NEWARK, NJ - City residents played a big part in all American wars and Newark also played its part in the throes of America’s creation.
The war lasted from 1775 to 1783, and Newark had a fighting spirit against the British at that time. The city hosted a rebellious minister and a visit by George Washington’s troops. Redcoats would also burn prominent buildings, homes and farms to the ground in 1780.
Today, a statue of Washington sculpted by J. Massey Rhind sits in….you got it, Washington Park along Broad Street. But what role did the first American president have in Newark during the Revolutionary War?
Here are five noteworthy facts about Newark’s role in the Revolutionary War from a book titled, “Newark” by John T. Cunningham, the late Newark News reporter and historian.
1. Washington, a colonial general at the time, was forced to retreat back to Newark in November 1776 because British General Charles Cornwallis overwhelmed American forces. Colonial troops would leave the city via Broad Street as British troops caught onto Washington’s trail.
2. Alexander Macwhorter, a minister at the First Presbyterian Church, came to Newark around 1759. He despised the British, partly due to hearing that his relatives were hanged by King Charles I’s henchmen. “Despising the British came easily to (Macwhorter),” wrote Cunningham. Many Presbyterians followed Macwhorter after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
3. Thomas Paine, an 18th Century philosopher, is said to have started writing “The American Crisis” in Newark. The pamphlet series was published throughout the war to drum up support for the revolution.
4. In January 1780, British troops coming from New York surrounded Newark Academy, a school building built in 1774 in what is now Washington Park. The troops burned down barns and homes and the Academy.
5. The British troops weren’t done though. The retreating Redcoats would stop at the home of Joseph Hedden, a prominent patriot and judge in Newark. Hedden’s wife was bayoneted -- but survived -- when she tried to stop British forces from entering her Newark home. The judge would be dragged into the cold, wintery streets in only his nightgown and was forced to march back to New York. He became ill in captivity and was later released back to Newark, where he died in September 1780.