Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hessian Camp

Hessian Camp Marker
Route 422 and Hessian Road
Reading, PA 19602

During the American Revolution, Reading was used as a prisoner of war (POW) camp for British and German mercenary soldiers, to include Hessians. At this time, Reading was dominated by German-speaking colonists. British and German prisoners who lived in Reading at this time were able to work as laborers and go to local taverns in town. The German-speaking colonists of Reading were far more welcoming of German mercenary POWs than British POWs. Following the American Revolution, numerous German mercenaries chose to remain in the area to work as laborers and farmers. The Hessian Camp marker in Reading marks the approximate location of where numerous Hessian soldiers lived from 1781 to 1783.

Below is a link to the Explore Pennsylvania History website, along with some photos that I took during my recent visit to Reading:


Monday, July 27, 2015

Ballast Point Whaling Station

Ballast Point Whaling Station Site
Naval Base Point Loma - Ballast Point
San Diego, CA 92106
(Near Building #601)
Another great historic site located on Naval Base Point Loma - Ballast Point in San Diego is the site of the Ballast Point Whaling Station. Whaling operations began on Ballast Point in 1857, when the three Johnson brothers and the twin Packard brothers came to this site to survey possibilities for a station to 'try out' or extract whale oil. Their operations began the next year. In 1869 the U.S. Government acquired the property for Fort Rosecrans and in 1873 whaling operations at Ballast Point ended. Archaeological digs on the site have uncovered remnants of the two 150-gallon cast iron cauldrons and brick ovens that were used to boil whale oil.
Below is a link to the San Diego History Center website with more information on Ballast Point Whaling Station, along with some photos that I took during a recent visit:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Captain Joshua Huddy Park

Captain Joshua Huddy Park
Bay Ave. and Waterwitch Ave.
Highlands, NJ 07732

Captain Joshua Huddy Park is the site of the April 12, 1782 hanging of Captain Joshua Huddy. Huddy was a captain in the Monmouth County Artillery, who had been captured on March 24, 1782 by defending the Toms River blockhouse from a British attack. Huddy's death at the hands of the Tories was in retaliation for the death of a Loyalist by the name of Philip White. White had died in the custody of Patriot forces. When Huddy's body was found the day after his execution, there was a note on his hanging body that said, "Up Goes Huddy for Phillip White.”

The execution of Joshua Huddy caused outrage amongst New Jersey Patriots. These Patriots sought retribution for Huddy's death, and petitioned General George Washington. As a result of this petition, a young British officer named Charles Asgill was selected to be executed. Asgill's mother and French government officials expressed their desire that the life of Charles Asgill be spared. The American government spared the life of Asgill believing that his execution would look poorly on the new nation. Asgill returned to England in December 1782. This event became known as the Asgill Affair.

There are numerous sites in Monmouth and Ocean counties that are associated with Captain Joshua Huddy. Throughout the war he became a sort of folk hero to the Patriot cause. I have had the opportunity to travel to many sites associated with Huddy over the last couple of years. Be on the lookout for more blog posts about Joshua Huddy in the next few months.

Below are links to sites that have more information on both Joshua Huddy and Charles Asgill. I also included a few photos of Captain Joshua Huddy Park during my recent visit:


Sunday, July 19, 2015

General Andrew Porter

General Andrew Porter Marker
West Main & Selma Streets
Norristown, PA 19401

General Andrew Porter was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His considered to be the founder of the United States Marine Corps. Porter built his home Selma in Norristown, PA in 1794. Porter was a surveyor who received a number of government surveyor positions following his service in America's war for independence. A number of Porter's descendants went on to hold important and influential positions in the government, military and legal fields. Porter died in Harrisburg, PA in 1813. Porter is memorialized in a number of places in Pennsylvania. A marker dedicated to Porter's memory stands at West Main and Selma Streets in Norristown. This marker is a short walk from Selma.

Below is a link to an article that featured on with more information on General Andrew Porter. I also included a couple photos of the marker: 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Battle of Bound Brook (April 13, 1777)

The Battle of Bound Brook - South Battlefield Site
South Main St. (near Queen's Bridge)
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

Following the battles of Trenton and Princeton, a guerilla war raged on in New Jersey between militia troops supported by the Continental Army, and British and German forces. Some historians refer to this guerilla war as the Forage War. With the main body of the Continental Army in winter quarters at Morristown, many American operations were planned and conducted out of forward outposts such as Bound Brook. British commanders took notice of this, and in March 1777 Hessian J├Ąger officer Johann von Ewald developed a plan to launch an attack on the American outpost of Bound Brook. This outpost was commanded by Continental Army General Benjamin Lincoln. In the April 13, 1777 battle, the Continental Army was surprised by attacking British forces. American commander Benjamin Lincoln narrowly avoided capture, along with the bulk of his 500 man garrison. British forces under the command of General Charles Cornwallis proceeded to loot and destroy the garrison. British forces were able to capture cannons, ammunition and supplies from Bound Brook before returning to New Brunswick. American forces under General Nathanael Greene were immediately sent by George Washington to reoccupy Bound Brook. Greene sent troops to harass the British rear guard as they approached Raritan Landing. American casualty reports from the battle vary from 40-120. British casualties in the battle numbered no more than ten.

