The Skirmish at Second River
(Belleville), September 1777
The old Belleville Dutch Reformed Church cemetery is on the west
side of the Iglesia Pentecostal La Senda Antigua, 171 Main St., at
the corner of Main and Rutgers streets.
The cemetery is located along General George Washington's retreat route, and which left behind a contingent of local militia
a two-day battle delayed British troops as Washington's men
Battle memorial in Belleville Park on Mill Street.
The second day battle is marked by a memorial in what is
now Belleville Park along Mill Street, site of the only battle
fought in Essex County during the American Revolution.
1777 there was an engagement which is most frequently referred
to as the “Battle of Second River”. It is for this engagement
that a memorial plaque has been erected in the park. The British
intended to expand their invasion with a larger force in central
Jersey. But first, they had to pass through Second River and
beneath the old church tower.
Eyes in the
tower saw the advance and sounded the alarm. Under the direction
of Captains Hornblower, Joralemon, Rutgers and Rutan, a defense
was prepared. Skirmishes went on for two days. It began with an
artillery barrage of our town followed by musket and cannon
battles in the streets.
reinforcements, the American troops valiantly held their ground
and managed to damage British General. Sir Henry Clinton’s
hilltop headquarters with a direct hit from a cannonball, which
happened to be on what is now Franklin Ave. September 14th
turned into an all-day pitched battle.
reinforcements pouring in from neighboring communities, front
lines eventually took shape near to Mill Street and Union
Avenue. The British forces, overwhelming in numbers, eventually
broke through. But once again, the local militia had succeeded
in delaying the advance and weakening the invading army.
A skirmish was
recorded on Jan. 27, 1777, between British foraging party and
large body of rebels, according to Battles and Skirmishes in New
Jersey. That source says that on June 1, 1779, the militia
captured a Tory named Lawrence as he enlists men for the British
A large boulder
also rests at the fork in the road between Union and Franklin
Avenues on Mill Street as a landmark to mark the spot where the
final shots of the Battle of the Second River were fired. A
bronze plaque was placed on the rock in 1932.
Norman Price, Village of Second River author; Michael Perrone,
Dave Hinrichs, The Belleville Times. David C. Munn, Battles and
Skirmishes of the American Revolution in New Jersey, Belleville
Sons Honor Roll.
"Schuyler Mansion played a role during the Revolutionary War Era.
When Lord Howe of England took possession of New York Harbor, the
nearness of Schuyler Mansion drew many of his officers. They
generally traveled over a road that today is referred to as the
Belleville Turnpike. It was originally made of cedar logs from the
nearby swamps in 1759.
September 1777, General Henry Clinton, head of the British
Expeditionary Forces in America, selected Schuyler Mansion for his
headquarters during one of his more important raiding operations
which included the famed Battle of Second River. The Mansion stood
until 1924, a period of 214 years, when it was torn down by a land
Approximate site of militia cannon.
A cannon on the Belleville side of the Passaic River held back British
troops during Washington's retreat in September 1777. A cannon shot is
credited with landing in the Schuyler mansion across the river and up the
hill in Kearny.
American Revolution battle proposed memorial site.
The Belleville Historical Society is developing plans to erect a memorial
on the riverbank to commemorate the Second River defenses located here to
hold back British troops during Washington's Retreat.