The summer of 1776 was a dramatic time period in the areas around Morgan, NJ. In addition to the Battle of Long Island, which occurred on the other side of RaritanBay, two other events of significant historical relevance and some less historically significant skirmishes or events occurred during the time periods surrounding the arrival of British forces on Staten Island.
The first significant event occurred two and a half miles, as the sea gull flies, from the location that eventually became my childhood home in Morgan. At the Perth Amboy residence of the Royal Governor of New Jersey – now known as Proprietary House (subject of a future Morgan-NJ.org posting), William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, became the last Royal Governor of New Jersey when he was arrested and removed on June 19 by the Council of Safety of the Continental Congress. Those of us that went to RutgersUniversity owe some gratitude to Governor Franklin as he was the person that signed the 10 November 1766 charter for QueensCollege and subsequently supported it. QueensCollege was renamed to RutgersCollege in 1825.
The Continental Army’s Commander-in-Chief General George Washington learned of the second event, the July 4 signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, a few days after it was signed. He had it read aloud to his troops in New York City on the evening of July 9.
The other events and skirmishes in the area during this time frame I have thus been able to find mention of are:
- The Hessians camped on the shores of the Kill Van Kull (the Dutch named river which separates Staten Island from New Jersey between Perth Amboy and Elizabeth). Some American sharpshooters on the New Jersey side (maybe in Perth Amboy?) would on occasion shoot the Hessian sentinels who were on the opposite [Staten Island] shore. Eventually the Hessians answered back the Americans with cannons.
- In June, British vessels in RaritanBay exchanged volley fire with gun in a breastwork (a form of fortification, such as a trench, dug to breast height) in St. Peter’s churchyard [in Perth Amboy]. St. Peter’s is the oldest Episcopal church in New Jersey. When I visited Proprietary House in the summer of 2009, my excellent tour guide, Anton, showed me a cannon ball which was fired into Perth Amboy by a British ship afloat in RaritanBay. I don’t know if this cannon ball was from the June skirmish but I had no idea such a thing had occurred and was amazed to see and learn about the cannon ball. It propelled me to do more research which you are now reading. My good friend Diana from college had Anton’s dad for history when she went to school in Perth Amboy and remembered the experience fondly. Thank you Anton for sharing your in-depth knowledge of local history, I hope to visit Proprietary House again soon to learn more and encourage all Morgan-NJ.org readers to also visit.
- The fort near Billops Point on Staten Island exchanges cannonades [i.e., heavy artillery fire] or bombardments with a battery at [Perth] Amboy.
- As written in the Pennsylvania Evening Post in July 1776: We hear two men of war now lay near Amboy, in order it is supposed, to stop all navigation that way.
Originally posted on September 5, 2010.