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Old Bergen

Chapter XXVI.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

GENERAL WASHINGTON to Gov. Livingston, Headquarters near Liberty Pole, Bergen County:

Our extreme distress for want of provision, makes me desirous of lessening the consumption of food, by discharging from this place as many as possible. Some brigades of the army have been five days without meat. To endeavor to relieve their wants, by stripping the lower parts of the county of its cattle, I moved two days ago to this place, and yesterday completely foraged Barbadoes, and Bergen Neck. Scarcely any cattle were found, but milch cows, and calves of one and two years old, and even these in no great quantity. When this scanty pittance is consumed, I know not to what quarters to look.
August 27, 1777
Washington writes to the Governor:
It has been no inconsiderable support of our cause, to have had it in our power, to contrast the conduct of our army with that of our enemies, and to convince the inhabitants, that while their rights were wantonly violated by the British troops, by ours they were respected. This distinction must now unhappily cease, and we must assume the odious character of the plunderers, instead of the protectors, of the people, unless very vigorous and immediate measures are taken by the State to comply with the requisitions made upon them.
December 21, 1777
Gov. Livingston wrote:
I am afraid in furnishing clothing to our Battalions, we forget the County of Bergen, which alone is sufficient to supply them amply with winter waistcoats, breeches, etc. It is well known, that the rural ladies in that part of New Jersey pride themselves on an incredible number of petticoats, which, like house furniture, are displayed by way of ostentation, for many years, before they are decreed to invest the fair bodies of the proprietors. Till that period, they are never worn, but neatly piled up, on each side of an immense escritoire, the top of which is decorated with a capacious brass-clasped Bible, seldom read.

What I would therefore most humbly propose to our superiors, is to make prize of these future female habiliments, and after proper transformation, immediately apply them to screen from the inclemency of the weather those gallant males who are fighting for the liberties of their country; and to clear this measure from any imputation of injustice, I have only to observe, that the generality of the women in that county, having for above half a century, worn the breeches, it is highly reasonable that the men should now, especially on so important an occasion, make booty of the petticoats.

The success of the American arms at Trenton and Princeton, and the practical hemming in of the British army in the extreme eastern part of the state, encouraged the patriots to renewed activity, and Washington, in urging the necessity of prompt forwarding of supplies and reinforcements, writes:
There is now a fair opportunity offered, of driving the enemy entirely from the jerseys, or at least to the extremity of the Province.
In most parts of New Jersey the people, exasperated at the treatment they had been subjected to by both British and Hessians, were resorting to arms; and the situation of the British army becoming more difficult, in the latter part of January, Sir William Howe crossed to Staten Island with his troops, and again occupied the old camping ground on the Bay of New York. In the fall of 1777, the reinforcements awaited by Sir Henry Clinton arrived in New York Bay, and there were evidences of some important, combined movement designed by him. There was a great uncertainty as to its object, and Washington urged especial care and watchfulness, to prevent any unexpected movement. He sent scouts to the heights of Bergen, Weehawken and Hoboken, to be stationed at points which would command a view of the bay and river, to observe the situation of the enemy's forces, and note whether there were signs of an expedition up the Hudson, the occurrence of which Washington at all times strove to prevent.

In the fall of 1780, the revelation of the treachery of Arnold and the capture of Andre, created a great sensation in both the American and British lines. The base treachery of the former, together with the manly, courtly bearing of the brave but unfortunate Andre, created a desire for the capture of Arnold, and a hope that Andre might escape punishment. Captain Aaron Ogden, an officer of the New Jersey troops, was selected by Washington to bear a letter from Andre to Sir Henry Clinton. He was to take it to Paulus Hook, and from thence was to be conveyed across the river to New York. Captain Ogden was instructed to ascertain from the officer commanding at that post, whether Sir Henry Clinton might not be willing to deliver up Arnold in exchange for Andre. On his arrival at Paulus Hook, Captain Ogden, in the course of conversation, alluded to such possibility.

The officer demanded if he had any authority for making such a proposition, and Ogden replied:

I have no such assurance from General Washington, but I am prepared to say that if such a proposition were made, I believe it would be accepted, and Major Andre set at liberty.
The officer crossed the river before morning, and submitted the matter to Sir Henry Clinton, but he rejected it, as incompatible with honor and military principle.


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