighters, under Generals Cornwallis and Howe the treasury of the British crown paid the Hessians to aid regular British troops in the dispatch of the American rebels and to secure the American economy in traction to the crown's colonial empire. As shocktroops, they often led British military engagements, and were often the facing troops in the British rear guard. Several accounts remain of Hessian brutality to the American civilian populations they encountered.

The British never consolidated their gains after the Battle of Bound Brook, preferring to withdraw to New Brunswick after their avenging strike. In succeeding weeks, the Americans would regroup; and later, in June of 1777, Lord Stirling, close friend of General Washington and second in command of the Continental Army, would lead American forces and achieve a narrow victory over the British in the Battle of Short Hills. The British garrison eventually would leave New Brunswick, to disembark from Staten Island and to be sealifted in frigates around the DelMarVa peninsula for an assault, via the Chesapeake Bay, on Philadelphia from the south.

American and British soldiers do annual battle in street and field in Bound Brook, usually in April. Colonial crafters, encampment, children's activities, special programs and tours and more round out the event, which is coordinated by the Friends of the Abraham Staats House. Please check the website for details and to confirm times.

NJ and Somerset County Events
during the Revolutionary War


1776

May 10. 2nd Continental Congress opens in Philadelphia.

July 4. Continental Congress approves Declaration of Independence.

November 16. Fort Washington, NY falls to the British, and Washington evacuates Fort Lee, NJ.

Nov. 20- Dec. 8. Washington retreats from Fort Lee west to Pennsylvania across the Delaware.

* December 13. General Lee is captured by British in Basking Ridge.

December 25-26. Washington and 2,400 troops cross Delaware River back to New Jersey, march to Trenton, and surprise Hessians at the Old Barracks, Trenton.

1777

January 1. Lord Cornwallis takes command of the British Army in Princeton.

January 2 Battle of Trenton.

January 3. Americans defeat small British force at the Battle of Princeton.

January 6 - May 28. Washington's troops spend winter at Morristown.

April 13. * General Benjamin Lincoln and a small band of Americans are attacked by a much larger force of English troops at Battle of Bound Brook.

June * Washington moves his entire army to the first Middlebrook Encampment in Somerset County, where he can observe the British troops in Perth Amboy and New Brunswick. The presence of approximately 5,000 American troops just north of Bound Brook disrupted British plans for taking Philadelphia during that spring. The delay also prevented the British from sending reinforcments north, contributing to the critical American victory at Saratoga, New York in October 1777.

June 26 * Lord Stirling leads Americans to victory in the Battle of Short Hills.

September 26. British take Philadelphia

September to October. Washington builds up defenses at Red Bank on lower Delaware River.

October 22. Americans defeat attacking Hessian troops, then abandon Fort Mercer.

November 15. British take Fort Mifflin, PA.

December -May. Washington and 12,000 troops survive bitter winter at Valley Forge, PA.

1778

March 21. Britsh and Loyalist troops raid Hancock's Bridge.

June 28. Critical American victory at Battle of Monmouth.

December 11 * Washington sets up headquarters at Wallace House. Almost 10,000 soldiers camp at Middlebrook and other areas of the county during a relatively mild winter. The encampment established the first military training academy for artillery officers at Pluckemin, the first training program for army surgeons and the formation of the General Friedrich von Steuben's first light infantry corps.

1779

August 19. Major Henry Lee attacks the British fort at Paulus Hook (Jersey City).

October 28 * British Major John Simcoe leads raid through Elizabethtown to Bound Brook burning the Dutch Reformed Church and Court House at Millstone (then called Somerset Court House), an unsuccessful attempt to draw the militia into an ambush.

December 1 * Continental army locates at Jockey Hollow near Morristown for the most severe winter of the century.

1780

June 7 - 23 Invasion of Elizabethtown and Springfield.

July 1 - 8 Washington headquarters at Dey Mansion, Wayne.

1783

June 30 Congress abandons Independence Hall in Philadelphia and reconvenes in Princeton.

August 23 * George and Martha Washington arrive at Rockingham.

September 3 America and Britain sign Peace Treaty in Paris, France.

November 2 * Washington writes Farewell Address to the Armies at Rockingham.

