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New Jersey in 1776


New Jersey history
New Jersey history

On July 2, 1776, the provincial congress, meeting at Burlington, adopted a constitution declaring New Jersey’s independence. In August, New Jersey’s delegates to the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, and William Livingston became the state’s first governor. The transition from colonial status to statehood had been smooth, but the burden of defending independence fell heavily on New Jersey during the American Revolution (1775-1783).

As with most states, New Jersey had many citizens who opposed American independence. These Loyalists organized six battalions, who presented a constant frustration to the more than 17,000 citizens of New Jersey who took up arms against the British.

The advance of the British from Fort Lee to the Delaware River in the winter of 1776 was the signal for open Loyalist activity to increase. When the new state legislature was forced to flee Princeton in early December, despair gripped the state. However, General George Washington secretly crossed the Delaware and on December 26 won an important victory in the Battle of Trenton. A victory at the Battle of Princeton a week later permitted Washington’s army to return to New Jersey. They spent the remainder of the winter and early spring encamped in Morristown. In June 1778, as the British retreated from Philadelphia across New Jersey, Washington’s forces attacked in the Battle of Monmouth. The battle ended in a draw after American General Charles Lee delayed his attack, then retreated. Lee was dismissed by Washington and later court-martialed.

Washington spent the winter of 1778 and 1779 at the Wallace House in Somerville, with his troops camped nearby at Middlebrook. The army also camped at Morristown in the severe winter of 1779 and 1780. Deaths from starvation and exposure were common, and housing and medical supplies were poor. In June 1780 the British were beaten back in the Battle of Springfield, the last major engagement in New Jersey. "New Jersey" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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