"Give 'em Watts, Boys..."
Springfield, NJ, will celebrate the 225th Anniversary of the Township’s Incorporation in 2019. Why did the town wait until 1794 to do so? BECAUSE IT TOOK 14 YEARS TO RECOVER from being burned to the ground by the British Army on June 23rd, 1780!
HISTORY HAPPENED HERE! The climactic battle of the final invasion of NJ was fought in Springfield. Approx. 6,000 Crown forces under Gen. Knyphausen attacked from Staten Island, NY, via Elizabethtown, NJ, attempting to seize the Hobart Gap in the Watchung Mts. and then Morristown. He was stopped by Gen. Greene with a force of approx. 2,000 Continentals and New Jersey Militia.
Springfield’s defense was bolstered by the heroic actions of Rev. James Caldwell, whose wife, Hannah, was killed on June 7th at Conn. Farms (now Union, NJ), becoming NJ’s “Jenny McCrea.” During the height of the battle, Caldwell took the old Watts Hymnals from the 1st Presbyterian Church, gave them to the troops for “wadding” and cartridge paper, shouting, “Give ’em Watts, Boys! Put Watts Into ‘em, Boys!”
Stopped at Springfield by the bravery of Maxwell’s Jerseymen, Angell’s Rhode Islanders, “Light Horse Harry” Lee’s Dragoons and many others, the town was burned to the ground upon the withdrawal of British forces. When studying the American Revolution, only a handful of towns or communities were burned to the ground by the British, in an act of terror to militarily intimidate the population. Lexington & Concord were not. Springfield was!
Only 4 houses survived; 3 behind American lines to the South & West, and the historic “Cannonball” House, a British field hospital which was struck by an American 4 lbr. during the battle. (Today, it’s owned and run by the Springfield Historical Society.)
If you have not read it already, get Thomas Fleming’s classic “The Forgotten Victory” from the library, which is the best book on the battle and reads like a novel.