Skip to comments.A new chance to right a historic wrong
Posted on 01/12/2008 6:06:12 PM PST by Coleus
Of all the things that make no sense about New Jersey, the state's failure to invest, promote and capitalize on our Revolutionary War history has always led my list. People who ran state tourism said there was no money in it. But 40 years ago, the government leaders of Pennsylvania saw the 1976 Bicentennial coming and funded the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau. It cost them about a million bucks to promote the historic significance of the area, the natural beauty and the proximity to Philadelphia.
In time, hotels and restaurants went up, most with a historic theme. Within a decade, the bureau went private, and in 2005 generated $148.6 million for the regional economy, as 271,811 people came to the area for 400 conventions and trade shows, and tours of the region. In that same period, New Jersey put up unfollowable signs marking Washington's retreat across New Jersey, from Fort Lee through Newark and New Brunswick, and his road to victory a few weeks later at Trenton and Princeton and on to the winter safe haven in Morristown. Some are actually still there.
So in 2005, when more than a quarter of a million people visited Valley Forge, only 75,000 visited the National Historic Park at Morristown, many of those "frequent visitors." In other words, the local person who walks his dog through the park each day counts as 365 visitors. The bottom line is this: New Jersey has not only let millions of George Washingtons slip through its fingers, we've let George Washington's Revolutionary War legacy slip through our fingers.
(Excerpt) Read more at blog.nj.com ...
Washington is synonymous with Valley Forge, not Morristown, which was the true military capital of the Revolution. The worst hardship endured by the soldiers? Every school kid knows it was the winter at Valley Forge, right? Truth is, it was Jockey Hollow, where Washington ordered the army’s horses removed from near the starving soldiers, lest they slaughter them for meat.
“Morristown is the only place where Washington himself spent two winters during the war,” said John T. Cunningham, New Jersey’s pre-eminent historian.
Cunningham’s new book, “The Uncertain Revolution,” makes a case for the Watchung Mountains serving, in the author’s words, as Washington’s “geological fortress” allowing his army to command the New Jersey high ground. Safe from British attack, the army was able to rest and regroup and strengthen itself while avoiding defeat.
Many of the highs and lows of the war, militarily and politically, happened in New Jersey, and no other state was as critical to the Revolution.
“It was the great heartland between the two most important Colonial cities — New York and Philadelphia. And don’t forget, they were also the biggest ports on the two most important rivers,” the Hudson and Delaware, said Cunningham. “It only stands to reason that whoever controlled New Jersey, would win the war.”
Yet this great heartland is all but ignored as a national historic site. Now New Jersey has a chance to stop history from repeating itself. There is a new cluster of forces that, with proper alliance and funding, may make New Jersey a tourism destination for Americans (and foreigners) whose interests go deeper than sand, sunburn, glitz and gambling.
“There are three separate things at work right now that we hope will create the right synergy for heritage tourism to finally, really, take off,” said Leslie Bensely, executive director of the Morris County Visitors Center. The Legislature provided funding for a Task Force on Heritage Tourism, which began meeting in the spring and has until next October to come up with a plan for creating ways to draw visitors and, more important, give them something memorable to see when they get here.
The state tourism division, headed by Nancy Byrne, is on board with history like never before. The state’s new “Great Destinations” campaign has Morristown right up there with Atlantic City, and includes a whole segment on Revolutionary War history. The third component is the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, signed into existence last month by President Bush. The area will cover the swath of New Jersey from Fort Lee to Camden County (no Turnpike jokes, please) and will include 213 towns in 14 counties, and the federal government will spend $10 million to help create and promote it.
Tuesday at 4:30, the Crossroads of the American Revolution Association has a public program at the Morris County Cultural Center on 300 Mendham Road (Route 24) in Morris Township (just north of Lewis Morris Park). Cunningham, the guest speaker, will talk about New Jersey’s neglected legacy. The association directors will then have a public meeting and take suggestions from those interested in getting our rightful Revolutionary due. They also will listen to ideas on how to get the state’s educators and corporations to make intellectual and financial investments in our history. The Crossroads NHA is one of 37 in the country and will solidify New Jersey’s reputation as home to the Revolution. This is New Jersey’s second shot at such a legacy. Back in 1933, the federal government made the Ford Mansion and Jockey Hollow the country’s first National Historical Park.
And we know how that worked out. With all that history in New Jersey’s favor, we still managed to allow Pennsylvania and Valley Forge to hijack the nation’s Revolutionary War consciousness. Now’s our chance to get it back.
It sickens me to say the least that NJ is known more for the Sopranos than for its historic role as the Crossroads of the Revolution.
May I suggest to anyone who finds themselves up here to pay a visit to Nassau Hall/Priceton Battlefield, Rockingham, Morristown, the Trenton Barracks (oldest barracks existing in the US), to say nothing of the annual reeneactments of the Battle of Monmouth in Manalapan and the Crossing of the Delaware (caps intentional) to Hopewell.
I live in the forgotten battleground of Michigan. (War of 1812)
Remember the River Raisin. 8 Kentucky counties are named after men who fought and died here.
New Jersey This Time, Tempe Wick? by Patricia Lee Gauch. This story is based on a spunky, real-life girl named Tempe Wick who hid her horse in her bedroom from both the Americans and the British during the Revolutionary War.
Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.
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New Jersey has never done a good job in preserving it’s historic past. More often than not it has fallen to private groups to fund and preserve. For the most part New Jersey has been far more interested in commercial development by friends of government and seemingly endless and ruthless tax grabs. In Morristown, the true capital of the American Revolution, many historic sites have been lost to such development. The Arnold Tavern, which headquartered Washington in 1777 is one such example. The best that a visitor can hope for today is a plaque or a road sign to identify what was once there. Years ago, the radio raconteur, Jean Shepherd, referred to New Jersey as the ‘Instant Seat Cover State.’ He was not wrong. Today, one might refer to New Jersey as the biggest con game between New York and Philadelphia.
Thank you, Sunken Civ
Mount Holly in Burlington County does a re-enactment every year of the Battle of Ironworks Hill, which was the diversion that drew the British down from central Jersey to set up for Washington’s invasion.
Cannons, costumes and all. It’s pretty nice, I have to say.