The Battle of Springfield
Then, as now, "Everyday Heroes" Stepped Up
to Serve the Community.
A few weeks ago, the anniversary of The Battle of Springfield (June 23rd, 1780) passed with little fanfare. As with the response of our medically trained personnel, first responders, and essential workers to the COVID crisis, this piece of local history was another example of everyday heroes serving their fellow citizens.
It was a swelteringly hot summer when the British and their Hessian allies set out from Elizabeth intending to pass through the Hobart Gap and onto the plains beyond the Short Hills to pressure Washington’s Army at Jockey Hollow. Once again, they marched past the home of New Jersey Colonial Governor Livingston (today called Liberty Hall at Kean University). They were spared from the flames thanks to the pleas of Livingston’s daughters.
In wool uniforms and with heavy muskets, they passed the grounds of Connecticut Farms (in Union today close to the Garden State Parkway entrance) where they had battled Continentals only a few weeks earlier. This time, the British made it to Springfield before encountering a small force of Continentals. Meanwhile, the Hessians had taken Vauxhall Road (passing today’s Home Depot and Five Guys) until they met resistance along the East Branch of the Rahway River. Still, despite the heat and Continental resistance, the attack pushed ahead.
New Jersey earned the nickname “The Crossroads of the Revolution” through the first four years of the war as British and Continental armies marched from New York City to Philadelphia / Valley Forge and back to New York / Jockey Hollow with multiple battles and skirmishes across the state. It has been said that during those years, there were as many loyalists in the state as revolutionaries so that both armies had been able to cross the state with little harassment from the populace and some hope of securing supplies en route.
However, by June of 1780, public sentiment in New Jersey had moved in favor of independence and General Washington. So while the Battle of Springfield unfolded, regular citizens turned out to help the Continentals. The Hessian advance stalled right where our Millburn Town Hall stands today. Seeing the Short Hills fill up with farmers, storekeepers, and other folk carrying their muskets, the British thought better of pressing their advance through the narrow Hobart Gap and instead returned to Elizabeth.
While the Battle of Springfield was relatively small and is often called The Forgotten Victory, it had a substantial strategic impact. After June 1780, the British no longer felt free to advance into New Jersey. They did not notice that General Washington and French General Rochambeau had marched the bulk of their forces (again clandestinely through the Hobart Gap) down to Virginia, entrapping the British Army under Cornwallis at Yorktown.
While not quite the same, it was a mix of regular trained forces and everyday heroes who have served our community during this COVID pandemic. These “Essential Workers” joined our trained Medical Personnel and First Responders—including our Police. The extra effort made by so many on behalf of our community has been incredible.
They are all Heroes!