SOMERVILLE, NJ - While there is no evidence of a birthday celebration for George Washington in 1779, the General did attend a few parties in central New Jersey around the time of his 47th birthday on Feb. 22 that year.
Details are provided in a video posted on YouTube, as part of a virtual President's Day celebration hosted by Valley Forge National Historical Park, narrated by Paul Soltis.
Soltis is the interpretative specialist for the New Jersey State Park Service at the Wallace House in Somerville, Washington's headquarters during the Middlebrook Encampment of 1778-79. The Continental Army was spread throughout what is now Somerset County at several locations, an area chosen by Washington following the Battle of Monmouth.
The video can be seen by clicking on this link: 1779 - George Washington's 47th Birthday - YouTube
Each video in this series features a snapshot of early United States history through the lens of what was happening on George Washington's birthday at various points in his life.
On Feb. 18, 1779, Washington and his aides rode on horseback from Somerville to the Jacobus Vanderveer House, headquarters of General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79 part of the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, America’s first military academy.
His wife Martha followed in a carriage. The general and his wife attended a dinner that night at the academy along with several hundred officers, according to Soltis' narrative before returning to the Wallace House. The party was a celebration of the first anniversary of the alliance between France and the young nation fighting for its independence from England.
One month later, on March 19, 1779, Washington is said to have danced non-stop for three hours with the wife of one of his generals at the Derrick Van Veghten House (ca. 1725) in Bridgewater.
Located on the banks of the Raritan River at the end of an industrial park roadway, the two-story brick building is home to the Somerset County Historical Society. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979
The Van Veghten House served as the headquarters of Quartermaster General Nathanael Greene during the second Middlebrook encampment (1778–79) in the American Revolutionary War.
Van Veghten, described by historians as a patriot of the American Revolution, gave Greene and his wife, Catharine Littlefield Greene, the use of the house for his headquarters and the farm for an encampment of his troops.
On March 19, 1779, Greene described an event attended by Washington held at the Van Veghten House in a letter to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth:
"A little dance at my quarters a few Evenings past. His Excellency and Mrs [Catharine] Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk."
A copy of that three-page letter, along with prints of Washington and his dance partner, hangs in the front room of the Van Weghten house where it is said the "frisk" was held.