Hackensack, Berger County, NJ from

This township is 10 miles long, with a width varying from 3 to 5 miles. It is bounded N. by Harrington, B. by Hudson river, S. by part of Hudson co., and W. by Lodi and New Barbadoes. On the E. the Palisades skirt along the Hudson. The W. part is generally level, and contains much meadow-land in the valleys of Hackensack river and English creek. The raising of garden vegetables for the New York market furnishes support for many of the inhabitants. The value in 1840 was $11,726; being more than double that of any other township in the county. There are 4 bridges over the Hackensack, in the township,—one near the village of Hackensack, and at New Milford, at Old Bridge, and at New Bridge. These three, with Schraalenberg, Closter, and Mount Clinton, contain each a few dwellings. English Neighborhood is a thickly settled vicinity, in the south part, 5 miles from Hoboken, where there is a Reformed Dutch and a Christ-ian church. The township contains 5 stores, 9 grist m., 6 saw m.; cap. in manufac. $300; 6 schools, 281 scholars. Population, 2,631.

The Palisade rocks, with their bold and rugged fronts, commence a short distance above the city of New York, and form the western bank of the Hudson to Tappan, a distance of twenty miles. Remarkable for their picturesque and sublime appearance, they are justly considered among the most interesting objects of natural scenery in America. In some places they rise almost perpendicularly from the shore, to the height of five or six hundred feet, and form for miles a solid wall of dark frowning rock, impressing the stranger, as he sails along their base, with the aspect of nature in her sterner forms. The summit is slightly undulating table-land, averaging in width about two miles, and generally covered with wood. From thence the mountain gently descends to the west, and is cleared and cultivated, with many neat farm-houses at its based Still further on, is seen the Hackensack quietly coursing through a beautiful fertile valley; and in the perspective, the blue outlines of distant hills in the interior of the state.

Fort Lee is a small village on the Hudson, 5 miles SE. of Hackensack, and 9 above New York. It consists of about 30 dwellings, irregularly grouped in a nook at the foot of the Palisades. It derives its name from the fort built in the war of the revolution, on the summit of the rocks, about 300 feet above the river, overlooking the village. Traces of the ruins of the Jbrtress still exist, am! until within a short time some of the stone huts used by the soldiers were standing. They were small, low, rude structures, only large enough for one or two men. In digging the cellar for the hotel, a few years since, swords, bullets, bayonets, and other military relics were found. The site of the fort is overgro’wn with low trees.

Fort Washington is on the opposite side of the Hudson, about three miles above. When it was taken, Nov. 16, 1776, and the garrison put to the sword, tradition aflirms that Washington stood on “Bluff Point,” a high eminence just N. of Fort Lee, and with a spyglass witnessing the massacre, appeared greatly agitated, and wept. Four days after, the Americans evacuated Fort Lee. The following account is from the “American Crisis,” by the author of “Common Sense.”

As I was with the troops at Fort Lee, and marched with them to the edge of Penn. sylvania, I am well acquainted with many circumstances which those who lived at a distance knew a little or nothing of. Our situation there was exceedingly cramped, the place being on a narrow neck of land, between the North river and Hackensack. Our force was inconsiderable, being not one fourth as great as Howe could bring against us. We had no army at hand to have relieved the garrison, had we shut ourselves up and stood on the defence. Our ammunition, light artillery, anff the best part of our stores had been removed, upon the apprehension that Howe would endeavor to penetrate the Jerseys, in which case Fort Lee could be of no use to us, for it must occur to every thinking man, whether in the army or not, that these kind of field forts arc only for tern.. porary purposes, and last in use no longer than the enemy directs his force against the particular object which such forts are raised to defend.

Such was our situation and condition at Fort Lee on the morning of the 20th of November, when an officer arrived with information that the enemy with two hundred boats had landed about seven or eight miles above. Major Gen. Greene, who commanded the garrison, immediately ordered them under arms, and sent an express to his Excellency Gen. Washington, at the town of Hackensack, distant by the way of the ferry six miles. Our first object was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack, which laid up the river between the enemy and us ; about six miles frrnn us, and three from them. Gen. Washington arrived in about three quarters of an hour, and marched at the head of the troops toward the bridge, at which placo 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 ferry, and made their way through some marshy ground up to the town of Hackensack, and there passed the river. We brought off as much bagg.agc as the wagons could contain; the rest was lost. The simple object was to bring off the garrison, and to march them on until they could be strengthened by the Pennsylvania or Jersey militIa, so as to be enabled to make a stand. We staid four days at Newark, collected in our outposts, with some of the Jersey militia, and marched out twice to meet the enemy on information of their being advancing, though our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs.

A few miles below Fort Lee, at the base of the Palisades, is another small village called Bulls Ferry, from a ferry which has existed there for more than half a century. Immediately below the village stood, in the war of the revolution, a small blockhouse, in possession of the enemy. It was unsuccessfully stormed by Gen. Wayne. The account of this event is thus given by Washington.

