First-ever Fourth of July celebration was held in NJ with bombs and booze
The first official celebration of America's independence from England was held in New Jersey in 1778 and featured cannons and lots of rum.
New Jersey is deeply rooted in Revolutionary War history. While there were many battles and skirmishes in New Jersey, when General George Washington crossed the Delaware on Dec. 25 1776 and won the subsequent Battle of Trenton, it was the turning point of the war. Followed by the defeat of British troops in Princeton just seven days later, ultimate victory would soon belong to these newly united states.
Reminding his beleaguered troops what they were fighting for was critical to the war effort, on July 4, 1778, Washington ordered a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
At the time, Washington was headquartered at Ross Hall in Piscataway. His troops had just won the critical Battle of Monmouth. Coupled with the second anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, the general ordered a celebration.
Tomorrow, the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, will be celebrated by the firing thirteen Pieces of Cannon and a feu de joie of the whole line: The Army will be formed on the Brunswick side of the Raritan at five o'clock in the afternoon on the ground pointed out by the Quarter Master General. The Soldiers are to adorn their Hats with Green-Boughs and to make the best appearance possible – The disposition will be given in the orders of tomorrow – Double allowance of rum will be served out. - General George Washington, July 3, 1778
The celebration took place at 3 p.m. on the banks of the Raritan River in New Brunswick in what is now called Johnson Park.
At the end of the cannon and musket fire, the troops shouted “Perpetual and undisturbed Independence to the United States of America!” The website revolutionarynj.org noted the celebration was "so thunderous, it was heard by the retreating British forces miles away at Sandy Hook."
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