Encampments

Winter encampments were the necessary acknowledgments of rest and repair that eighteenth century armies gave to the harsher weather and energy requirements of the season. Middlebrook, as it was known, is the name given to the tributary that runs from the Watchung hills down through the gorge at Chimney Rock above contemporary Bound Brook. The Revolutionary garrison formed in the area, and the cantonment included the colonial bridge sites across the Raritan in what is now modern Bound Brook. From the heights above the flats of Bound Brook, and along the Watchung ridge, commanding views east and southeast to old Elizabethtown and the Amboys, were available; similarly to the south and southwest to New Brunswick and Princeton. If an immediate strategic retreat were called, the relative safety in the foothills of Morris and Sussex lay just behind to the north.

The strategic location would find further use at what is known as the Second Middlebrook Encampment, with the winter reserve of American forces as they faced the continuing occupation of New York by the British, following the rebels' victory at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. The Second Encampment is remembered for the contribution of its commanding General Washington, and of Von Steuben, Inspector General of the Continental army who is credited with harnessing the social energies of revolution into the disciplined fighting force that American regulars needed to become in order to defeat the larger and more well financed British army of occupation.

Comments

Don Cosat
07 Feb 2014, 16:10
My ancestors (Cussart/Cossart) were early residents of the Bound Brook
area. David (George) Cussart's house,on East Main St.(c.1700) became the Bound Brook Hotel, later called the Green Brook Inn. According to family records, this was very near the site of the battle. I am not familiar with the area and would appreciate any info that might verify this fact.
Carol Usa
04 May 2012, 08:51
My ancestors were in Bound Brook area in the 1700's. John Ross 1733 - 1810, buied in old Presbyterian Churchyard with wife Martha and son John Ross 1764 -1808 wife Martha Van tuyl. John the 1st or 2nd listed in list of soldiers in "The Return of the third company of the secoind battalion of the third regiment of Middlesex Militia 1794 with son -in -law James Coddington. Any info on these grandfathers would be appreciated.\r\n\r\n
Larry L Bilyeu(Workman)
26 Feb 2011, 16:53
Dear Sharon & Larry Otoole, Please give me any info on our mutual ancestor. I am working from Utah and have many resources to help us if I know where to look. Thanks. Larry\r\n\r\nP.S. It appears that Workmans and Bilyeus are triple cousins with several brothers and sisters of each family marrying. I suppose because they were in Pioneer areas that was common.
Larry L Bilyeu(Workman)
26 Feb 2011, 16:48
Hello to all who are decendents of Jacob Workman "Daniel Boone of Maryland." I am trying to find info on what battles he fought in and what unit he was part of. Any references to American Revolutionary War records which would help. I am especially interested in hearing from others who have or are researching this info. Thanks to all for the info discussed so far.
Larry OToole
29 Dec 2010, 11:50
To: Sharon\r\nRe: My post in October\r\n\r\nSharon,\r\n\r\nThanks so much for your email reply. Unfortunately, however, as I'd just received an email alert of a new virus, I got "trigger-happy" and deleted the email before reading it, including your email address! So, if you'd be so kind, please re-email.\r\n\r\nWith the proverbial "egg on my face" I do apologize.\r\n\r\nRegards,\r\n\r\nLarry O'Toole\r\nlotoole7388@hotmail.com
Sharon
28 Dec 2010, 17:36
To Larry Otoole. Jacob was a sharpshooter. He is my relative too. I sent you an invitation to view my family tree on Ancestry.com Hope that helps. I have just started working on it this year.\r\nTake care. Sharon
William Hewson
25 Nov 2010, 08:34
To Larry O'Toole:\r\n\r\nPluckemin is very near or part of Bedminster, NJ. It is on Rt. 206/202 near the intersection of Interstate 287 and Interstate 78, There is an archeological dig nearby known as the Pluckemin Archeological Dig site because the area was used as a temporary encampment by the Continental army. Hope this info helps!\r\n\r\n Best Regards,\r\n William Hewson\r\n tartan479@comcast.net
Larry O'Toole
27 Oct 2010, 18:57