HEAD QUARTERS, Bergen Co., July 21, 1780.

Sir-Having received information that there were considerable numbers of cattle and horses in Bergen Neck, within reach of the enemy, and having reason to suspect that they meant shortly to draw all supplies of that kind within their lines, I detached Brig. Gen. Wayne on the 20th, with the first and second Pennsylvania brigades, with four pieces of artillery attached to them, and Cot. Moylan’s regiment of dragoons, to bring them off. I had it also in contemplation, to attempt at the same time the destruction of a blockhouse erected at Bulls Ferry, which served the purpose of covering the enemy’s wood-cutters, and giving security to a body of refugees, by whom it was garrisoned, and who committed depredations upon the well-affected inhabitants for many miles around.

Gen. Wayne having disposed his troops in such a manner as to guard the different landing-places on the Bergen shore, upon which the enemy might throw over troops from York Island to intercept his retreat, and having sent down the cavalry to execute the business of driving off the flock, proceeded with the first, second, and tenth regiments, and the artillery, to the blockhouse, which he surrounded by an abattis and stockade. iic for some time tried the cfThct of his field-pieces upon it, but though the fire was kept up for an hour, they were found too light to penetrate the logs of which it was constructed. The troops during this time being galled by a constant fire from the loopholes of the house, and seeing no chance of making a breach with cannon, those of the first and second regiments, notwithstanding the utmost eflbrts of the officers to retain them, rushed through the abattil to the foot of the stockade, with the view of forcing an entrance, which was found impracticable. This act of intemperate valor was the cause of the loss we sustained, and which amounted in the whole to 3 officers wounded, 15 non-commissioned officers and privates killed, and 46 non-commissioned and privates wounded. The wounded officerS are Lieutenants Hammond and Crawford, of the first, and Lieut. D’Hcart of the second, since dead. I cannot bat mention his death with regret, as he was a young gentleman of amiable qualities, and who promised fair to be serviceable to his country.

The dragoons in the mean time drove off time stock which were found in the Neck; the stoops and wood-boats in thC dôók near the blockhouse were burnt, and the few penpie on board them made prisoners

I have been thus particular, lest the account of this affair should have reached Philadelphia much exaggerated, as is commonly the case upon such occasions.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, Sir,
Your Excellency’s most obedient servant,

To his Excellency, SAMUEL HUNTINGTON, ESQ.
It is stated by tradition, that at the time the Americans drew off, the enemy had but a single round left. Had they persevered ten minutes longer, the fort would have fallen into their hands. Wayne was much chagrined at his want of success, and, on witnessing his brave men brought off mortally wounded, shed tears.

The following are extracts from letters published in the newspapers of the time:

Extract from a letter dated New Barbadoes, Bergen Co., April 22, 1779.

Yesterday evening Capt. Jon. Hopper, a brave and spirited officer of the militia of this county, was basely murdered by a party of ruffians from New York. He discovered them breaking open his stable door and hailed them, upon which they fired and wounded him: he returned to his house—-they followed, burst open the door, and bayoneted him in upwards of 20 places. One of them bad formerly been a neighbor of his.

Extract of a letter dated Closier, May 10, 1779.

This day about 100 of the enemy came by the way of New Dock, attacked this place, and carried off Cornelius Tallman, Samuel Demarest, Jacob Cole, and George Buskirk; killed Cornelius Demarest wounded Hendrick Demarest; Jeremiah Vestervelt, Dow Tailman, &c. They burnt the dwelling-houses of Peter Demarest, Matthias Bogart, and Cornelius Huyler, Samuel Demarest’s house and barn, John Banta’s house and barn, and Cornelius Bogart’s and John Vestervelt’s barns. They attempted to burn every building they entered, but the lire was in some places extinguished. They destroyed all the furniture, &c., in many houses, and abused many of the women. In their retreat they were so closely pursued by the militia, and a few continental troops, that they took off no cattle. They were of Buskirk’s corps, some of our Closter and old Tappan neighbors, joined by a party of negroes. I should have mentioned the negroes first, in order to grace the British aims.

Extract of a letter from New Barbadoes, July 22, 1779.

On Sunday afternoon, the 10th instant, a party of refugees and tories, in number about 20, under the command of a Lieut. Wailer, (as it is said,) landed at Closter Dock, and advanced to the neighborhood called Gloster, from which they collected and drove off a considerable number of cattle and horses, in order to carry them on board a sloop which they had brought up for that purpose. They were pursued by Captain Harring and Thomas Branch, Esq., at tho head of a few of their neighbors, hastily collected, who recovered all the cattle except. two, and a calf, and all the horses save one, and an old
mare, which they had got on board previous to the arrival of Captain 1l:arring. ‘rho Captain took two prisoners, seven stand of arms, and three suits of clothes, and obliged the enemy to cut their cable, conceal themselves below deck, and let their vessel drive with the tide, notwithstanding above 20 vessels in the river attempted to protect them by cannonading Captain Harring.”

Return to [ Bergen County ] [ New Jersey History ] [History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]