SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - An important part of American history made in NJ, went up in flames yesterday. Before the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, George Washington and his troops spent two nights at Longbridge Farm near Ridge Road in South Brunswick. Washington had unseated the British in Philadelphia and was on his way through New Jersey to New York. Yesterday, the barn on the property where he stayed was destroyed by fire.
According to documents held by the South Brunswick Public Library, "In the preamble to the Battle of Monmouth, Washington’s army left Valley Forge in early June and, paralleling the course of the British Army heading from Philadelphia to New York, began to move east across central New Jersey through Coryell’s Ferry (present-day Lambertville) Hopewell and Rocky Hill en route to Monmouth Courthouse (modern Freehold). On Thursday, June 25, the army marched from Rocky Hill through Kingston and encamped for the night at “Longbridge.” The following morning the American troops continued on to Cross Roads (Dayton) and then turned south along Georges Road to Cranbury.
In Washington’s own words:
"The next day [June 25] the Army moved to Kingston and having received intelligence that the enemy were presenting their route toward Monmouth Courthouse, I dispatched a third detachment of a thousand select men under Brigadier General Wayne and sent Marquis de la Fayette to take command of the whole advanced corps including Maxwell’s Brigade and Morgan’s Light Infantry with orders to take the first fair opportunity of attacking the enemy’s rear. In the evening of the same day the whole army marched from Kingston, where our baggage was left with intention to preserve proper distance for safe posting the advance corps and arrived at Cranbury early the next morning. The intense heat of the weather and a heavy storm unluckily coming made it impossible to resume our march." (George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress 1741-1799:Letter, George Washington to Continental Congress, July 1, 1778)
This Tuesday, a giant fire erupted at the historic two-story barn on the Longbridge Farm site near Ridge Road. As high winds exacerbated the flames, the facility was destroyed within minutes. Several surrounding homes on Hillside Avenue and Mary Street were evacuated. However, no one was injured during the fire, according to Deputy James Ryan.
The fire was called in on May 19th, at approximately 12:33 PM. The Fire Department closed Ridge Road from Route 522 to New Road until 4 P.M. Firefighters from Monmouth Junction, Kendall Park, Kingston, Plainsboro, North Brunswick, Jamesburg, and the NJ State Forestry Service were called in to battle the blaze. Grass and nearby trees in neighboring communities also caught fire due to high winds.
The barn was located at Long Bridge Farms and is cited as one of the oldest historical landmarks in the township. According to the South Brunswick Public Library, General George Washington and his continental army spent the night in that barn on June 25th/26th 1778, a couple of nights before the Battle of Monmouth.
Authorities believe that the fire was caused by an electrical wire that fell onto the barn after it was knocked down by a tree,
“The high winds were rapidly pushing the fire and firefighters did an amazing job containing the fire to the barn. The wooden structure of the barn caused the fire to gain intensity quickly.” said Monmouth Junction Fire Chief Scott Smith in a released statement. “The fire caused siding on a nearby building at the Oilco property next door to melt, as well as start grass and tree fires all the way to New Road. We had to do all we could to prevent it from spreading to other homes.”
This is the second time in the month of May that a historic building caught fire in South Brunswick. On May 11th, a 100-year-old house caught fire in Dayton, it took 60 fire fighters to extinguish the blaze. The house suffered extensive damage and was deemed uninhabitable, the family inside the home was unharmed. The cause of that fire is still unknown.