Unhappy Catastrophes: The American Revolution in Central New Jersey

It is that time again, for another Emerging Revolutionary War Sunday Night Happy Hour! This will be our 50th Sunday Night Happy Hour! There is no better way to celebrate than to talk about New Jersey in the American Revolution.

Robert M. Dunkerly

New Jersey was one of the most fought over areas during the American Revolution. Most know of the battles of Trenton, Princeton and Monmouth, but central New Jersey witnessed many small battles and important events during the Revolution. This area saw it all: from spies and espionage, to military encampments like Morristown and Middlebrook, to mutinies, raids, and full blown engagements like Bound Brook and Springfield. This part of New Jersey saw more action during the Revolution than anywhere else in the young nation. A full understanding of the war demands a study of these events and places.

We welcome historian and author Robert Dunkerly who has authored the latest ERW book titled “Unhappy Catastrophes: The American Revolution in Central New Jersey, 1776-1782” due out later this year. This talk coincides with our bus tour this November of Trenton and Princeton and will provide a good backdrop on the situation in New Jersey in 1776.

This Sunday, August 22nd at 7pm we will go live on our Facebook page. We look forward to this lively discussion and we encourage questions and comments via the chat box. “See” you this Sunday!

“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” Discussing Disease

In Morristown, New Jersey during one of the winters that the Continental army bedded down in that geographically critical hamlet, General George Washington ordered the inoculation of his forces for smallpox. This was the first instituted innoculation of American forces and the requirement proved effective. Smallpox would claim more lives–both British and American–during the American Revolution than any other single cause or disease.

With the world today facing a pandemic, the historians at Emerging Revolutionary War invite you to take a step back into time, to the 18th century, as they discuss diseases during the war, including at such winter encampments as Morristown and Valley Forge, in the southern colonies and the campaigning that traversed the Carolinas and Georgia, along with an outbreak of yellow fever that changed the course of American political history and played a major role in the permanent placement of the United States capital.

Join us at our usual time, 7 p.m. EST, on our Facebook page, as the next installment of “Rev War Revelry” discusses diseases and investigates illnesses of the Colonial America during the American Revolutionary era. Since alcohol was considered medicinal, there is no excuse to not bring your favorite brew as you watch, listen, chime in, and comment.

A Portrait of John Cuppy

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Gabriel Neville

Most of the enlisted men of the Revolutionary War are faceless and forgotten—just names on lists. Biographies and painted portraits are honors that were reserved for officers. Even so, it is possible to trace the lives of some common soldiers using original sources. Many of them applied for pensions after 1818, which required them to provide (usually brief) narratives of their service. Some gave similar attestations when they applied for military bounty land. A small number left detailed accounts of their experiences in interviews, letters, or diaries. Finally, and very rarely, we have photographs taken in the last years of some veterans’ lives. Virginian John Cuppy may be the only Revolutionary War soldier to leave us an artifact in each of these categories.

John Cuppy

Cuppy was born near Morristown, New Jersey on March 11, 1761. While still an infant, he was brought to Hampshire County, Virginia by his German parents. Their new home was on the South Branch of the Potomac River near the town of Romney, which is now in West Virginia. About forty miles west of the Shenandoah Valley, this was the very edged of settled Virginia territory. John was just fourteen years old when the war began—too young to be a candidate for service when Hampshire was directed to raise a rifle company in July of 1775. He was still too young when Dutch-descended Capt. Abel Westfall recruited a company there that winter for Col. Peter Muhlenberg’s new 8th Virginia Regiment.[1]

Continue reading “A Portrait of John Cuppy”

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.

Plaque on wall of the Presbyterian Church

During the winter encampment, in 1777, at Morristown, George Washington ordered the inoculation for smallpox of the Continental Army. Although knowing the probability that some of his men would succumb to the disease when infected with even a small dosage of the puss, the commander-in-chief knew that the necessity of the process. By the end of the American Revolutionary War, more American soldiers would die of smallpox than British shot and shell.


