Old Bergen

Chapter XXXI.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

EVENTS were now rapidly culminating, and the long struggle for independence drawing to a close. The surrender of Cornwallis in October, 1781, virtually ended the war, although there were many skirmishes between detachments of the two armies, especially throughout the southern country, resulting in frequent bloodshed. The territory of Bergen still continued debatable ground, as will be seen from the following accounts:

British Report, New York Mercury, September 17, 1781.

On Wednesday evening last a party of eleven men under Capt. Wm. Harding, went from Fort Delancy on Bergen Neck, to Closter, and captured a rebel guard of six men and fifteen cattle, and tools them safely to the fort.
British Report, February, 1782.
On Thursday morning before sunrise, a select body of rebels, consisting of some two hundred, from the Jersey Brigade of Light Infantry, aided by a party of picked Militia men, under the command of Maj. Bauman, attacked the post of Loyal Refugees at Bergen (Fort Delancy at Bayonne, author's note) commanded by Maj.Ward. . . . The rebels, who did not expect such a warm reception, were soon put in disorder, and obliged to change their position. They were formed in three columns on the ice, but the Refugees sallied out, and by a brisk fire from their small arms, and a nine-pounder served with grape-shot, did great execution, and obliged the rebels to make a precipitate retreat.
British Report, Royal Gazette.
On the night of the 13th inst., Capt. Geo. Harding, temporarily the commanding officer at Fort Delancy, having information that a party of rebels from Newark (who used to infest this shore and carry off our men) had gone over to Bergen Neck, detailed Capt. Cosman with a party of men to intercept them. The darkness of the night, however, favored the escape of the rebels.
British Report, March 15, 1782.
A party of Maj. Ward's Refugee Rangers, under command of Capt. Archibald McCurdy and Lieut. John Ferguson, made an excursion as far as English Neighborhood, in New Jersey, where they fell in with upward of fifty rebel Militia and Continentals. A skirmish ensued which lasted half an hour. The rebels were driven off.
The continued successes of the American arms, however, warned those who had been guilty of excesses, and who had been traitors to their country, that the day of retribution was at hand. Among the most active of these, were the band of refugees that had occupied Bergen Neck throughout almost the entire war. They now feared the vengeance of those they had so cruelly wronged, and
on the 1st of September, 1782, Fort Delancy on Bergen Neck was evacuated and burned; and on Saturday, October 5th, Maj. Ward, with his crew of Tories and Refugees, embarked for Nova Scotia, bearing with them implements of husbandry and one year's provisions.
Meanwhile negotiations for peace were being conducted at Paris. On the loth of January, 1783, a treaty of peace was signed in that city, and on the 23rd of March, Congress received a letter to that effect from Lafayette, whereupon that body issued a proclamation announcing the fact, which was received by Washington on April 17th and read to the army on the 19th.

December 4th, 1783, Washington bade farewell to his officers at Fraunce's Tavern, Broad and Pearl Streets, in NewYork. A barge was in waiting at noon at Whitehall ferry to convey him across the Hudson to Paulus Hook, on his way to Annapolis, where he was to surrender his commission as commander in chief. As he approached the Jersey shore, the scene of so many anxious moments, he must have been affected by conflicting emotions. The contrast was marked. Only a few months had passed since the time when he could draw near to the shore only with the greatest caution. Now, he was welcomed with loud acclamation, the people of " Old Bergen " vying with each other in showing their love and admiration. He was hailed as the deliverer of his country, and many who, under his command, had endured and bled for their native land, invoked Heaven's choicest blessings on his head.

As he passed over Bergen Heights, his pride was mingled with sadness, as the surroundings revived in his mind recollections of former associates, his old companions in arms, whose dangers and privations he had shared, and many of whom had given their lives for the cause they loved. Among these was the gallant, self-sacrificing Mercer, whose faithful watchfulness from these very heights had aided so much in the result that had been attained, but whose life blood ebbed away, even as the turning point of the war was reached at Trenton and Princeton.

A few years afterward, when Washington received the reward of his labors and self-sacrifice through his selection as president of the infant confederacy, he again visited this scene of his early privations. On his journey to New York, on the occasion of his inauguration as first president of the United States, in 1789, his route was projected to pass through New Jersey to Elizabethtown Point, and then proceed by water to New York. His whole journey was in the nature of a triumphal procession, but nowhere was his reception more enthusiastic or his greetings more sincere than on his passage from the Point through the Kills. He embarked in a barge, splendidly decorated, and convoyed by others, with flags and music. As he entered the Kills, between Staten Island and Bergen Point, the procession was met by other boats from the shores, gay with bunting. From the shores of Bergen Point, which was lined with the citizens of " Old Bergen," he was greeted with the booming of cannon, waving of flags, and loud huzzas of the people. Their joy knew no bounds, and until the procession receded in the distance, their applause and rejoicing continued.

Says the general in his Diary:

The display of Boats which attended and joined on this occasion, some with vocal, and others with instrumental music, on board, the decoration of the ships, the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people, which rent the skies as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (contemplating the reverse of this scene) as they were pleasing."