On Bastille Day, Monday, July 14, Union County became the first county in New Jersey to officially mark the march that won the American Revolution, when the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders dedicated the Union County portion of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.
The dedication ceremony took place on Mountain Avenue near the west end of the County’s Echo Lake Park in Mountainside.
“The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is committed to identifying and preserving our historic roots,” said Freeholder Chairman, Christopher Hudak. “We take great pride in raising awareness of the Washington-Rochambeau march, and its role in winning our nation’s independence as the first modern democracy.”
The scene of one of the most storied collaborations in U.S. military history, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route was designated an official National Historic Trail by Congress in 2009.
While there is no trail in the literal sense, the route can be traced along important County arteries in five municipalities including Raritan Road in Scotch Plains; Lamberts Mill Road in Scotch Plains; West Broad Street in Westfield; Mountain Avenue in Westfield, Mountainside and Springfield; Morris Avenue in Springfield; and Morris Turnpike in Summit.
In all, more than a dozen markers will be placed in Union County to mark the historic route.
In 1781, with support from the French navy and ground troops commanded by General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur (comte de Rochambeau), General George Washington marched the Continental Army from New York through New Jersey including Union County, and onwards to victory at Yorktown.
The inland route enabled the combined American and French armies to evade British troops as they traveled south.
The significance of the French support for Washington is noted on the National Parks Service website explaining how the Revolutionary War had reached a stalemate:
In the fall of 1780, the Continental Army was running on faith, hope, and promises, and that there was still an army in the field at all was due in large part to Washington's charisma and leadership.
Short of men, weapons, food, clothing, and money, they were not strong enough to take the offensive against British strongholds such as Savannah, Charleston, or New York,” according to the parks service.
The army nonetheless could contain the British and fend off attacks as long as it remained in its positions in the Hudson Highlands and the hills of New Jersey. The contest had degenerated into a stalemate, a war of attrition, with no end, much less victory, in sight.
The arrival of 55-year-old General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, with an army of 450 officers and 5,300 men in Narragansett Bay off Newport, Rhode Island, on July 11, 1780, marked the beginning of a most successful military cooperation that culminated 15 months later in the victory at Yorktown.
In total, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route encompasses over 680 miles of land and water routes through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
To see a map showing all of the roadways along the route through Union County and New Jersey, visit Google Maps.