Summit, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites
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REVOLUTIONARY WAR SITES IN SUMMIT, NEW JERSEY

Revolutionary War Summit New Jersey
"OLD SOW" CANNON AND SIGNAL BEACON PLAQUE
Old Sow Cannon - Summit New Jersey
Revolutionary War Signal Beacon - Summit, New Jersey
"Old Sow" Cannon and Signal Beacon Plaque
226 Hobart Ave.
(Near the intersection of Beacon Rd.)
Map / Directions to the "Old Sow" Cannon and Signal Beacon Plaque

This plaque marks the site of a signal beacon and a cannon called the "Old Sow." Both were used to alert local militiamen to action during times of attack and danger during the Revolutionary War, most notably during two important battles which occurred in this area in June 1780, the Battle of Connecticut Farms and the Battle of Springfield. [1]

The signal beacon and cannon were placed in this location because it is on a hill within the Watchung Mountains, and so it could be seen from a distance. Although the plaque states 1776, the signal beacon was most likely put here in late 1777 or early 1778. [2] Around the same time, several other signal beacons were placed in locations throughout Central Jersey along the Watchung Mountains at Morristown, Long Hill, and Bound Brook. [3]

In 1779, General George Washington ordered that a series of additional signal beacons be created in New Jersey. Washington specified in his orders that the beacons were to be "built of Logs in the form of a Pyramid, 16 or 18 feet square at the Base, and about 20 feet in height, the inner part to be filled with Brush." [4] The brush would be set on fire and the blaze of the fire would make the beacon visible for a great distance when lit.

It is likely that the signal beacon which stood on this hill had been built in a similar manner to those later described by Washington, or that it was redesigned in 1779 to match Washington's specification.

Summit New Jersey - Revolutionary War Sites

Source Notes:

1. ^  Thomas Fleming, The Forgotten Victory (New York: Reader's Digest Press, distributed by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc, 1973) Pages 102 and its accompanying source note on page 311

2. ^ Minutes of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey (Jersey City: John H. Lyon, 1872) Page 162
Available to be read at the Internet Archive here
▸ The minutes for Monday, November 17, 1777, reference plans "to erect a pile on the Hill near where Mr McGee formerly lived."
This pile is identified as being the signal beacon at this location in Thomas Fleming, The Forgotten Victory, on page 102 and its accompanying source note on page 311

3. ^ A New Jersey Gazette article of January 28, 1778 described the creation of a beacon at Morristown and mentions that "buildings of similar construction are also erected at Long Hill and on the heights of Bound Brook."
The article is reprinted in:
Andrew M. Sherman, Historic Morristown, New Jersey: The Story of Its First Century (Morristown: Howard Publishing Company, 1905) Pages 266-267
Available to be read at Google Books here

4. ^ “From George Washington to Brigadier General Henry Knox, 23 March 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0562. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 19, 15 January–7 April 1779, ed. Philander D. Chase and William M. Ferraro. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, p. 577.]

General Washington wrote three other letters the same day to other generals regarding construction of signal beacons:

• “From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 23 March 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0566. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 19, 15 January–7 April 1779, ed. Philander D. Chase and William M. Ferraro. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, pp. 580–581.]

• “From George Washington to Major General Arthur St. Clair, 23 March 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0565. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 19, 15 January–7 April 1779, ed. Philander D. Chase and William M. Ferraro. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, p. 580.]

• “From George Washington to Major General Stirling, 23 March 1779,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-19-02-0567. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 19, 15 January–7 April 1779, ed. Philander D. Chase and William M. Ferraro. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, p. 581.]

Website Researched, Written, Photographed and Designed by Al Frazza
This website, its text and photographs are © 2009 -2017 Al Frazza. All rights reserved.