Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

The battle of Trenton thoroughly aroused General Howe, who at once collected 7,000 men at Princeton. Washington had but 5,000 men. On January 3 the battle of Princeton took place and the Americans were again victorious, but the men were so completely exhausted that Washington was forced reluctantly to abandon his project of capturing the stores at New Brunswick and to seek the hill country, where his men might obtain the rest and refreshment they so much needed.

Reforming his columns, the General passed along the King's Highway to Van-Tillburgh's Inn, at Kingston, which was standing not many years ago. Here, turning to the left on the narrow Rocky Hill road, he marched his way-worn men down the valley of the Millstone.

Arrayed in the Continental blue and buff as he sat on his horse with all that martial dignity peculiar to himself, Washington came as a conqueror, welcomed by the enthusiastic populace.

Much of interest appertaining to this march to Morristown is to be learned from the manuscript diary of Captain Thomas Rodney of the Dover Light Infantry, which is preserved by his descendants.

When the van of the American army reached the bridge which spanned the Millstone in front of the residence of Christopher Hoagland, near Griggstown, the British cavalry appeared in considerable force on the opposite bank. The condition of Washington's men was such that he desired neither to pursue nor be pursued, so he ordered the bridge broken up. This being done the enemy was forced to retire, which would lead one to suppose that the depth of the river was much greater then than now. Commissaries were sent forward to notify the inhabitants of the approach of the troops and to direct that food be prepared for their refreshment. The home of Abraham Van Doren, like many others, was the scene of great excitement and special activity that day. I quote from a paper read before the Somerset County Historical Society several years ago by his great-grandson, Rev. Wm. H. Van Doren: "Abraham Van Doren was a most prosperous and prominent member of the community. He owned the grist mill which did a large business between Trenton and New Brunswick. Besides the mill he owned the store (ruins of which are still standing), a feed mill, a saw mill, a carding mill and power loom, a cider mill and distillery, a cooperage, a work and wagon shop, two blacksmith shops and a lath mill, besides six or seven hundred acres of land. The mills and store houses were filled with flour, grain, whiskey and lumber, awaiting a favorable opportunity of shipment to New York. The general 'killing,' as it was called, had just been finished. The beeves and hogs and other animals designed for the next year's use had just been laid down, so that, what had never before occurred in the history of the settlement, there was now a whole year's labor stored up, a Providential supply for a great necessity which no human wisdom could have foreseen. Before noon the whole hamlet of Millville, as Griggstown was then called, was ablaze with excitement and activity. Soon the old Dutch ovens were roaring hot and bread and pone, shortcake, mince and other pies, beef, ham and pork, sausage and poultry, were cooking and roasting to feed the General and his staff. Not the officers alone, but the whole rank and file of the army was coming and right royally they feasted." There are many interesting traditions which are cherished in the Van Doren family relating to this visit of Washington and his army.

As soon as the troops had been fed and had an hour or two of rest, Washington found that Cornwallis, enraged that he had been so tricked as to allow his foe to escape while he slept, and fearing for his military stores at New Brunswick, had put his whole army in motion. So hurriedly calling his men to "fall in," Washington hastened with them to Somerset Court House, now Millstone. It was about dusk and here they encamped for the night. Washington and some of his staff quartered at the residence of John Van Doren, which is this house. Here also still stands the old barn where the General's horse was stabled. Until recently the house was occupied by a great-grandson of the man who was the proud host for one night of the Father of our Country. This family, too, have many interesting traditions of this memorable visit. We note that two men by the name of Van Doren, within twenty-four hours, were honored by being permitted to entertain the commander-in-chief of the Continental army.

The main body of the army encamped for the night near the present Dutch Church parsonage, in close proximity to the Courthouse, which was afterward burned. Early the following morning the column was again pushing northward, crossing the Raritan at Van Veghten's bridge, now Finderne. Not far from this bridge stood the old First Dutch Church of the Raritan on the ground donated by Michael Van Veghten, whose tombstone is still standing in the little "God's Acre," which surrounded the edifice. This building, like the Court House, was burned with all the priceless records by General Simcoe's men.

Rodney states that Washington was again tempted to march to New Brunswick, still having in mind the rich stores there which would be of such inestimable value to him. However, again out of consideration for his troops, he abandoned the project. After crossing at Finderne they marched up the river to the old road turning west, just north of Bernard Meyers' house to Tunison's Tavern, now the "Somerset" in Somerville, field to the right, passed up Grove Street and continued over the hills to Pluckemin. The sick and wounded were cared for in the village while the Lutheran Church was used as a temporary prison for the captured men.

It was at this time that Leslie, the young British officer who had been wounded and so tenderly cared for by Dr. Rush of Philadelphia, having died, was laid to rest with full military honors. Many of us have seen the stone in the church yard at Pluckemin which marks his resting place.

Sunday, January 5, 1777, was a great day for Pluckemin. News of Washington's presence, and that of his army, quickly spread throughout the surrounding country, and we can well imagine the eagerness with which the people flocked in to get the latest news of the war and perchance of their loved ones. The Mathew Lane house is said to be the house where the General was quartered.

Early on the morning of January 6 Pluckemin lost, suddenly as it had gained, the distinction of being the headquarters of the army.

Rested and refreshed, it was probably the most peaceful and satisfactory march experienced since leaving Hackensack three months before with Cornwallis at their heels.

Secure now from pursuit the little army in good heart travelled slowly along the narrow road called the Great Road from Inman's Ferry, New Brunswick, passing Bedminster Church to Bedminster. Some authorities say they then crossed the north branch of the Raritan at Van der Veer's Mills, but Mr. Joshua Doughty, of Somerville, who seldom makes an assertion which he cannot prove by the records, tells me that they did not cross the river at that point, but filed to the right, going through "Muggy Hollow," the road which Lord Sterling used in going from his place to the sea shore at Amboy; then passing through Liberty Corner and Basking Ridge, with frequent halts, they climbed the Bernards hills to Vealtown, Bernardsville, and on to New Vernon, and just as the sun was sinking in the west reached Morristown. After a weary pilgrimage they were for the time being safe in winter quarters.--_American Monthly Magazine._