When many people think of New Jersey, stereotypes of crowded highways and tacky reality shows come to their minds. Historical sites are probably not at the top of someone’s thoughts about my home state. But New Jersey is steeped in American history and has lots of great historical sites to visit.
Due to its location between Philadelphia and New York City, New Jersey was literally the crossroads of the American Revolution. Many important battles were fought here, and Washington famously crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776 to reach Trenton.
One interesting historical site to visit in New Jersey is Jockey Hollow, part of Morristown National Historic Park, where Washington and his troops spent the harsh winter of 1779.
My children and I have hiked there a few times, but we really didn’t spend much time learning about the history of the place. So, when I heard that the Jockey Hollow Encampment was being reenacted, I decided it was time to learn a little more about the place.
Since my children are only 7 and 5, they really don’t know much about history at all. I tried to explain about Jockey Hollow, but I knew it was a bit beyond their level of understanding. I was concerned that they might not find the Encampment interesting, but I had no need to worry.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw white tents in neat rows across a field. The kids were immediately intrigued.
While walking from the car to the field, we got our first glimpse of the reenactors. Luke had a million questions. I was able to answer only a few.
We walked around a bit and talked to some of the reenactors, all of whom participate in reeanactments as a hobby. I was impressed by their knowledge of the time period. Leah was impressed by their costumes. And, Luke was impressed by their muskets and bayonets.
We wandered into a tent where Colonial games were set up, and a friendly volunteer taught us a few of them. We enjoyed playing Shut the Box and Nine Man Morris- games the Revolutionary War soldiers might have played while camping here, waiting for the snow to melt and battle season to begin.
At 3:00, the soldiers reenacted a training exercise. In Colonial days, they would have practiced formations but would have never wasted gunpowder on a training. However, the reenactors used real gunpowder for effect. The kids held their ears while they watched. They were both very interested in how the commands were called and guns were loaded.
After the reenactment, we wandered around the camp a little more. We heard stories of how some soldiers marched with no shoes or coats and others walked for weeks to join up with the Continental Army. The volunteers were great at explaining things to the kids on their level, so we all learned a lot.
On the way home, we talked about how lucky we are to live in the year 2013, and how grateful we are to the soldiers who gave up so much to fight for our freedom. We also felt grateful to the reenactors who shared their love of history with us and made it come so alive.
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