Near Queen's Bridge in South Bound Brook, NJ there is a sign with two interpretive plaques commemorating the April 13, 1777 Battle of Bound Brook. If you plan on visiting this site, be advised that the best place to park is the nearby municipal parking lot. There is very little to no room to park on the side of the road near the markers and bridge. The walk from the municipal parking lot to the markers and bridge will take no more than five minutes.

Below is a link to the New Jersey Skylands website where you can read more about the Battle of Bound Brook. I also included a few photos I took of the sign and commemorative plaques during my recent visit:


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fort Rosecrans

Fort Rosecrans Marker
Naval Base Point Loma - Ballast Point
San Diego, CA 92106
(Near Building #601)

Fort Rosecrans was a U.S. Army base that was located on present day Naval Base Point Loma. The land upon which Fort Rosecrans was built was set aside by American President Millard Fillmore in 1852 for military purposes. The area was later assigned to the U.S. Army, and named Fort Rosecrans in 1899. The fort was named after Union Civil War General and congressman from California William S. Rosecrans. In 1898 the Army built a coast artillery installation on the site which remained active until 1945. In 1932, the site of Fort Rosecrans was registered as California Historical Landmark. In 1959 Fort Rosecrans was turned over to the U.S. Navy.

Below is a link to the San Diego History Center website where you can read more about the history of Fort Rosecrans. I also posted a couple photos that I took of the Fort Rosecrans marker during a recent visit to San Diego:


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Selma Mansion

Selma Mansion
1301 W. Airy St.
Norristown, PA 19401

A Google search of the Selma Mansion in Norristown, PA will provide you with links to numerous websites covering alleged paranormal activity in the mansion. The local historic preservation society, the Norristown Preservation Society, hosted a ghost hunt last fall to raise money for future preservation efforts in the home. The history of the mansion dates back to 1794, when it was built by Revolutionary War hero and Pennsylvania native General Andrew Porter. Many of Porter's descendants were successful in the military, law and politics. One of his descendants includes Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. The home passed through marriage to the Knox family in 1821. The home remained in the Knox family until it was sold to the Fornance family. The home remained in the hands of the Fornance family until Ruth Fornance died in the home in 1982.

A majority of the ghost stories that circulate around the mansion pertain to the Knox and Fornance families. Andrew Knox's wife and three children died of yellow fever in the home. The final member of the Fornance family to own the home, Ruth Fornance, passed away in the home in 1982. Mansion staff and visitors have reported disembodied voices, full body apparitions and ghostly shadows in the home. Paranormal investigators have captured an assortment of EVP recordings in the building. 

Below are some photos that I took during a recent visit to the Selma Mansion:


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Timothy Matlack

Timothy Matlack Marker
Pawlings Road near Audubon Road
Audubon, PA 19403

Timothy Matlack was a New Jersey born Pennsylvania Patriot during the American Revolution. Matlack was a controversial figure in Pennsylvania over the span of his adulthood. He enjoyed gambling, horseracing and cock fighting. After falling into debt, he was thrown into debtor's prison. The Quakers secured his release from prison, only to disown him after he failed to reform. Matlack's "hobbies" provided him with the opportunity to interact and socialize with people of all classes. These interactions would later serve him well as he proved to be a skilled organizer of men in his home colony and state.

Matlack served in a variety of positions during America's struggle for independence, to include clerk to the secretary of the Second Continental Congress, storekeeper of military supplies, delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, member of the state Council of Safety and militia officer. Matlack fought in the Battle of the Assunpink Creek (the Second Battle of Trenton) and the Battle of Princeton. Matlack is best known for his fine penmanship, and is believed to be the individual who inscribed the Declaration of Independence on parchment. Matlack passed away at age 93 in Holmesburg, PA. He is buried at the Wetherills Cemetery (aka Free Quaker Cemetery) in Audubon, PA.

Below is a write up on Timothy Matlack from the Explore PA History website, along with a few photos that I took of Timothy Matlack's marker:

"When Philadelphia's radical leaders organized their committees for resistance to British imperial policy in 1774, only one of them intended to instigate a revolution: former Quaker Timothy Matlack. Fiercely opposed to the conservative leadership of John Dickinson and the Pennsylvania Assembly, Matlack, a merchant and brewer turned revolutionary, served on the extra legal Council of Public Safety. A committed political and social radical, Matlack kept regular company with people from the 'poorer sorts.' In an era when wealthy Pennsylvanians worked hard to display refined cultural profiles, supported by goods and activities imported from England, Matlack reveled in the popular culture of the colony and its combative, competitive entertainments. For this reason, his ascent to political prominence is all the more interesting.

Born in New Jersey in 1736, Matlack grew up in a Quaker family. In the late 1740s, he moved to Philadelphia, where he developed a penchant for gambling, horseracing, and the lower-class sport of cockfighting. When his business affairs fell into ruin, wealthier Quakers redeemed him from debtor's prison. But Matlack's refusal to reform his ways - and his criticism of those Friends who held slaves - resulted in his disownment from the Society of Friends in 1765.

