Monroe investigates Washington’s route

Army came through town, camped on eve of Battle of Monmouth


The Monroe Township Historical Preservation Commission has enlisted the help of an archaeological firm to unearth more details about George Washington’s encampment site in Crossroads State Park.

According to commission member Warren Barnes, the goal is to compile more specific research on the state-owned site, which consists of about 334 acres.

“We all have been gathering information on this for years,” Barnes said.

According to the commission, on June 27, 1778, Gen. George Washington and his troops, close on the heels of the British, trekked from Cranbury via Union Valley Road to a high embankment in the area known as Gravel Hill, a half-mile west of the Manalapan Brook. Washington established his headquarters at the house of John Anderson, and troops were encamped on the nearby Miller farm.

“That area is really pristine there,” Barnes said. “You can just envision the troops there, camping out on a hot summer night.”

Though the commission could not be certain of it, they believe that Alexander Hamilton most likely stayed at the Anderson homestead as well, since he was aide-de-camp to Washington. Meanwhile, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Major Gen. Marquis de Lafayette stayed at the Story farm, across Manalapan Brook on the western edge of Englishtown, according to the commission. In addition, some reports say Molly Pitcher possibly had camped on the Anderson farm as well, while traveling with her husband and the other troops.

The next morning, June 28, saw Washington on the front porch of the Anderson house, hearing the sound of cannon fire in the distance, which meant that Lee’s contingent of the Continental Army was engaged with the British. From there, Washington sent his troops to what became the Battle of Monmouth, the largest land battle of the war, according to Barnes.

According to an initial report performed for the commission recently by Richard Grubb & Associates, a review of historic documents supports the view that Washington’s encampment in Monroe was immediately to the west of the Manalapan Brook, and that the brook at the time appears to have been known as Penolopen Creek. While he headquartered at the Anderson house, his troops were camped out on the Miller farm, across the street on the south side of what is now Hoffman Station Road. The road at the time was called “the great road from Cranbury to Englishtown.”

Grubb’s report, which cites various documents, states that on the morning of June 28, “Washington crossed the Manalapan Brook, continuing along Hoffman Station Road onto Hoffman Road, Buckelew Avenue, Tracy Station Road and Lasatta Avenue into Englishtown. From here, they appear to have reached the battlefield utilizing Freehold Road (Route 522).”

The general area of the encampments is now believed to be part of Crossroads State Park, which the state acquired during the township’s purchase of an 829-acre tract known as the Bank of China property back in 2002. Crossroads State Park starts at Prospect Plains Road, then crosses Union Valley Road and heads about 1,600 feet south near the intersection of Perrineville and Union Valley roads. From there, it extends back to Bergen Mills-Gravel Hill Road, according to township environmental manager John Riggs.

Grubb indicates that historical reports differ as to the routes that Washington and Lee took to get to Monroe from Cranbury.

In its suggestions for further research, the firm says that title research in a variety of areas would assist with determining which roads were in existence at the time, and would help to locate the boundaries of the Miller farm. Also, research of the dispatches, letters and diaries of Washington and aides would help to determine the locations and movements of Washington at the time. The firm suggests a number of avenues for this research.

On Monday, the Township Council approved a resolution authorizing the award of a contract to Grubb & Associates to conduct research into the matter. According to Barnes, Grubb’s initial report, dated June 5, will be the first of five. He said the project will have to be spread out since the total cost will be between $10,000 and $12,000.

The council took a preliminary vote to authorize payment of the $2,000 cost of the first study. However, officials said the commission should have submitted the bill for their approval before authorizing the study.

Resident Michelle Arminio inquired during the meeting as to why the contract for the work was awarded without a fair and open bidding process, and township Business Administrator Wayne Hamilton said the historic preservation commission took it upon themselves to do so.

“The historic preservation commission has been scolded for not having been authorized,” Hamilton said. “It won’t happen again.”

Commission Chairman John Katerba was not immediately available for comment Tuesday. According to Barnes, payment to Grubb was delayed because of the procedural issue.