“During the Revolutionary War the farm was used as a camp by General Sullivan’s soldiers. . . .”
The above plaque, affixed to the northwest exterior of the Dvoor Farmhouse, has often elicited questions when we’ve given history tours of the building: Does the farm really have a connection to the American Revolution? Did Gen. John Sullivan’s troops camp here?
Honestly at this point in our research, we’re not sure. But before we share what we’ve learned, here’s a little background to lead up to our story:
General John Sullivan was born Feb. 17, 1740 in the province of New Hampshire.
He was once a close friend of the state’s royal governor, John Wentworth, but his Revolutionary leanings led him to support the cause of independence. In 1774, Sullivan served as part of the New Hampshire delegation at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. A year later, Congress appointed him a brigadier general in the Continental Army. He fought at the siege of Boston before being sent to Quebec to replace commander John Thomas, who had died of smallpox. Quebec was a disaster for the Americans. Later, Sullivan was made Major General. The British captured him after its victory in the Battle of Long Island in Aug. 1776. He was exchanged three months later, just in time to take part in the battles of Trenton and Princeton in Jan. 1777.
This leads us to our possible connection with the Dvoor Farm. On June 15, 1777, Gen. Benedict Arnold writes to Gen. Thomas Miflin from ‘Caryells Ferry’ (present day Lambertville):
“Dear General,
I have received no intelligence from General Washington since four o’clock last evening, at which time the enemy were encamped at Somerset Court House, supposed to be eleven thousand in number . . . Their first design seems to have been to cut off General Sullivan’s retreat and possess themselves of this place. Finding that General Sullivan had frustrated their intentions by a forced march, they appeared to have given over their first design . . . The militia turn out in great numbers in the Jersies. General Sullivan has gone to Flemington, twelve miles from this. The troops that arrive here are immediately sent after him. I am very fearful that the enemy will retire to Brunswick before you arrive with your re-enforcements, and oblige us to attack them . . .”
The next day, Arnold writes to Washington:
I am at a loss if any part of your Army, has removed from Middlebrook (present day Bridgewater), and more so of your Excellencys intentions, the Enemy I am informed are at Summerset height’s, intrenchg General Sullivan is at Flemington, with Sixteen hundred, Continental Troops, the Jersey Militia & One Thousand Men, I have sent him from this Place, half Continental, the others Militia . . .”
Through these communications, we read that Sullivan is in Flemington with the British in New Brunswick and Somerset Courthouse (Millstone). This leads to this interesting account penned by local historian Theodore Bellis in the 1924 book Old Times in Hunterdon.
The problem with this account is the complete lack of any documentation to support it. So, we offer Bellis’s account here with that caveat:
“During the Revolutionary War, General Sullivan with his division of the army, camped along Mine Brook on the north side of the road . . . General Sullivan had his headquarters in the old log house with Mrs. White. (i.e. Rachel Case, the wife of Johan Philip Case. Rachel remarried after Case’s death.)
One morning while the soldiers were preparing breakfast a courier came from New Brunswick with the word that the British were moving this way. The partly cooked breakfast, pots and all, were dumped into the wagons and all left, passing up through the heavy timber in the lowland; (the higher ground was covered with such growth of bushes they could not get thru.) When they got as far as the present meadow of Mrs. William J. Suydam the wagons and cannon all mired down in the soft ground. Mrs. Rachel White, who was following along to see them move, said “the men appeared to think the British were just behind them instead of forty miles away, lost their heads and as long as she lived had never seen or heard anything to compare with the confusion and swearing of that time.” After getting out they passed on up the ravine and camped along the west side of the road north of Klinesville school-house, in Jacob G. Barton’s field. From here the General had a fine view of the country east and southeast toward Elizabeth and New Brunswick.”
Bellis later adds, “Mrs. White said the horse that the courier came on was the wettest and most lathered horse ever seen in this part of the county.”
Still questions remain. Washington replies to Arnold on June 17th, that “a considerable force under Genl Sullivan lies at Sourland Hills . . .” And, John Raum’s book History of New Jersey, mentions Sullivan in Princeton, Rocky Hill and “behind the Sourland Hills, towards Flemington, where a considerable army was forming.”
So, questions remain. And we continue looking for answers.
(Notes on several sources: June 15 letter from Arnold to Miflin found in NJ Archives 2d Series, vol. 1, page 339, and also reprinted in Proceedings of the Union County Historical Society of Union County, N.J. for the years 1921, 1922, 1923; June 16 letter from Arnold in National Archives website here, and Washington’s June 17 letter is here. Raum’s History of New Jersey can be viewed here. Lastly, Bellis’s book found in the collections of the Hunterdon County Historical Society library.)