With the 4th of July just four days away most people are preparing for barbeques and beaches. How many of us will spend even a few minutes remembering the sacrifices of the men and women who gave birth to our country? One percent of the population of America died during the Revolutionary War! Ten percent of the army died! How many people understand this?
Belleville was established on the 4th of July 1792 by the veterans and townspeople who had survived the war. Prior to 1792 Belleville and Nutley were known as the village at Second River. This was not an official name but merely a reference on a map of the Passaic River which had been explored by Henry Hudson.The town was named in honor of our French allies who had supplied most of the gun powder, muskets, cannon and naval power to make victory possible.
Did you know that the American Revolution nearly ended just seven weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence ? George Washington and the army suffered a near fatal defeat at the Battle of Long Island in August of 1776. Soldiers from Belleville and Nutley fought in that crucial battle. Three months later Washington was forced to quickly retreat from Fort Lee. Washington and the shaken and poorly equipped army arrived and camped here on November 22 and 23, 1776. The two churches here at the time, the Dutch Reformed and Christ Episcopal were converted into makeshift hospitals for the sick and wounded Continental soldiers. Washington sent his advance guard to scout out Newark and proceeded to set up camp there for five days.
British General Cornwallis was in Passaic and closing in on Washington. One thing held the British at bay while Washington and the army recuperated in Newark. Second River (Belleville/Nutley) was the base of the Essex County Militia under the command of Captain Abraham Speer. (Captain Speer's home now serves as the headquarters of the Nutley Women's Club). During the five days that the army was camped in Newark our local militia with their cannon and with Washington's rear guard fought the British advance guard on two occasions right here in our town! They were the only thing that stood between Washington and Cornwallis. Buying valuable time for the American cause which was on the verge of extinction.
A year later 2,000 British and German would invade and ransack our town in the Battle of Second River. Two American soldiers were killed in action fighting here, the British had seven killed. In 1778 there were two regiments of American troops stationed here.
There are sixty-eight Revolutionary War soldiers from Belleville and Nutley buried in the churchyard of the old Belleville Dutch Reformed Church on Main Street. The church served as the spiritual, political and military center of our community for nearly two centuries. Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt, the highest ranking Revolutionary War officer from Essex County is buried here.
These men fought side by side with George Washington at the battles of Long Island, Monmouth, Union, Springfield, Trenton and Princeton. Some crossed the Delaware with Washington. Some were killed here, others like 18 year old Private Hermanus Brown were killed elsewhere in New Jersey and New York. Others, including civilians from our community were taken prisoner and died aboard the infamous British prison ships in New York Harbor.
Please join us on the morning of the 4th of July at 11 am at the old Belleville Reformed Church in honoring and remembering our first soldiers, the patriots of the American Revolution. The 45 minute ceremony includes a roll call of the troops, the raising of the colors, reading from the Declaration of Independence, patriotic music and concludes with a 21 gun cannon salute. For more information please call Michael at 973-780-7852 or email firstname.lastname@example.org