Pompton Mutiny

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The Pompton Mutiny, also referred to as the Federal Hill Rebellion, was a revolt of Continental Army troops at Pompton Camp in New Jersey, that occurred on January 20, 1781, beneath the command of Colonel Israel Shreve.

History[edit]

Acting beneath the auspices of Sergeants David Gilmore, John Tuttle, George Grant and the disguisement of copious amounts of spirits, about 300 soldiers from the New Jersey Line of the Continental Army mutinied. These soldiers began to make their way to Trenton to issue demands for a redress of grievances to the Continental Congress, in echo of the actions of their brethren in the Pennsylvania Line who had successfully sought similar redress.[1][2]

Alerted to this rogue faction by Pompton Camp Commander, Colonel Israel Shreve, who had in turn been informed by a woman whose name has been lost to history, General George Washington ordered General Robert Howe to command a detachment to compel the mutineers to unconditional submission.[1][3]

General Howe completed this duty successfully and with great haste, surrounding the now sobered rebels and subduing them without resistance. Sergeants David Gilmore and John Tuttle were executed on the spot by a firing squad of 12 mutineers, Sergeant George Grant was issued a pardon based upon testimony by the troop body that he had advocated peaceable return to duty throughout the events of the rebellion. The firing squad was reported to have discharged their duty and their weapons tearfully, slaying their former officers. The entire body of troops was said to have been penitent and genuinely contrite in the time following the unsuccessful mutiny.

Controversy[edit]

It is not readily apparent where Pompton Camp, as described in Washington's letters, was located. Historians are also divided on what path the rebels took towards Trenton and where the actual location of their submission and execution occurred.

21st Century historian Robert A. Mayers affirms that William Nelson, writing Paterson and Its Environs (Silk City) in the 1920s, was correct in his assertion that "In a thick wood, on the bleak and desolate summit of a rocky knob of the Ramapo Mountains, overlooking the Pompton Lakes Station on the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, the hearty traveler can find two rude piles of weather-beaten field-stones. These are pointed out as marking the lonely, dishonored graves of the two Jersey mutineers." However, despite numerous attempts, no historian has been able to locate these graves since that era.[4]

A historic marker in Bloomingdale, New Jersey reads: "Federal Hill Historic Site-The site of the Revolutionary war era Pompton Mutiny which occurred in the cold harsh winter of 1781. It was in the eastern valley overlooking Bloomingdale that an encampment of weary troops mutinied, consequently their two ringleaders were arrested, tried, and executed in the vicinity of what is now known as Union Avenue."

At times, Pompton Lakes, Bloomingdale, and Riverdale, NJ have all laid claim to the site of these historic events. Nearby Pequannock Township also has a valid claim to the history, if not the physical location, as these events would certainly have taken place within its then vast borders, long before the split off of the other towns named.[5][6]

Modern day[edit]

In addition to the controversy over the site of the execution, at least one of those potential sites is privately held and in danger of development. The Federal Hill site in Bloomingdale is held by DR Horton, who seek to build 256 homes there, without great consideration to historical or environmental preservation on the site.[7]

Media coverage[edit]

  • "Part 18: Mutiny!" (August 26, 2001 - NJ.com)[8]
  • "Back in the Day - June 2, 1976: Washington put down Bloomingdale mutiny" (June 13, 2011 - Northjersey.com)[9]
  • "A Tramp over Historic Ground" (May 5, 1879 - New York Times)[10]
  • "An Interesting Relic." (January 24, 1873 - Paterson Daily Press)[11]
  • "Back in 1781." (March 5, 1904 - The Chehalis Bee-Nugget)[12]
  • "For Today" (January 20, 1897 - Boston Evening Transcript)[13]

References[edit]