Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Part of an ongoing series of about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. For the first post, click here.

Across the street from the Ford Mansion, the elegant home of the Jacob Ford, Jr. and his family, and the headquarters for George Washington during the winter encampment of 1779-1780, sits a small boulder with a iron plaque plastered on the side.IMG_0027

Erected in 1932 by the Tempe Wicke Society Children of the American Revolution, the monument commemorates the Life Guards that served as Washington’s headquarters command during the American Revolution. Although the unit went by different names and reorganized at least twice, including once during the winter encampment at Morristown, the company, numbering approximately 150 men, would be around for the duration of the war. Continue reading

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“It is my father!”: Francis Halkett’s Mission to the Monongahela Battlefield

Two-hundred and sixty-three years ago, July 9, 1755, Britain suffered one of the country’s most humiliating military defeats along the banks of the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania. Only miles away from its objective – Fort Duquesne – Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock’s army of some 1,400 men was attacked and cut to pieces by a detachment of Canadians and their Indian allies. In several hours of vicious fighting, Braddock’s force sustained over 900 casualties and was sent fleeing from the Ohio River Valley. Among the dead was the commanding officer of the 44th Regiment of Foot, Col. Peter Halkett.

Sir Peter Halkett

Col. Peter Halkett, 44th Regiment of Foot. New York Public Library

Three years following Braddock’s Defeat, another British Army trudged its way west with its crosshairs set yet again on Fort Duquesne. Accompanying General John Forbes’ expeditionary force was an officer of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, Maj. Francis Halkett – Sir Peter’s son. He had attached himself to Forbes’ command with the desire to return to the battlefield of 1755 and locate the remains of his father and younger brother, James, who served as a subaltern and was also killed in action that day. Because of the army’s hasty retreat, the British dead and dying that could not be carried from the field were left behind. It would be a near impossible task to identify the remains if any could be found, but Halkett was determined to try. Continue reading

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“The soul of General Abercromby’s army seemed to expire”: The Death of George Howe, July 6, 1758

They waded ashore during the morning of July 6, 1758. Full of confidence, the vanguard of Major General James Abercromby’s massive army of over 16,000 men had completed its nearly thirty-mile trek northward across the waters of Lake George. They began pushing inland – men from Thomas Gage’s 80th Regiment of Light-Armed Foot, Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut Regiment, and of Robert Rogers’ famed rangers – scattering small pockets of French resistance. By early afternoon the entire army had debarked at the designated landing site and formed into four columns to begin its advance towards the primary objective: Fort Carillon. Moving forward into the thick wilderness with the rightmost column of mixed regular and provincial units was Abercromby’s second-in-command, Brigadier General George Howe. [1]

George Howe

George Augustus, Third Viscount Howe. New York Public Library

George Augustus, Third Viscount Howe, was born in Ireland in 1725. Like his younger brothers, Richard and William, George was destined for a career in His Majesty’s Forces and to serve in North America. His father, Emanuel Scrope, Second Viscount Howe, was a prominent member of parliament and served several years as the Royal Governor of Barbados before dying there of disease in 1735. Upon his father’s death, George assumed the title of Third Viscount and in 1745, at age twenty, was made an ensign in the 1st Foot Guards. Subsequently serving as an aide-de-camp to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Howe fervently studied the strategies and tactics employed by his own commanding officers and the enemy, and witnessed firsthand the carnage of the War of Austrian Succession. Just ten years later, when the world was set ablaze by war yet again, George was ordered to Halifax, Nova Scotia with a commission as colonel of the 60th Regiment of Foot (Royal Americans) that was set to take part in a failed operation to capture Fortress Louisbourg in 1757. He was later made colonel of the 55th Regiment of Foot, and in December, appointed Brigadier General by William Pitt. The following summer, he accompanied the largest field army ever assembled in North America up to that time as its second-in-command. Continue reading

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Washington’s Marshals

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Michael Aubrecht

September 24 of each year is the anniversary date of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. It also means that the United States Marshals Service is a year older. Along with the first federal law enforcement agency in the United States, President George Washington signaled the start of the entire federal judicial system with his signature on that date. It was a broad document covering many positions from judges to prosecutors. Sections 27 and 28 were specific to the U.S. Marshal’s roles and responsibilities. A segment of Section 27 specifically outlines their general powers. It states:

And be it further enacted, That a marshal shall be appointed in and for each district for a term of four years, but shall be to attend the district and circuit courts when sitting therein, and also the Supreme Court in the district in which that court sit. (b) And to execute throughout the district, all lawful precepts directed to him, and issued under the authority of the United States, and he shall have the power to command all necessary assistance in the execution of his duty, and to appoint as shall be occasion, one or more deputies… Continue reading

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Origins of a Revolutionary Orator

Studley state historical marker

State of Virginia historical marker for Studley

Nestled in Hanover County, VA, near where modern residential communities meet farm fields that have been worked for centuries, is the site of a colonial-era plantation home called Studley.  It was here on this site that Patrick Henry, the “Voice of the Revolution”, was born.

A 600-acre tobacco plantation, Studley was built in the 1720’s for its original owner, Colonel John Syme and his bride, Sarah, the former Sarah Winston.  The surrounding community, as it does today, took its name from the site. (By the mid-19th century, the Studley area was called Haws Shop, after a nearby blacksmith shop.  In the latter part of May, 1864, Union and Confederate cavalry units fought a dismounted action here just prior to the battle of Cold Harbor.  Prominent among the Union commanders engaged was Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer.)

Sketch of Studley

Sketch of Studley

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Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Part of an ongoing series about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. To read previous posts, click here.

All that remains is a historical marker, on the side of North Park Place across the street from Morristown Green. For a few months, between January 1777 and May 1777, in this location, the headquarters of the Continental Army was located. Within that headquarters, obviously, was George Washington.


Arnold’s Tavern historic sign (author’s collection)

Although no specific date of construction exists, it is believed that Arnold’s Tavern was built by Samuel Arnold between 1735 and 1750. By the time of the American Revolution owned by the son, Colonel Jacob Arnold. The structure was three stories high, with a wide hallway that bisected the building, a front and back parlor, barroom, dining room, and kitchen. Continue reading

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Is the Mercer Legacy Secure?

In one of the songs of the Broadway hit Hamilton, the character of Aaron Burr says: “Did ya hear the news about good old General Mercer? You know Clermont Street? They renamed it after him. The Mercer legacy is secure.”

The line is referring to Mercer Street in lower Manhattan.  Ironically, while they mention in the musical that the renaming of this street secures Mercer’s legacy, many Americans probably have never heard of General Mercer, nor do they know what his true legacy was.


A drawing study John Trumbull did of Hugh Mercer for his painting of the Battle of Princeton.  He likely used Mercer’s son as a stand in. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hugh Mercer was regarded as one of the greatest American heroes of the Revolutionary War, at least by his contemporaries.  Interestingly, though, Mercer was born in Great Britain, (Scotland to be exact) and studied at the University of Aberdeen to be a medical doctor.  After graduating, he joined the Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army as an assistant surgeon and witnessed the bloody destruction of that army on the fields of Culloden in 1746.  The young 20 year old became a fugitive in his own land.


The Battle of Culloden decimated the Jacobite forces in April of 1746.  The suicidal battle followed an aborted night attack that could have possibly resulted in a Jacobite victory. (Wikimedia Commons)

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