CLARK, NJ — Residents of Union County were treated to a taste of living history on the weekend of June 24 and 25 at the celebration of the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Short Hills. The two-day event took place at Oak Ridge Park in Clark where the recreation of the battle between New Jersey and Pennsylvania troops serving in the Continental Line and the British and Hessian troops seeking to trap the main body of George Washington’s army came to life.
The event began with a demonstration of a soldier’s life and what it was like to live in the camps. Women also followed the soldiers and did their laundry as well as other tasks to make a living during the war. Residents were impressed with the event’s representation of women.
“I think it’s wonderful to learn about parts of our heritage that wasn’t written in the textbooks,” Marianne O’Neill, of Westfield, told LocalSource in an interview on June 25. “I learned how people lived during the war. I liked how the women were represented and how they supported the troops in battle.”
Many of the women lost their homes during the war due to raids and finding a way to support themselves in the army was a way for them to survive. Many of them sold vegetables and other items to support themselves and their children.
The next demonstration on the agenda talked about muskets and tactics on the field.
“I learned how the weight of each musket determined which army a soldier belonged to,” Lauren Rolaya of Plainfield told LocalSource in an interview on June 25.
One of the jobs women didn’t do was the cooking. A cooking demonstration showed how soldiers prepared their own food in camp kitchens. New Jersey was mostly farmland and the pastoral landscape played to the strength of the troops.
The Battle of Short Hills begins with General Howe’s army dividing into two forces in order to take the mountain pass. The New Jersey and Pennsylvania line held their ground long enough to close the pass. Howe’s army halted and the Watchung mountains were secured.
“I learned how the Watchung Mountains protected Washington from the British,” Diane Tulllo of Westfield told LocalSource in an interview on June 25.
The second day of the event began with a cannon demonstration and how people came together to form the armies. Military uniforms influenced style in the 18th century as well as today.
“I admire the work and inspection of the uniforms,” Rolaya, of Plainfield, said. “It’s pretty good, substantial work.”
General Howe marched his army into central Jersey in an attempt to lure Washington’s Continental Army out of their stronghold in the Watchung Mountains. But Washington refuses to abandon his position, and Howe’s army retreated to Amboy.
Washington’s army then moves from the hills and Howe marches his troops in two forces to cut Washington’s troops off from the higher ground. A battle takes place in Scotch Plains, forcing the clearly outnumbered Jersey Brigade to retreat. This strategic victory prevented almost certain destruction.