Matlack's poor record and restless temperament did not make him a good candidate for elective public service, but he took readily to the mechanical and organizational political tasks that all successful revolutions require to remain dynamic and vital. He became a clerk to Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Second Continental Congress. He thrived on committee work in the radical Philadelphia community that constructed a de facto shadow government that prepared to take over in the city and state if the regular provincial government faltered.

Matlack served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania provincial convention that wrote the radical 1776 state constitution, and associated with such confirmed radicals as James Cannon and David Rittenhouse. He also served with Philadelphia's artisan-dominated militia battalion, and saw some military service in New Jersey in late 1776 and early 1777. He became secretary to the powerful unicameral Pennsylvania assembly under the new constitution, and remained in that office until the end of the Revolution. He served in a similar capacity with Pennsylvania's Supreme Executive Council, which filled the function of a governor in more conventional political systems.

Driven from office by conservative enemies at the end of the war, Matlack became a leader of the Free Quakers, a group of disowned Friends who had supported the Revolution in violation of the Quaker Peace Testimony, and resumed his public diatribes against political foes. In 1781, his heckling of Whitehead Humphreys, a conservative member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, resulted in a public fistfight. The vengeful Humphreys subsequently wrote and distributed a poetic broadside that reflected some of the upper class's contempt for Matlack.

'Altho' dear Tim you've rose so great,
 From trimming cocks to trim the state;
 Yet to a brother, lend an ear,
 A moment - tho" in humble sphere . . .
 Did you forget in days of yore
 When you, like Price, was wretched poor?
 But all at once you've raised so high,
 Quakers can't safely pass you by!'

Although Matlack returned to public life in the 1790s, mostly in the capacity of a clerk and functionary, he was not as effective in building governments as he was in tearing them down. He spent his final years in rural Philadelphia County, where he died in 1829. He is buried in Audubon, on the Schuylkill River, not far from Valley Forge.

Timothy Matlack's contribution to American independence was critical in mobilizing public support for the patriot cause. Since the eighteenth century, every modern revolution in the western world has depended on actors like him, men of conviction and resilience willing to work on mundane tasks and smaller functions in the service of a greater goal."


Upcoming Event - Burrowes Mansion Interview

The Matt Ward History Experience will travel to the Burrowes Mansion in Matawan, NJ on Sunday, July 19, 2015. This visit will be part of the launching of the blog's monthly podcast. Three Burrowes Mansion Museum docents will be interviewed. The interview will focus on the history of the Burrowes Mansion and the people who lived there. If you have any questions that you would like answered by the panel, please post them in the comments of this blog entry or send them to me via Twitter @RevWarBuff23.

The Burrowes Mansion is located at 94 Main Street in historic Matawan, NJ. The mansion will be open next weekend for tours from 2-4pm. For more information on the Burrowes Mansion, please visit the following links:

Burrowes Mansion Official Website:
Matawan Historical Society Official Facebook:
Revolutionary War New Jersey:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Philip Freneau's Grave

Philip Freneau's Grave
Poet Drive
Matawan, NJ 07747

Having grown up in Matawan, NJ, I am very familiar with the story of Philip Freneau. Freneau is known as the "Poet of the American Revolution." He wrote a number of poems during his lifetime, to include the History of the Prophet Jonah. He supported the Patriot cause as a militiaman and privateer. Freneau was a friend and supporter of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. His work as a journalist following the American Revolution was partisan in nature and often attacked Federalist politicians to include George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Washington in particular took a strong dislike to Freneau. Freneau froze to death at age 80 while trying to find his way home in a snow storm.

A section of my hometown is named in his honor, and his final home still stands in Matawan. Freneau's grave is located in the middle of a quiet residential street called Poet Drive in the section of the town that bears his name. I have had the opportunity to visit Freneau's grave site on numerous occasions over the years. The below photos were taken during a January 2014 visit.

Along with my photos, I included a write up on Freneau from the Poetry Foundation website:

"Known as the poet of the American Revolution, Philip Freneau was influenced by both the political situation of his time and the full, active life he led. He attended Princeton University, where James Madison was his roommate, and planned to become a minister. However, at Princeton he became engaged in political debates with fellow students and pursued his interest in writing.

Freneau was torn between his involvement in the social turmoil of his times and the more solitary life of writing. After graduation, he wrote a series of anti-British satires. In 1776 Freneau travelled to the West Indies, where he studied navigation and wrote, largely about his surroundings. In 1778 he returned to New Jersey, joined the militia, and served as a ship’s captain. He was eventually captured by the British and spent six weeks on a prison ship. By 1790, Freneau had published two collections of poetry. Encouraged by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, Freneau established a newspaper, the National Gazette, in Philadelphia, which promoted Jefferson’s principles. By the early 1800s, Freneau had retired to his farm to write essays and poetry.

As a journalist and poet, Freneau was prolific. His poetry covers a variety of subjects, including the political situation, American Indians, nature, the sea, and naval battles. His political poems are often satiric, but his nature poetry is marked by lyricism and close observation of the details of the American landscape. Freneau’s work displays some of the characteristics of Romanticism—especially in its close attention to, and feeling for, nature."  (