I’ve passed the Springfield house far too many times without ever stopping to visit. It’s only open for special occasions, so when I heard it was a participating site on Union County’s Four Centuries Weekend, I made it my first stop of the day.
The mustard-colored, Georgian style house was built sometime around 1760 on a plot of land that was substantially larger than the approximately suburban-tract-house sized lot it occupies now. Importantly, it was on the main road west from Elizabeth – the same track British troops took in their second attempt to capture Washington and his troops at Morristown. On June 23, 1780, those troops were met by an American militia as fierce as the one they’d faced two weeks earlier in Connecticut Farms, spurred on by a spirited Rev. James Caldwell. In addition to acting as the chaplain for the Third New Jersey Regiment, Caldwell was a fierce proponent of independence. When the troops began to run out of paper wadding for their muskets, he took Watts hymnals from the nearby Presbyterian church, shouting, “Give ‘em Watts, boys!”
Though outmatched and outnumbered, the Americans repulsed the combined British and Hessian troops, and the Battle of Springfield was the last major Revolutionary War battle fought on northern soil. The small village was decimated as the opposing forces burned down the church and all but four homes before they left. It’s theorized that the Cannon Ball House survived only because it was used as a hospital for injured soldiers.
|The Springfield cannonball.|
You might visit the Cannon Ball House to check out the story, but you’ll find much more when you get there. The Springfield Historical Society maintains the property and a range of artifacts to tell the story of the town and notable residents. While I was there, they had an extensive Civil War exhibit featuring Captain Edward Wade, a Springfielder who fought at Antietam and died from wounds suffered in battle. Other exhibits told the story of two brothers who’d grown up in town, one who fought on the Union side and the other for the Confederate. They even had a remarkably well-preserved piece of hardtack.
As I mentioned, the Cannon Ball House is open only for occasional special events and by appointment. If you'd like to check it out, contact the Historical Society at 973-376-4784.