With some of the most important Revolutionary War battles fought in our region around the Christmas and New Years, it is no wonder that the area comes alive in history this time of the year.
And while some, like the annual Washington Crossing the Delaware re-enactment, have become historic traditions in themselves, others are growing and becoming an important part of the region’s cultural life — bringing community members and outside visitors together to see history come alive and creating places to take kids over the holiday break.
The Johnson Ferry House at New Jersey’s Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville unofficially starts off the season with its annual lantern walking tour on Friday, December 23. This only-in-this-region event takes visitors from that spot on the river where Washington’s army landed to the 18th century home of the farmers and ferry operators who welcomed them.
The tour guided by historians includes re-enactors working in the Dutch-styled bar and a visit to the 18th century Johnson Ferry House where a warm hearth fire, hot cider, and Dutch donuts will be shared. Two tours are scheduled at 7 and 7:30 p.m. $5 to $10, reservations required, rain or shine. 355 Washington Crossing Pennington Road, Titusville. 609-737-2515 orwww.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html.
The 64th annual re-enactment of George Washington Crossing the Delaware is once again set for Christmas Day. While the main event starts at 1 p.m., come early to march with the troops, tour buildings, watch the troops gather, and join fellow countrymen and visitors waiting for that cannon shot that signals the boats to depart from Pennsylvania.
Early arrival will also help secure a parking place or a spot on the New Jersey side to watch the troops arrive. For more details, visit www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/
The annual Patriots Week returns to downtown Trenton on Monday, December 26, to launch the largest Revolutionary War re-enactment event anywhere.
Here are just some of the many events, including the grand finale Battle of Trenton. For more information about Patriots Week, visit www.patriotsweek.com.
Battles of Trenton Walking Tours: Monday, December 26, and Wednesday, December 28, 10 a.m. to noon. Ralph Siegel of Trenton Battlefield Tours leads this 10-block interpretive walk that narrates the dramatic minute-by-minute events of the Battles of Trenton. Meet at the Sunrise Luncheonette, 26 South Warren Street, at 9 a.m. for questions and discussion, free.
State House Behind-the-Scenes Tour: Tuesday, December 27, and Wednesday, December 28, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It is a 90-minute behind-the-scenes — and from basement to attic — peek of the New Jersey State House. With portions built in 1792, it is one of the oldest continuously operating capitol buildings in the nation. The tour is geared for adults and participants must be ready to climb steep stairs. Free but reservations are required by calling 609-847-3150.
Trenton Free Public Library Lectures. Tuesday, December 27, 5:30 p.m.: Historian and author Larry Kidder presents “Ten Crucial Days.”
Wednesday, December 28, 5:30 p.m.: Author Dave Hart presents “John Hart: Portrait of a Patriot,” about the Hopewell-based signer of the Declaration of Independence (who also happens to be an ancestor of the speaker).
Thursday, December 29, 5:30 p.m.: New Jersey Historical Commission chair Maxine Lurie and Monmouth University professor and archeologist Richard Veit talk about their new book, “Envisioning NJ.”
Friday, December 30, 2 p.m.: Historian and former Trenton High School teacher Jack Washington presents “In Search of a Community’s Past,” about Trenton’s black community between 1860 and 1900, free, 120 Academy Street, Trenton.
“The Trial of Abraham Hunt: An American Christmas Story,” on Wednesday, December 28, 7 p.m., a costumed staged reading of a play by Michael A. Davis, performed at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing, 101 Scotch Road, Ewing. The event focuses on the true story of a Trenton merchant accused of aiding the British during the Battle of Trenton. The presentation includes a discussion with the playwright, director, and historian as well as light refreshments, $20.
The annual Colonial Ball, on Friday, December 30; 7 p.m., and held at the Trenton Masonic Temple, 100 Barrack Street. The event features period costumes and military uniforms and includes Colonial-era music and dancing, $17.76 advance tickets, and $20 at the door.
