OURSTORY: Teaching American History Grant, Funded by U.S. Department of Education, Award # S215X020293----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------NJCCCS: 6.4 United States/New Jersey History, Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820)

The Revolutionary War in New Jersey

The above images depict the British assault on the Palisades (NARA) and Gen. Enoch Poor's monument in Hackensack (OurStory)

A look at the Revolutionary War in New Jersey

By Nick Weeks

During the Revolutionary War the state of New Jersey played a key strategic, political and economic role in the battle for independence. Due to its geographical location as the halfway point between our most northern and southern states, New Jersey became known as the "Crossroads of the American Revolution." In addition, New Jersey played a key strategic role as being the middle point between the British command in New York and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia . Beginning with Washington 's retreat from New York into Hackensack in 1776 and ending with the Battle of Springfield in 1780, New Jersey held many key battles to defeat the British and ultimately win independence. Washington 's famous crossing of the Delaware River in 1776 from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and the subsequent Battles of Trenton and Princeton were all definitive moments that helped boost American morale and turn the tide of momentum in the American Revolution.

The "Our Story" collection of documents pertains to George Washington's retreat from Fort Washington in 1776 and his time at Fort Lee and Hackensack , NJ . Primary sources include poems, diary entries and written works of both George Washington and Thomas Paine among others. Teachers and students may wish to add to the New Jersey Revolutionary War experience by visiting the Old Barracks in Trenton , New Jersey, or Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown , New Jersey.


Featured Site: Fort Lee Historic Park

Fort Lee Historic Park overseas the majestic Hudson River, making it understandable why George Washington chose the surrounding area as a strategic fort for his men. Today the park serves as a key to understanding American history during the Revolutionary War, focusing specifically on North Jersey's role as the location of the Great Retreat. Although Washington and his men faced frigid temperatures and an advancing British force during the winter of 1776, the Great Retreat was successful enough to allow the patriot forces to recoup and eventually cross the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1776.

Fort Lee Historic Park educates students, teachers and all history buffs by exhibiting weaponry and uniforms worn by the Revolutionary soldiers, along with live historical reenactments that visitors can participate in. There is also a selection of archival material such as illustrations, objects and documents that aid in explaining our nation's past. Visitors can also learn how Thomas Paine's experiences at Fort Lee helped him in writing his influential work "The American Crisis."

To learn more about the Fort Lee Historic Park click here: - Fort Lee

Featured Lesson Plans

Liberty Saved! November 20, 1776

Grade Level: High School

In these lessons, students will consider the events of November 20th , 1776 and decide what to say or include about the date in one page of a New Jersey history textbook. What happened on November 20th, and how did the events change the Revolutionary War? In the end, was the "retreat" from Fort Lee and Englewood 's Liberty Pole a good outcome or a bad outcome for General George Washington and his troops? What is the connection between the Long Retreat in November, 1776 and the Battle of Trenton in December, 1776? The lessons are designed to not only increase a student's content knowledge of the early stages of the Revolutionary War, but also to encourage students "historical thinking" including asking questions, visiting historic sites, using historic maps, and talking to people who can offer additional insights. The series of lessons help students to acquire background information to complete the final projects, the development of a page in a NJ history textbook and a series of skits regarding New Jersey and the Revolutionary War.

The Crossroads of the Revolution

Grade Level: High School

This project examines New Jersey's role in the American Revolution by looking beyond the Battles of Trenton, Princeton and Monmouth by specifically looking at Washington's Retreat route through NJ. The final project is a mock trial in which George Washington faces charges of incompetence...or heroics?

Revolution and Rebellion

Grade Level: Middle School

This project explores what it was like to live in the New World before it became the United States of America by asking students to "travel back in history" in a fantastical time-machine owned by the New Jersey Historical Society. (Editor's note: time machine not for public use) In the project, students engage in a web quest that requires them to answer several historical questions and fulfill tasks through research.


Partner Links:

Garfield Public Schools
Online Research:
Field Trips:



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