Pluckemin Continental Artillery Cantonment Site
The Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment Site in Pluckemin, New Jersey, a hamlet at the southern section of Bedminster Township, New Jersey, holds historic American Revolutionary War importance as the Continental Army's artillery winter cantonment during the winter of 1778-1779. Nestled on the western side of the Second Watchung Mountain just to the North of the village of Pluckemin. The significance to the site recognize it as the birthplace of the American military academy, 24 years prior to the founding of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Other terms used to reference the site include the Pluckemin Artillery Park, The Pluckemin Military Academy, and The Pluckemin Artillery Encampment. The Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment site is currently not accessible to the public. There are no buildings, no trails, and it is left as an overgrown wooded area. The only place for visitors to learn about the cantonment site is at the Vanderveer/Knox House & Museum, just to the north and west of the site on Route 202/206 Southbound in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.
The Pluckemin Cantonment was the artillery portion of what was known in 1778 as the Middlebrook encampment referring to the seasonal encampment of the Continental Army during the American War for Independence near Middle Brook in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey (between Martinsville and Bound Brook). The site includes part of the ridge of the First Watchung Mountain. Its position provided a natural fortress not only protecting the Continental Army, but also overlooking the plains towards New Brunswick where the British forces were stationed in 1777. The strategic strength of the position contributed ultimately to the success of the Continental Army.
A "cantonment is "a group of building constructed primarily for the purpose of housing troops"; the term camp or "encampment" refers to troops quartered in their regimental or brigade lines. While some have used the term encampment, the national register recognizes the site as a cantonment.
The Jacobus Vanderveer house, just to the north and west of the cantonment site served as headquarters for General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79, when the Continental Army artillery was located in the village of Pluckemin during the Revolutionary War's Second Middlebrook Encampment. The house is the only known building still standing that was associated with the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment. It is noted that Knox arrived at Pluckemin on December 7, 1778 and departed June 3, 1779 moving towards Pompton with the Continental Army that arrived from Middlebrook.
The area was most likely owned on a southern portion of land owned by Jacobus Vanderveer. While Jacob Eoff, a Holland native, was one of the first to settle in the area. Eoff purchased 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land around 1743 known then as Bedminstertown or the Pluckemin Crossroads. The next major land owner and resident was Jacobus Vanderveer who on May 10, 1743 purchased 439 acres (1.78 km2) just to the north of Eoff's property. Early deeds and wills recognize the cantonement area as belonging to the Vanderveers. The land was later purchased at auction on April 1, 1875 by Tunis Van Arsdale, then to Kate Wickoff (1891), Elizabeth Schley 1902, HIlls Development Company, and lastly Bedminster Township.
State and National Register of Historic Places
Officially registered as the Pluckemin Continental Artillery Cantonment Site (ID#4769) near junction of US Routes 202-206 and Washington Valley Road was approved to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on January 17, 2008. The site was approved to the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 2008(NR Reference #: 08000180). Being on the state Register means that the Artillery Park site will be forever protected from any undertaking that would adversely affect the property. The actual site is owned by the Township of Bedminster.
The Pluckemin Academy
As noted in the Regimental Orderly Book 3 on February 23, 1779,
"General Knox states "The Academy is to be opened on Monday next when Mr. Colles the preceptor will attend every day in the wee Sundy excepted for the purpose of teaching the Mathematicks & cc. ... As the Officers of the Corps will be those means have an opportunity of acquiring a more particular and expansive knowledge of the profession and making themselves better qualified to discharge the duties of their respective stations - The General expect that they will apply themselves in good earnest to the study of this so essential & necessary Branch of Science - The duty they owe themselves - a regard for their own reputation and the just expectations of their Country: The General hoes will induce every Officer to pay the closest & most diligent attention."
Other perations at Pluckemin
- Military Store Department
- Laboratory - to supply ammunition
- Magazine - Ammunitions/powder storage
The Pluckemin Dig
Henry (Max) Schrabisch, the former New Jersey State Archeologist began his archeological efforts on the Pluckemin countryside when the term "The Dig" originated. Other phrases that were used to identify specific archeological projects at the Pluckemin Cantonment Site include the Pluckemin Dig, the Pluckemin Archeological Dig, and the Pluckemin Archeological Project. The Dig took place over eleven weeks in 1916. The write up was competed in 1917 and covered in the local Bernardsville News.
The Pluckemin Archeological Project
A not for profit research group in 1979 combining the efforts of Bedminster Township, the Hills Development Corporation, and academics financially supported by local businesses, individuals, and small foundations. The project was incorporated in 1980 alongside coordination from Clifford Sekel, an area resident from the nearby Sunset Lake area of Bridgewater.
