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Battle of Short Hills history hike set for weekend of Oct. 18

on Wed, 10/08/2014 - 02:50

From Independent Press / NJ.com Oct 1, 2014

How about a hike through history this fall?

What would it be like to retrace the steps of the American revolutionary war soldiers who engaged the British in Metuchen on June 26, 1777, and then fought a running battle across what is now Edison and Scotch Plains before retreating to the safety of the Watchung Mountains—through a pass by Seeley’s Pond that would become known as Bloody Gap?

On Saturday, Oct. 18, find out.

The NJ Freewalkers, in cooperation with Union County Parks, is sponsoring the Battle of the Short Hills Historic Trail hike. The hike, part of the County’s Four Centuries In A Weekend celebration, ends at the Deserted Village in the Watchung Reservation, where there will be a host of activities and historic tours that Saturday, and Sunday.

“I have fond memories of all the hiking I used to do as a Boy Scout,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Chris Hudak. “So it’s kind of fun to see such a healthy exercise combined with some very local and fascinating history.”

To sign up for the hike and learn more details, go to: ucnj.org/hike4C orhttp://freewalkers.org/events/battle-of-short-hills-march

“For those who do not feel they are up to do the full 13 miles, they are welcome to join the hikers at any point along the route,” said Paul Kiczek, who is coordinating the NJ Freewalkers hike, one of many held throughout the year in New York and the region

For those who hike up to the Deserted Village, they will have the option of riding vans supplied by Mountainside, Westfield, and the County, to the Westfield train station to make their way home. And for those who want to hit their 20-mile mark, a 7-mile route will take hikers through the Reservation and along the cross-county and East Coast Greenways to the Cranford train station.

In addition to several historic sites in Metuchen and Edison, hikers will pass the Frazee House, and then a special exhibit set up for this year, at the edge of the Ash Brook Reservation, perhaps the only location in the entire battle that has not been developed since that time. Local historians will be on hand to explain how the Battle progressed, and how the colonial forces sought to slow the British by having their cannons bogged down in the Ash Swamp.

The British hoped that if they feigned a departure from New Jersey, they would lure the Continental Forces down from the Watchung Mountains, crush them, and finally end the Revolutionary War. The plan didn’t go so well, even though Washington’s troops of less than 6,000 were vastly outnumbered by a combined British and Hessian force numbering about 12,000.

There is also a nature trail leading into the swamp for those who would like to see first-hand the conditions troops faced.

Hikers will also pass the historic Fanwood Train Station, where the historical society will have free refreshments for hikers. The route continues past the Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains and ends at the Deserted Village.

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