So Much More than George!

“So necessary a post – so much a thoroughfare” summed up Trenton’s contribution to the Revolutionary War, even without George Washington’s victory on Christmas Eve. As a strategic and critical stop for travelling and commerce between New York and Philadelphia, Trenton’s citizens saw more of the war than they wanted. Consider that the Continental Army spent more time in New Jersey than anywhere else; that more battles were fought in New Jersey than anywhere else; that the British Army set up across our rivers outside New York and Philadelphia because we were a great source of food; and we had the Old Barracks, which was used at different times as a military hospital, POW camp and housing for the Hessian camp followers.

To discuss the Importance of Trenton as “The Crossroads of the Revolution,” the New Jersey State Library hosted historian and author William L. (Larry) Kidder on Feb. 6 to discuss his latest book, Crossroads of the Revolution, covering the period 1774-1783. Kidder explained that Trenton and its people played many roles during the American Revolution in addition to the two battles at Trenton. He focused on those other roles. George Washington and his Continental Army spent much of the war in NJ, with Trenton a focal point for the activities necessary to keep that army in the field. The locals supported it through their actions, including serving in the militia, where service was required for those aged 16 to 50, but Kidder explained there were many ways to avoid actually turning out for duty when called. There were exemptions, you could pay a fine, send a substitute or simply ignore it. In that way the militia was quite a bit different from the Continental Army. Court-martialing half the population would not have kept the war machine running in New Jersey

Kidder received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, served four years of active duty in the US Navy and is a retired high school history teacher who taught for forty years in both public and private schools. For close to 30 years, he has volunteered at the Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell serving as an historian, interpreter and draft horse teamster.

His interest in history led him to the writing of his first book, The Pleasant Valley School Story: A Story of Education and Community in Rural New Jersey, which won the 2013 Scholarship and Artistry Award presented by the Country School Association of America. His second book, A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution, tells the story of the First Hunterdon Militia Regiment for the first time. Other books he has written, contributed to or edited include Farming Pleasant Valley: 250 Years of Life in Rural Hopewell Township, New Jersey, The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front and Meet Your Revolutionary Neighbors.

Kidder is active in historical societies in Ewing, Hopewell and Lawrence townships, and is an avid member of the Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM), the Washington’s Crossing Roundtable of the American Revolution, the New Jersey Living History Advisory Council and the Advisory Council for Crossroads of the American Revolution. He works with Crossroads as volunteer coordinator and editor of its Meet Your Revolutionary Neighbors project.