Tomorrow there’ll be more of us: NJ Revolutionary sites welcome tourists
New Jersey's place in the context of the American Revolution is at least somewhat familiar to most modern-day residents, but did you know that around 300 battles or skirmishes were waged here as the colonies fought for independence from Great Britain?
Most of them are commemorated in one way or another nearly 250 years later, thanks in part to the Trenton-based Crossroads of the American Revolution Association, which promotes New Jersey's Revolutionary War sites, connecting some 200 "heritage partners" statewide.
Executive Director Janice Selinger said one of the things her organization aims to teach people is what daily life was like for New Jersey residents at that time in history — "Revolutionary Neighbors," the group calls them.
Those navigating political disagreements within their families these days had nothing on the New Jerseyans of the 1770s, Selinger said.
"It was actually a civil war in New Jersey, because there were people who were Loyalists, and there were people who were Patriots, and it was a very interesting situation where sometimes people from the same family were taking different sides," she said.
Crossroads' main partner within the New Jersey State Park Service is Morristown National Historical Park, which just reopened after a lengthy COVID-19 closure in early July.
Carol Barkin, program coordinator and docent for the Morris County Tourism Bureau, said the return of this attraction is welcome, and central to the story of the "military capital of the Revolution."
George Washington really did sleep in Morristown, Barkin said, for at least two winters during the Revolution. And during his stay at Arnold Tavern, right off the green, he installed a young Alexander Hamilton as his aide-de-camp.
Following the future United States' victory, the watering hole became a popular attraction.
"Morristown has always been a tourist destination for people from all over the world," Barkin said. "Shortly after we won our independence, tourists would come to Morristown to see the Arnold Tavern, because of its association with Washington."
Also in Morristown is what is now known as the Hamilton-Schuyler House, where Alexander Hamilton first met his wife Betsy — better known as Eliza in the Broadway musical "Hamilton."
A self-guided Historic Morristown Walking Tour is available via an app download at morristourism.org, and a fall series of guided tours begins Sept. 18, with one specifically focusing on colonial Morristown set for Oct. 9.
And even as New Jersey's Revolutionary sites look to the past, the Crossroads organization is looking toward the future by working with the New Jersey Historical Commission on a 250th anniversary commemoration in 2026.
That process is already starting with a focus on the "10 Crucial Days" leading up to, including, and after Washington crossing the Delaware River, and then continuing with his march to Morristown for the winter of 1777.
For more on the Crossroads of the American Revolution's mission, visit revolutionarynj.org.