\r\n27 October 2010\r\n\r\nHello all,\r\n\r\nI just discovered this forum, and I do have several questions:\r\n\r\nMy family connection to Somerset Co. is thru my 5th or 6th great-grand-father,\r\nJacob Workman/Wortman. He supposedly was a sharpshooter in the Revolutionary\r\nWar. His family was from Somerset Co. [Jans Workman/Wortman. This Jans was a\r\nsquire, and reportedly had a homestead called the Workman Homestead.\r\n\r\n1. Has anyone heard of a Workman Homestead? If so, where was it?\r\n\r\n2. The Workman family supposedly settled in "The Raritan" initially, then moved to Pluckemin. I can't seem to find Pluckemin on a map. I think it's close to Basking Ridge. Any ideas there?\r\n\r\n3. This Jacob Workman supposedly enlisted on August 26 1776 in Maryland, altho' no unit has been specified. DAR lists him as a Private from MD and a Capt. Charles Coulson.\r\n But whether or not this Coulson was his commanding officer is not specified. Anyone who could answer the unit question would earn my "eternal gratitude,",or....at least a few Atta boys/girls:{) !!\r\n\r\n4. Last, if I could find "Jake's" outfit, maybe I could find out what battles he fought in. I'd suspect Morgan's rifles, or Cresap's Co. According to my Wikipedia source, Morgan was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, a neighboring county. That would make an interesting story in itself. Especially as Morgan was living in Winchester, VA when he recruited his "Morgan's Rifles;" my Workman supposedly was in Washington Co., MD at the time.\r\n\r\nI've been accused of being "a romantic," and I guess it's so. But I do find the story of a Somerset Co. man enlisting in some rifle organization, being a sharpshooter, and having so much revolutionary war happening right around where he was raised to be a\r\ngreat, fascinating story. If I could find out more specifics, it'd surely make for some great tales to tell his 6th or 7th great-grand-daughters!!:)\r\n\r\nP.S.,\r\n\r\nI'd enjoy 'em, too!!!\r\n\r\nLarry OToole\r\nlotoole7388@hotmail.com \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
Mark Zangara
08 Oct 2010, 19:28
Hello,\r\n\r\nI grew up a stone's throw from the Middlebrrok Campgrounds on Middlebrook Rd. But the encampment then was all around, and on my parent's property. Kids I knew found many old cannon balls atht were dated to the Revelutionary War. It was quite a large find in the eary 1960s. We spent much time in my youth looking for evidence and reading the history. I roamed all the areas, Chimmney Rock etc. I moved out of NJ in 1973 and only go back rareley for my wife's family. But would be interested in being in a reenactment ther in old Bound Brook. Afetr a lifetime of being an engineer, I am getting a master's in WWII history and Public history, maybe a PhD later. Just recently I got back into hist. Please let me know if/when any Rev War activities you know of in NJ esp. Bound Brook.\r\n\r\nRegards,\r\n\r\nMark Zangara
Jeff Hayas
05 Apr 2010, 01:33
\r\nRe: Wade family members in Conn.Farms, Church Membership\r\n\r\nThis info probably only coincidental, but FYI. I was raised in Union (CF) in the 1950s. We attended St Luke Anglican (Episcopal) church at Washington and W.Chestnut (in 1780 probably known [along w/ current Elmwood Ave and Morris Ave to Springfield ] as Galloping Hill Rd) 1 Blk N of 5-points.\r\n The church was always a "mission" of the Elizabeth Anglican church, and had a plaque indicating a Wartime visit by Gen Washington. Because it is 1km S of CFarms village, and Anglican, maybe not burned by Brits?) It is hand-noted as CHAPEL on the 1880 map of "Union P.O." \r\n Anyhow, the church had some old Union family members, including a Mr Wade, a Senior member of the Vestry. \r\n
J Buckmelter
27 Jan 2010, 09:35
For Scott Wade. I don't think there is any connection between your ancestors, Matthew and Ferrell Wade and my ancestor Matthias. Wade is an extremely common English name. An interesting Wade myth concerns the "Wade Stones" in northern England. This myth pops out in a web search.\r\nThere is also a line from Chaucer--"as brave as a Wade or Lancelot". The Wade name goes back into mythology and is perhaps derived from the Vikings?
James Buckmeter
16 Aug 2009, 19:10
My ancestor, Matthias Wade was in the Essex militia and participated in the battle of Springfield, one of the last revolutionary battles. One result of the battle was the burning of the church (Connecticut Farms) and the loss of church records, including Wade family history. There were apparently two Wade family members between Benjamin (the original Wade) and Matthias, but records for them are quite confusing since they apparently had the same names, married women with same names and had children with same names. Benjamin and Matthias are well documented though.\r\nI learn a lttle more year to year.
tbrucia
27 Jun 2009, 19:18
