I sympathize with Norman Ravitch, but suggest he look a bit more carefully. Not all has been ruined. I live in an “adult development” just off Route 9 in Manalapan, N.J. (I use the address of Englishtown because it is easier to say, and is the same P.O.). Route 9 is mini-malls and major-malls, but as one gets away from the highways this area is rather unspoiled. I can drive to Princeton in about 40 minutes with most of my route being through farm country and old homes. I can take Route 9 south to Freehold and deviate to the Monmouth Battleground (or I can take back roads south to the Battleground, and pass the Presbyterian Church that was the Tennent Meeting House where Washington and his troops gathered before the battle).

The Monmouth Battleground is unique among our monuments, in a sense. It was preserved by a lack of interest. The farmland and forestland remained in family hands for centuries. The attempt at preservation only started about 40 years ago as the development only came to the area about then and it was unnecessary before then. Some of the woods are now apple and peach orchards, but that is change without spoilage. I drive down the Old Tennant Road when taking the back route to the malls (and my eye doctor, and Centra State Hospital, which I have to visit now and then). I pass the tiny church and giant church yard on the hill at Tennant (the graves are mainly pre-Revolutionary, and a a historical site). I turn left on the Freehold/Englishtown road and pass another churchyard of early post-Revolutionary times. I drive about three miles ESE, with old farm buildings and farmland or woods on each side, where I turn right an pass under a single track railroad bridge (the line built in the 1800s, not now used) and go SW by S through the orchards on each side on Wemrock Road. As I drive down Wemrock I'm passing through the passage where our troops made a badly planned attack on the English rear at Freehold, then retreated toward Englishtown/Tennant followed by the Brits, then the passage was reversed as Washington rallied the troops and set up enfilade cannon on the hill top to the side.

So when I drive to my eye doctor, or my radiologist, or take my lady to Walmart, I pass through miles of nearly virgin land where the “turn around” battle of our Revolution took place — and see no mini-malls on the way.

I don't disagree with Norm in general; I share his regret in the loss of our treasures in so many places. I just boast of the old families of Monmouth County over the years. They didn’t preserve the Battleground as a monument, they kept it as their farms. Luckily it is now official under state law, and the law is well written to keep the land in the hands of those who farm it, but with the stricture that should they sell they have to sell either to the Preservation Association or to others who will farm. A neat trick that avoids exploitation either as an “official park” or as a development.

I suggest that all Princetonians, should they be visiting the college and have spare time with a car, make a visit to Monmouth Battlefield. The drive, by “best route,” is about 45 minutes. I’ll not tell you the “nicest route” (which is also shortest), as it involves a lot of turns (but takes you through Cranbury Township, which is also pre-Revolutionary).

Take Washington Road out of Princeton and across the Route 1 circle. Just before the PJ&B station take the left onto the Princeton/Hightstown Road. It is obvious, it is a “zig” of the main road; Washington dead ends at the PJ station. Stay on the Hightstown road until you see the bypass, the road number is 133. That will lead you past the NJ Turnpike and other things to Route 33. Wow, if you think that is complicated you should see my personal route.

Your goal is Route 33 that runs from Hightstown to Freehold and on to the shore. Given that I'll offer one more diverging routing. You could aim for Old Tennant Presbyterian Church or for the Monmouth Battlefield. I’m getting tired and ready for bed, so I suggest Google Earth for the final pictures. Just zero in on Monmouth County N.J. and search the Church or the Battlefield and figure out your own final route. For those interested in real history, and preservation, the trip will be worth it. Unlike many monuments it is mainly in its original state — the small visitors center on the hill of the cannons is not intrusive.


Jonathan Murphy ’57
Englishtown, N.J.