George Washington's March
Source: The Teaneck Shopper, Wednesday, October 21, 1970, page 9 - Supplement
THE TEANECK area was not as peaceful as it looked ten years before the outbreak of the Revolution. Even colonists loyal to the crown were disenchanted as a result of the Stamp Act of 1764.
THE SONS OF Liberty were being organized. Trees or poles were designated where patriots could pledge their fortunes and their honor for the cause of liberty. The first Liberty Tree was in Boston. In 1766, a Liberty Pole was set up in Englewood near the circle at Tenafly Road and Palisade Avenue. The tavern near it became Washington's headquarters later on.
CITIZENS AND freeholders (who were required to own 100 acres of land or to be worth 50 pounds) met in Hackensack on June 25, 1774 following the closing of the Boston port to remark on the calamitous condition of the people of Boston. They asserted that while it would be their greatest happiness to live under the government of the House of Hanover, they conceived it their privilege to be taxed only by their own consent and that they would join other colonies in a congress to repeal recent acts of Parliament. The resolution was signed by 328 Bergen County residents. On July 2, New Jersey adopted its own constitution. The name of King George III was dropped from the proceedings.
AFTER THE Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, Bergen County became more and more involved in the struggle for independence. The farmers in the Teaneck area were prey for the armies of both the Patriots and the Loyalists who stole cows as well as horses, sheep and produce from the hard working farmers.
As far as Teaneck was concerned, the most notable event of the war was the fall of Fort Lee on November 20, 1776, following disasters on Long Island, Brooklyn and White Plains. Fort Washington had fallen on November 16.
In a letter to General Charles Lee, George Washington wrote from Hackensack on November 21: "Yesterday morning the enemy landed a 1arge body of troops and advanced very rapidly to the fort called by your name. I immediately went over as the Fort was not tenable on this side (and we in a narrow neck of land the passes out of which the enemy was attempting to seize) and directed the troops to move to the West side of the Hackensack River as considerable quantity of stores and some artillery have fallen into their hands." Joseph A. Fitzpatrick, Teaneck attorney who has made a careful study of this area during the Revolution, provided us with a map showing the retreat from Fort Lee, including the section of Teaneck through which they passed. This route will be included in the bus tour arranged for the 75th Anniversary Celebration on October 23, 24 and 25.
Mr. Fitzpatrick describes the route as follows: Beginning at the Liberty Pole to the Southwest of the present World War II Monument in Englewood, Washington's troops, according to Judge Arthur J. O'Dea the past president of the Bergen County Historical Society, marched Southwest along the present day Lafayette Avenue, then turned right and proceeded along Forest Avenue in a Westerly direction to Teaneck Road, then called Schraalenburgh Road; Nor along Schraalenburgh Road to New Bridge Road. There the army turned left, and proceeded ina Westerly direction along New Bridge Road, crossing the Hackensack River at the New Bridge to safety.
When the British arrived at Fort Lee, the kettles of the Patriots' garrison were still boiling. Tom Paine, author of the Crisis Papers, which include the famous lines "These are the times that try men's souls," wrote from Hackensack: "Our first object was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack, which laid up the river between the enemy and river between the enemy and us. General Washington arrived in about three-quarters of an hour, marched at the head of his troops toward the bridge, where I expected we should have a brush. However they did not choose to dispute it with us and the greatest part of our troops went over the bridge, the rest over the ferry except some, which passed at a mill on a small creek between the bridge and the ferry and made their way through some marshy ground up to the town of Hackensack and there passed the river. We brought as much baggage as the wagons could contain. The rest we lost.
"According to an eye witness, it was about dusk of a cold, rainy night, "but I had a fair view of them from the light of the windows. They marched two abreast, looked ragged, some without shoe to their feet and most of them wrapped in blankets. Washington then and for some previous, had his headquarters at the residence of Mr. Peter Zabriskie, later called The Mansion House (torn down in 1946), the supplies for the general's table being supplied by Mr. Archibald Campbell, the tavern keeper.
The next evening after the Americans had passed through the British encamped on the opposite side of the river (Teaneck side). We could see their fires about 100 yards apart, gleaming brilliantly through the gloom of the night, extending some distance below the town and more than a mile up toward New Bridge."The British closed in behind Washington in Hackensack, confident that the miserable American army was disintegrated of its own accord. After retreating 90 miles in 19 days, Washington's army was in Trenton at Christmas and the memorable Crossing of the Delaware, and victory at Trenton.
Residents of the Teaneck area adjusted themselves to the severe winter and occupation by British troops, who continued to draw "voluntary supplies" from their farms.