I was a bit shocked to see the condition of the Van Horn House on a recent visit to New Jersey.... When American Cyanamid maintained the building (and as I remember it from the 1960s) it resembled the image depicted above by John Clymer...it no longer does :-(
monique borgobello .
10 Mar 2009, 13:52
to.major general baron von stueben south bound brook new jersey. continental department middle brook encamptment . morristown ,new .jersey . middle brook encamptment . copyto; general washington. from your ag ga asst major general 2nd commanding officer monique borgobello. the battle's of bound brook have to hailed on the april 4th is a saturday and on sunday is april 5th we meait have to do it on that day's of it. becouse of it. the 13th is a monday of it. easter sunday is the 12 th i beliving four hatteras cape north carolina on good friday is the 10th i woun't be home to the 18th is a saturday i figer that we may do the battle's of bound brook on the 4th of april and the 5th of april that weekend's of it. general washington so that i can see them befour i living of the outer bancks of north carolina pame's will given out on saturday at the church's four the masseis on the 11th on saturday . of they will baleaist the wines and the food of it. on easter sunday. at the masset of it. my dad hase the plaint's out seaied in the coverup polaistcs out seaied or in the baistment in the house were gone and keeping eye out four us up to the 18th of april i am leaiting you no on it. of the april 4th and april 5th of the battle's of bound brook . general washington and to . mrs. martha washington and to you general washington have a wouner fall easter sunday and a happy easter and to the eraist of the guy's to of it. see you doune there to then . from; carol and pierre borgobello and fromyour; ag ga asst major general 2nd commanding officer monique borgobello . and a happy easter sunday. see all you soon to then on the 4th and the 5th of april general washington.
scott wade
22 Feb 2009, 08:23
Mr. Buckmelter, was your Matthais Wade referred to as Matthew Wade? Ferrall Wade, the Indian trader had a brother Matthew? They operated in NY and had brothers Francis and John in Pa and De respectively. I am related to Francis Wade (Col, in Rev)
Paul J Howe
27 Jan 2009, 12:36
Mr Buckmelter,\r\n Pls see http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=7783 to confirm the location of Spanktown as being in Rahway. You are correct that Samptown is in present day South Plainfield. I think the text is in error and meant Samptown.\r\n Regards ...
James Buckmelter
27 Jan 2009, 12:03
My ancestor, Matthias Wade, participated in the Battle of Short Hills and was probaly also at the Battle of Connecticut Farms (1780). His son was a Colonel John Wade. Does anyone out there have an idea of which chuch they might have belonged to? Almost certainly Presbyterian, but probly not the Connecticut Farms church in Union.\r\nFor previous comment about "Spanktown". I've got family buried in what is known as the Samptown cemetery. Samptown is very similar to Spanktown? The Samptown cemetery is in South Plainfield, very close to the border with New Market, now Piscataway.
Paul J Howe
14 Oct 2008, 15:31
QUESTION on the location of "SPANKTOWN" as described in the narrative. \r\n\r\nWas "Spanktown" really part of Rahway? Or, part of South Plainfield as described in the text?\r\n\r\nThe text:"Directed by Cornwallis to develop a battle plan that would avenge British losses during the unsuccessful foraging raids of January (Van Nest's Mill, near present-day Manville; Spanktown, now part of South Plainfield; and Quibbletown, now part of Piscataway), Ewald's plan for the predawn darkness of April 13th, 1777, ..."
JACK SIDELL
08 Oct 2008, 22:09
GENERAL DEY WAS A FOREFATHER OF MY GRANDMOTHER DEY. THERE WAS A PLOT OF LAND IN NEW AMSTERDAM, OWNED BY HIM, ALSO. IT WAS WHERE TRINITY CHURCH IS, I UNDERSTAND.
william ferguson
30 Aug 2008, 08:05
looking for details on William in pre-war and during war .I know some about he in morgan county Ky
Steve Smith
12 Apr 2008, 19:45
Thank You all who participated in making this day a real historical event. My wife and I, as well as other who attended, appreciate the effort of those who traveled in from all over New Jersy, Pennsylvania, Delaware, etc. to produce a wonderful re-enactment. Bound Brook should be proud this event continues at the personal expense of many who study, produce the period clothing and weapons representing our struggle for independence. Today we need to understand and value the sacrifice of our fore-fathers, men, women and children, who were committed to provide the future for all generations.

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