With a population of 700 people and less than 70 dwellings, any public space of size was utilized to treat and quarantine the soldiers undergoing the smallpox inoculation. One of the religious establishments that was used was the Presbyterian Church across the street from Morristown Green, the center of town.

The Presbyterian Church already had a long history in Morristown, being the first congregation founded in the town, dating back to 1733 (the one you see today is actually the third to grace the same site).


Behind the church is a graveyard referred to as “The Burying Ground” which holds the remains of over 1,700 individuals. Included in that number are the remains of numerous soldiers that succumbed to the smallpox inoculation during the winter encampment of 1777. From the burials that are known, 138 remains are those of soldiers from the American Revolution.IMG_3383

During the annual commemoration of Independence Day, the town of Morristown will offer guided programs of “The Burying Ground.” At other times throughout the year, the church itself will offer tours. You can find information about the church programs of the  cemetery here.

Whether you visit on a guided tour or independently stroll the ground, the though to keep in mind is; the men who died whether on the field of battle, succumbed to smallpox, or lived a long life as a veteran, the all helped make Morristown the placed where “America Survived.”

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 “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”

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 “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”

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.

“The smallpox has made such head in every quarter that I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro’ the whole army the natural way.” General George Washington wrote in February 1777.

By the time the Continental Army was encamped in Morrristown, Washington had become a firm believer in the inoculations for smallpox for the entire army. The inoculation process would entail the following: Continue reading “Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown”

Uncovering the Continental Army in Morristown

Approximately one month ago, I took a temporary detail assignment to Morristown National Historical Park. The national park preserves the winter cantonments of the Continental Army during the American Revolution; including the harshest winter, weather-wise, of the entire war, in 1779-1780.

For parts of multiple winters and even during the campaigning season, Washington’s forces would come to Morristown, situated behind the Watchung Mountains, which provided safety but also a perch to monitor the British in the New York City.

The town still bears witnesses to this rich legacy of housing soldiers, with historic buildings and signs dotted around the spiraling town. On a walk the other day, I came across the house below, with a small plaque situated on the front of the dwelling.


The home saw soldiers use it for their encampments throughout the majority of the war years. On his return to the United States the Marquis de Lafayette was welcomed with a reception in the building as well, which is in the photo below.


Morristown is filled with tidbits of history from the American Revolution and I as spend the next few months there as a park ranger, I will share what I come across. So, stay tuned as I uncover the history of the place that “Saved America” according to the park’s unofficial slogan.


North Jersey American Revolution Round Table

Two of the most significant battles of the war happened in the state of New Jersey; Trenton and Princeton. The harshest winter of the war for the Continental Army was at Morristown, New Jersey. Maybe it is only fitting that the largest American Revolution Round Table is also located in the Garden State.

North Jersey American Revolution Round Table

The North Jersey American Revolution Round Table is now on its ninth year as an organization and according to Secretary Rich Rosenthal, they are known for their “caliber of speakers and membership participation.”

Meetings are held the second Thursday of every month at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum Great Hall. All facets of the American Revolutionary War and era are discussed with, of course, “special emphasis” on New Jersey and Morristown’s role in the history of the United States.

Guests are certainly welcome. “We meet at a National Park facility [Morristown National Historical Park]–there is no admission!”

For more information, consult the following website by clicking here. An email newsletter is also available to keep up-to-date on events of the non-profit round table.


“Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance


Marquis de Lafayette

With the visit of the L’Hermione to the east coast of the United States this summer, there has been a heightened interest in the Franco-American alliance that won the American Revolution.  The French rebuilt the L’Hermione not only for its beauty but also its historical significance.  Most importantly, its mission and the passenger it contained when it arrived in Boston in the fall of 1780.

The spring of 1780 was a low point in the American cause of independence.  Stagnation in the north between Washington and British commander General Sir Henry Clinton combined with devastating defeats in the Southern Theater caused low morale among the patriots.  Cornwallis had complete control over the Southern colonies and no standing American force seemed to be able to stop his movements.  Continue reading ““Our clocks are slow” L’Hermione, Lafayette and the Franco-American Alliance”