Unhappy Catastrophes:
The American Revolution in Central
New Jersey, 1776-1782

by Robert M. Dunkerly
Savas Beatie, 2022
192 pp.; 150 images, 10 maps
ISBN: 978-1-61121-527-4
(click here to order)

About the Book

“The Importance of the North River (the Hudson), and the sanguine wishes of all to prevent the enemy from possessing it, have been the causes of this unhappy catastrophe.” So wrote General George Washington in 1776 as the British invaded New Jersey. Worse was to come, as the British overran the state, and the Americans suffered one unhappy catastrophe after another.

Central New Jersey witnessed many small battles and important events during the American Revolution. This area saw it all: from spies and espionage, to military encampments like Morristown and Middlebrook, to mutinies, raids, and full-blown engagements like Bound Brook, Short Hills, and Springfield. The British had their own catastrophes too. So did civilians caught in the middle.

In the fall of 1776, British forces drove the Americans out and secured the state. Following the battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey became a battleground.

The spring of 1777 saw the formation of a new Continental Army, one that served the rest of the war. That spring, British and American forces clashed in a series of small but sharp battles.

By summer, British General Howe tried to lure Washington into a major engagement, but the Americans avoided the trap. As the conflict dragged on, civilians became engulfed in the fray, and a bitter civil war erupted, continuing until the end of the conflict.

In Unhappy Catastrophes: The American Revolution in Central New Jersey, 1776–1782, Robert M. Dunkerly follows the course of the war through its various phases and details lesser-known battles, military campsites, raids, espionage, and more. The book also includes historic sites to visit, markers, and websites for further research and study. This part of New Jersey saw more action during the Revolution than anywhere else in the young nation and has been called the Cockpit of the Revolution. To truly understand the war, look at central New Jersey.

About the Author:

Robert M. Dunkerly is a historian, award-winning author, and speaker who is actively involved in historic preservation and research. He works as a park ranger at Richmond National Battlefield Park. Among his several books are three in the ECW Series: To the Bitter End: Appomattox, Bennett Place, and the Surrenders of the Confederacy and No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign, and Embattled Capital: Richmond During the Civil War. He also blogs for Emerging Civil War and Emerging Revolutionary War Era.

Unhappy Catastrophes also includes:

Maps of the Middlebrook and Morristown encampments
Maps of the battles of the Short Hills, Bound Brook, and Springfield

Appendix A: The First Re-enactment? by Robert M Dunkerly
Appendix B: Unearthing Revolutionary New Jersey: An Archaeological Overview, by Dr. Rich Veit
Appendix C: Crossroads of the American Revolution, by Sue Kaufmann
Appendix D: Why Preserve Revolutionary War Battlefields? by Jim Lighthizer