In 1984 the New Jersey Historical Commission presented the Pluckemin Archaeological Project an award of recognition for helping to preserve New Jersey history and increasing public awareness of and appreciation for that history.
Points of interest
- The Historic Vanderveer/Knox House & Museum - a mid-18th century refurbished home used by General Henry Knox during the Revolutionary War that serves local history to the area.
- Continental Artillery Military Cantonment Historic Site - known also as the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment or Pluckemin Artillery Park - where General Henry Knox created America's first artillery training academy known as the "precursor to the US Military Academy" at West Point during the winter of 1778-1779.
Notable current and former residents of Bedminster Township include:
- Henry Knox (1750–1803), founder of America's first military artillery academy
- General George Washington - Pluckemin Ball February 18, 1779 with his wife Martha
- Nathanael Greene - Pluckemin Ball February 18, 1779 with his wife
- John Lamb
- Captain John Lillie
- Richard Frothingham - Deputy Commissary of Military Stores - possibly one responsible for choosing Pluckemin. Directed the Laboratory.
- Captain Noah Nichols and Anthony Post - Command of the artificer companies at Pluckemin
- Lieutenant Colonel Carrington & Stevens - Superintended the barracks construction at Pluckemin
- Captain McDonald
- Colonel William McDonald
- Captain John Ionas Lillie, Commander of the 12th Company of the 3rd Continental Artillery
- Ebenezer Stevens - Commander of Lamb's regiment.
- Dr. Samuel Adams -
- Samuel Hodgdon - Field Commissary of Military Stores under command of Knox while at Pluckemin
- Christopher Colles - Preceptor, lead Academy activities and training at the Pluckemin Academy, Barrack Master and Storekeeper - Pluckemin
- Samuel Shaw - aide to General Knox
- John Hiwill - Inspector and Superintenant of Music for the Army (Military Band)
- Captain Cornelius Austin - Armourers supervisor after army left Pluckemin
- Henry (Max) Schrabisch papers - 1916-1917 Articles in Bernardsville News and 1917 Somerset County Historical Quarterly
- Clifford Sekel Thesis - “The Continental Artillery in Winter Encampment at Pluckemin, New Jersey, December 1778-June 1779,” by Clifford Sekel, Jr., 1972, Master of Arts Thesis, Wagner College
- Samuel Shaw - aide to General Knox - 1847 Journals of Major Samuel Shaw - Josiah Quincy, Boston.
- John Seidel Thesis - The Archaeology of the American Revolution: A Reappraisal & Case Study at the Continental Cantonment of 1778-1779, Pluckemin, New Jersey,” by John Lewis Seidel, 1987;
- Frederick Wilhelm von Steuben, 1779 - Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Phila, PA
- Lamb Papers - New York Historical Society, New York
- Regimental Orderly Book 3, 2nd Continental Army - 1779 - Feb 5 thru May 30, 1779 - New York Historical Society
- Regimental Orderly Book 2,2nd Continental Army - 1778-1779 - Nov 30,1778 thru Feb 4, 1779 - New York Historical Society
- Regimental Orderly Book 1,2nd Continental Army - 1778 - Sept 27, 1778 thru Nov 27 - New York Historical Society
- Andrew Mellick Jr.- This Old Farm book 1889
- Samuel Hodgdon Letters
- Dr. Samuel Adams Diary
- John Muller - 1780 A Treatise of Artillery American version printed in 1779
- Lieutenant John Hills of the 23rd Regiment - Map of Somerset County - Library of Congress 1781 Scale ca. 1:85,000
- US Army Center of Military History
- Pennsylvania Packet - 1779, March 6 reference to Pluckemin Cantonment and Academy
About Pluckemin/Bedminster, New Jersey
Bedminster Township was created by Royal Charter on April 4, 1749, from portions of the Northern precinct. It was formally incorporated by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 21, 1798. Portions of the township were taken on March 28, 1912, to form Peapack-Gladstone. The village of Pluckemin is also part of the township as is part of Pottersville. It is bordered on the north by Chester Township and on the northeast by Peapack-Gladstone.
Bedminster was the corporate headquarters of AT&T, prior to its merger with SBC Communications (the combined company is now known as AT&T Inc.). AT&T's Global Network Operations Center is currently located in Bedminister. It was also the corporate headquarters for Verizon Wireless before it was relocated to nearby Basking Ridge in 2006.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 26.5 square miles (68.6 km²), all of it land.
- "The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries: 1606-1968", John P. Snyder, Bureau of Geology and Topography; Trenton, New Jersey; 1969. p. 221.
- The Pluckemin Cantonment and Artillery Academy website
- Bedminster Township website
- The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills - providing historic preservation and local history for Bedminster Township and the other townships that make up the Somerset Hills in Somerset County, New Jersey.