First Battle Reenactment, Saturday, December 31, 11 a.m.: Meet at Old Barracks Museum, 101 Barrack Street, and follow the Hessian soldiers reenactors’ several block march to site of the battle, at the Trenton Battle Monument, free.
Tucker’s Tales Puppet Theater’s “The Trouble with Trenton” will take place on Saturday, December 31, at noon and 2 p.m., between the two Battle of Trenton reenactments. Hosted by the Old Barracks, the show uses live music, puppets and props, and audience participation to recreate the battle at one of the very spots where it occurred: Hanover Street Plaza at the corner of West Hanover and North Warren streets. Free.
Second Battle Reenactment, Saturday, December 31; 3 p.m., Mill Hill Park, where a narrated re-enactment of the Battle of the Assunpink takes place, free.
New Jersey State Museum in Trenton will be open from Tuesday through Saturday, December 27 through 30, with its New Jersey history exhibitions as well presenting some additional Patriots Week themed family-friendly programs.
“Planetarium 1776 Sky Talk:” A presentation that shows audiences the constellations and planets that filled the sky on the stormy night when George Washington crossed the Delaware River to march on Trenton. Also included is the “Dream to Discovery,” Tuesday through Friday, December 27 to 30, at 1 p.m., $5 to $7.
“Holiday Maker Space – Toys!” Families participate in the museum’s current exhibition “Toy World,” an overview of New Jersey’s place in toy making and manufacturing, by making their own toys, including a Colonial era one to take home. Tuesday through Friday, December 27 to 30, noon to 2 p.m., free.
“Music of Colonial New Jersey:” David and Ginger Hildebrand of the Colonial Music Institute presenting a free concert of the favorite music from that historic era. The Maryland-based musicians are known for their historical researching, recording, and performing in such nationally significant places as Mount Vernon, Smithsonian Institute, National Gallery of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, and other historic and educational centers around the nation, Thursday, December 29, 12:30 p.m., museum auditorium, free.
“Civil War Flag Unveiling:” Reenactors from another famous American war change the exhibition of flags from the New Jersey Civil War Flag Collection, one of the largest collections of its kind in the nation, share stories of the flags and their battles. Friday, December 30, noon to 1:30 p.m., in the museum galleries at 225 West State Street, free.
More Battles Ahead
New Jersey Revolutionary War battle activities continue into the new year, starting with the Princeton Historical Society presentation “Retreat Through the Jerseys: Prelude to the Battle of Princeton,” presented by Larry Kidder at Updike Farm, Thursday, January 5, 7:30 p.m., free.
Kidder, a noted area historian who lives in Ewing, is the author of two books on New Jersey and the American Revolution: “A People Harassed and Exhausted” and the soon to be printed “Crossroads of the American Revolution: Trenton 1774-1783.” His talk will focus on Washington’s 1776 retreat through New Jersey and the British occupation in the Trenton-Princeton region set the stage for the a series of pivotal battles, including the January 3, 1777, Battle of Princeton.
It will be followed by two other free events. First is the all-day “The Ravages of Princeton” follows on Saturday, January 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Morven Museum, 55 Stockton Street, Princeton.
The program involves the His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot, a historic group that recreates the daily lives of members of the Revolutionary-era British forces. The day includes soldiers receiving orders, serving on various work details, participating in sentry and patrolling activities, marching in formation, drills practices, and food preparation. Sessions will also be devoted to the British occupation’s effect on the lives of citizens, with topics including loyalty oaths, British justice, slavery, and plundering. The day concludes with British Army historian William P. Tatum III discussing the history and background story of the Princeton Battle Monument on Stockton Street, just north of Morven.
Then on Sunday, January 8, the community is invited to join historians and reenactors to experience the Battle of Princeton in the program “The Battle, a Real Time Tour.” Set to run from 6:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., the event, led by Tatum, will let participants “experience the battle, minute by minute, at the same time of year, and in similar weather conditions.” Participants should meet at the Clarke House, 500 Mercer Street, Princeton. For more information, visit www.theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.org.
For complete listings of holiday and other events, check U.S. 1’s online calendar at www.princetoninfo.com.