Middlebrook, 1778-79: The Forgotten Cantonment
It is more than ironic that the most recognizable winters of the War for American independence are those that featured some major elements of calamity. Lost in the chronology of eight years of warfare with Great Britain are those winter episodes that reflect good organization, largely effective supply efforts, and favorable health management. Of the seven winter cantonments that The Continental Army witnessed during the war, Middlebrook was arguably the most successful. As the winter that followed the disease-ridden cantonment at Valley Forge, Middlebrook was managed in a manner that not only defeated that particular scourge, but also included improvements in the administrative and practical actions of General Washington, his staff, and his senior officers.
The locations for building the army's huts were within Somerset County, and most were near the village of Bound Brook. To the west of Bound Brook, a stream called the Middlebrook flows into the Raritan River. Because the majority of the main army was positioned on the slopes of the Watching Mountains in this vicinity, the entire cantonment bore the name of this waterway. However, the Pennsylvania troops were located in Hillsborough, and the artillery park was located in Pluckemin.
The winter at Middlebrook featured relatively mild weather. The troops were well-trained, thanks to a year of drilling under "Baron" von Steuben, and new uniforms from France complemented their improved military demeanor. A major offensive was planned and executed against the Iroquois, and various dignitaries were received and entertained.
Little visible evidence survives from Middlerook. Four houses used by officers survive, including the Wallace's house, although some include major alterations. The northern fringe of the Maryland division's huts is preserved as the Washington Campground, just north of Bound Brook.
The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage Association
P.O. Box 225, Somerville, New Jersey 08876