Woodland Park, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites
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REVOLUTIONARY WAR SITES IN WOODLAND PARK, NEW JERSEY

Revolutionary War in Woodland Park New Jersey
WOODLAND PARK - "WASHINGTON'S RIFLE CAMP" SEAL
Commemorating the encampment of Major Parr's Rifle Corps, October 9-17, 1780
Rifle Camp Park, Revolutionary War
Rifle Camp Park, Revolutionary War

The "Washington's Rifle Camp" seal appears on several Welcome to Woodland Park signs located at borders of the borough. The seal also appears on the front of the Municipal Building and on some public trash receptacles located throughout Woodland Park. The sign pictured above is on Rifle Camp Road by Lackawanna Ave.

Woodland Park - "Washington's Rifle Camp" Seal
Located throughout Woodland Park
Map / Directions to the Welcome to Woodland Park / "Washington's Rifle Camp" signs

Major James Parr's Rifle Corps

The attractive "Washington's Rifle Camp" seal commemorates the October 9-17,1780 encampment of Major James Parr's rifle corps in what is now Woodland Park. [1] The rifle corps was part of a larger encampment of Continental (American) soldiers which spread throughout what are now Wayne, Totowa, Little Falls, and Hawthorne. These locations put them behind the protection of the Watchung Mountains. [2]

The section of the Watchung Mountains which runs through Woodland Park is called Garrett Mountain. It is a two-and-a-half mile ridge which runs from Route 46 to Route 80. Two parks now make up most of the mountain ridge: Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation. [3]

RIFLE CAMP PARK and GARRETT MOUNTAIN RESERVATION
Woodland Park, New Jersey
Woodland Park, New Jersey
Woodland Park, New Jersey
Rifle Camp Park, Revolutionary War
Identical Watchung Ridge signs are in both
Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation
  
Great Notch Lookout Sign
Located in Rifle Camp Park
 
Rifle Camp Park
387 Rifle Camp Rd.
Garret Mountain Reservation
8 Mountain Ave.
Map / Directions
Both Parks are open every day from sunup to sundown
Rifle Camp Park Website
Garret Mountain Reservation Website

The Watchung Mountains and the Great Notch

It can be hard for us living in the 21st century to visualize the importance of the Watchung Mountains during the Revolutionary War. Over two centuries of development and highway building have changed the visible landscape. These changes allow us to easily drive over the Watchung Mountains without taking much notice of them. But in the 1700's, they had a great effect on movement. The cliff walls of the Watchung Mountains created barriers to travel, so that it was often necessary to travel miles out of a direct route in order to get where you wanted to go.

British forces occupied New York City for most of the Revolutionary War, so General George Washington often positioned his troops in New Jersey to the west of the Watchung Mountains. The ridges of the Watchung Mountains provided layers of protection that stretched for over 40 miles from Mahwah to Somerset County. [4]

On two occasions in 1780 (July 1-29 and October 9 - November 27), Washington positioned the Continental Army behind the Watchung Mountains in this area. During these periods, Washington made his headquarters at Dey Mansion in what is now Wayne. Thousands of Continental Army soldiers were encamped over the surrounding area throughout what are now Totowa, Woodland Park, Little Falls, and Hawthorne.

The section of the Watchung Mountains which runs through Woodland Park is called Garrett Mountain. It is a two-and-a-half-mile ridge which runs from Route 46 to Route 80. Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation make up most of the mountain ridge. The mountain ridge offers far views to the east, so it was used as a lookout during this period.

A major break in the cliff wall of the Watchung Mountains in this area was the Great Notch. It is difficult to get a full understanding of how much of a notch in the mountains it was before modern times, but the Great Notch cut through the area where Route 46 now goes through.

Major Parr's Rifle Corps were stationed at the Great Notch on October 9, with orders to patrol the roads leading from the notch to Acquackanonk (now Passaic) and Newark., Parr's corps are believed to have camped at the site of what is now Rifle Camp Park, which is named  in their honor. On October 17, they were replaced at the Notch by a regiment of the Second Connecticut Brigade. [5]

Because of the Great Notch's importance as a break in the cliff wall, it also saw the movements of other patrolling troops throughout the July 1-29 and October 9 - November 27, 1780 encampment periods. A regiment of cavalry were stationed less than two miles from the Great Notch at the Little Falls on the Passaic River and passed through the Great Notch on their patrols during these months. [6]

On October 23, General Lafayette and his Light Infantry troops passed through the Great Notch en route from Wagaraw (now Hawthorne) to Cranetown (now Montclair). [7]



Visiting Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain Reservation

Both parks are open to the public every day from sunup to sundown. The cliffs which had strategic value as lookouts during the Revolutionary War now offer sensational views of the modern landscape. As shown below, both parks have quarter-operated viewing machines to bring distant spots into view, so remember to bring some quarters with you so that you can use the viewer. 

Among the attractions of the parks are the John Crowley Nature Center and Astronomical Observatory in Rifle Camp Park, and Lambert Castle in Garrett Mountain Reservation. Both parks have hiking trails and picnic areas.

Woodland Park, New Jersey
Garret Mountain Reservation
The View from Rifle Camp Park
  
The View from Garrett Mountain Reservation
 

Source Notes:

1. ^ These dates can be determined by George Washington's General Orders for October 9 and 17, 1780:

“General Orders, 9 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-03520 [last update: 2016-03-28]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.
 ▸ These orders state, "Colonel Moylan with his regiment of Cavalry will take post near the little falls and Major Parr with his Corps at the Notch; and both will patrole on the roads towards Newark and Aququakenung." (See the Little Falls page for more about Moylan's cavalry there.)

“General Orders, 17 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-03603. [This is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.]
 ▸ These orders state, "A regiment from the second Connecticut brigade to take post at the Notch and relieve Major Parr who is to join the light corps of the army."

2. ^ For more information and accompanying source notes about the encampments of July 1-29 and October 9-27, see the Wayne, Totowa, Little Falls, and Hawthorne pages of this website

3. ^ Note that while a large portion of Garrett Mountain Reservation is located within Woodland Park, portions of it fall within the boundaries of Paterson and Clifton.

4. ^ For more information and accompanying source notes about other New Jersey Revolutionary War historic sites associated with the importance of the Watchung Mountains, see the Bridgewater, Elizabeth, Green Brook, Little Falls, Millstone, Morristown, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, and Union pages of this website.

5. ^ “General Orders, 17 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-03603. [This is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.]
 ▸ These orders state, "A regiment from the second Connecticut brigade to take post at the Notch and relieve Major Parr who is to join the light corps of the army."

6. ^ See the Hawthorne and Montclair pages of this website for more information and accompanying source notes about Colonel Moylan's Dragoons at the Little Falls.

7. ^ “General Orders, 23 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-03669 [last update: 2016-03-28]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.
 ▸ These orders state, "The Corps of Light Infantry will remove from its present encampment and take Post on the most convenient ground to the Cranetown gap and the notch for the more effectual security of our right."

See the Hawthorne and Montclair pages of this website for more information and accompanying source notes about the events related to Lafayette's light infantry troops in those locations.

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