For two days at the end of October, Dey Mansion will come alive again as General George Washington’s headquarters as it was in 1780. 

During the weekend event held October 26 and 27 enactors will camp at the Dey Mansion and live life as if it were 1780. 

“Guests can expect to learn what life was like as a soldier during the American Revolution,” said Semra Iljazi the Heritage Tourism Coordinator for Passaic County. ‘They’ll observe soldiers cleaning their muskets while women prepare meals. Some officers may be drilling with their men while others plan for battle or play cards.

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Special appearances will be made by New Jersey’s local militia, and the day will be filled with 18th century games, music, demonstrations and crafters.

According to the Dey Mansion website (deymansion.org), General Washington occupied the mansion from July 1 to July 29, 1780. The future first President again made the mansion his headquarters from October 8 to November 27, 1780.

In a military context, this area was chosen for the encampment of Washington’s army because of its strategic position and accessibility to food and forage. Colonel Theunis Dey owned the land around the mansion and invited Washington to stay. 

The only military incident directed by Washington in July was an attack on Bull’s Ferry by Brigadier General Anthony Wayne. On July 14, Washington received news that the French allies had arrived at Newport, Rhode Island. The commander-in-chief made preparations to meet with them and left on July 29, 1780.

Between July 29 and his return on October 8, 1780, Washington was campaigning in the Hudson Highlands, conferring with the French, and dealing with “treason of the blackest dye” within his own ranks.   

At the end of September, Major-General Benedict Arnold’s traitorous conduct was revealed. Arnold’s accomplice, Major John André, was hanged on October 2 at Tappan, New York. The British commander, Sir Henry Clinton, wanted to avenge André’s execution by seizing Washington himself. The commander-in-chief decided to move his army to the less accessible Preakness Valley.

During the October-November encampment, two military enterprises occurred. A failed attack on Staten Island was made under the direction of Major General Lafayette. In the second maneuver, reconnoitering parties under the command of Lafayette, Moylan and Humphrey advanced toward Fort Lee in contemplation of an attack on Fort Washington. The commander-in-chief discontinued the operation. On November 27, 1780, Washington left the Dey Mansion, and part of his troops moved to Morristown; a few of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regiments were cantoned at Pompton.

“Self-guided tours of the mansion will be offered, with admission at $5.00 per person,” said Iljazi. “Children, 11 years of age and under, are free. Parking and outdoor activities are also free to the public.”