|Bridgewater During the Revolutionary War|
|The town of Bridgewater is not known for its history, but during the Revolutionary War (1776-1783) it played a significant role.
With its central location troops often moved through it - and twice George Washington’s army set up camp there.
That history, while not widely known, is recognized today. Land that Washington’s Troops once occupied is a park and two houses that military commanders stayed at have been restored and are still in use today.
Let’s take a look at what Bridgewater was like back then. In those days Bridgewater Township took up a large part of the county.
It consisted of what is now Branchburg, Raritan, Somerville, Warren, Bound Brook, and of course the part that remains Bridgewater today.
Bridgewater’s total population was around 2500 with many of these early settlers being Dutch.
Several of the roads that we know today existed then and were well traveled during the war. Maps of the time show that the main east-west road was the Old York Road. It incorporated what today is Somerset Street in Raritan along with the main streets in Somerville, Bridgewater, and Bound Brook. Some of the other roads that appear on a 1766 map are Washington Valley Road, Chimney Rock Road, Foothill Road, and Vosseller Avenue.
|These “roads” were nothing like they are today as they were just dirt paths through the forest. While they could be difficult to move along
in wet weather, they were the only roads.
Each Bridgewater land owner had a large plot of land. The 1766 map displays the individual property boundaries – (lots). It shows that most lots were over 100 acres with many over 500 acres. Only a few of the lots were less than 20 acres. (Today most lots in Bridgewater are less than half an acre).
|George Washington and his |
troops spent time in Bridgewater
Bridgewater twice served as an encampment for General Washington’s Army during the Revolutionary War. The first was for six weeks May 28th – July 2nd 1777. It was in a section of Bridgewater that was known as Middlebrook. Washington’s troops were positioned in the mountains just north of where Route 22 is today on both sides of Vosseller Avenue. This was a strategic position as on a clear day the Americans using the telescopes of the era were able to watch the British troops as far away as New Brunswick.
Some local history sources (perhaps with some embellishment) say that it caused the British troops, who knew they were being watched, to choose an alternate longer route when they traveled to meet up with their main army in New York State. The extra time spent traveling caused thousands of British troops to miss the battle at Saratoga resulting in a U.S victory. Some call that battle the turning point of the war.
|This specially made painting depicts |
Washington at his lookout site in Bridgewater
|During the time that Washington’s army was camped in Middlebrook, the American Flag that we know today (with the stars and stripes)
was designed and declared our official flag at a convention in Philadelphia.
So it is “likely” that the first time that the modern U.S. flag was flown by the U.S army was in Bridgewater.
Washington’s army left Middlebrook in July, but returned in November 1778 staying the winter and spring leaving June 3rd 1779.
These were quiet months in terms of fighting as armies generally did not fight in the winter back then as Mother Nature had the upper hand.
It was one of the better winters for the army as they had plenty of wood for shelter and fuel. Also, the local people and militia gave them plenty of support.
It was during this second Middlebrook Encampment that George Washington stayed at the Wallace House in Somerville. The Middlebrook encampment is today commemorated by a sign and a 13 star version of the flag on 20 acres of open park land on Middlebrook Road.
|The Wallace House in Somervile|
|Van Veghten House
The historic Van Veghten house in Bridgewater is located two tenths of a mile off Finderne Avenue inside an industrial complex. While it seems so out of place in that location, it obviously was there first. The Van Veghten Family built the house around 1720.
The house, which is on the northern side of the Raritan River, initially had 836 acres of land with it. Today just 1 acre remains associated with the house. During the Revolutionary War for a time the house served as the headquarters for U.S. Quartermaster Nathanael Green as the Van Veghten Family ffered the house for use by the U.S. Army. And use it they did. Many troops were camped on the property and in one instance a social was held in the house for army officers. It was written that at this social George Washington danced with Mrs. Green for “upwards of three hours”.
|The Van Veghten House in Bridgewater|
|After the Revolutionary War the Van Veghten house would pass through several families.
In 1971 it was deeded to the Somerset County Historical Society. It remains the headquarters of that group to this day.
Historical enthusiasts are welcome to visit this house. It is open every Tuesday from noon to 3 PM and every second Saturday of the month from noon to 3 PM. There is no charge. The house has a wealth of information as it holds hundreds of books on the history of Somerset County. The society members are usually there and are very helpful should one have a specific historical topic in mind for their research.
|The Van Horne House
It is located on what was the busiest road of its era the Old Yok Road. In 1754 Philip Van Horne purchased the property and built his home there.
He was a generous man who liked to entertain in his home thus his estate earned the nickname “Convivial Hall”.
During the American Revolution the house was the headquarters for Generals Benjamin Lincoln and William “Lord Stirling” Alexander who was Washington’s second in command. In April of 1777 the British surprised the U.S Army in the “Battle at Bound Brook” and marched to the Van Horne House to try and capture any U.S. officers who were at the house. General Benjamin Lincoln had been present, but he was able to make a quick escape. One written account of the battle said that he escaped “clad only in his breeches”. With the U.S. having fled the home the British then used it as an outpost.
|This specially made painting depicts |
The Battle at Bound Brook
|After the war the Van Horne House would change hands a few times being owned by various businesses -
the most notable was the Calco Chemical Company that for decades was located across the street.
In 2002 the house was put to excellent use when the “Heritage Trail Association” moved their headquarters into the building. This group promotes local history by offering bus tours and lectures. The Van Horne house can be rented for business meetings, parties, and even weddings.
|The Van Horne House in Bridgewater|