Revolutionary War history will come to life in downtown Somerville, New Jersey, as part of Somerset County’s second annual “History on the Green” on the historic Courthouse Green on July 22, featuring a historically significant performance by a world-famous fife and drum band.
The event is being sponsored by Somerset County, in history-rich central New Jersey, in association with the Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association’s national and New Jersey organizations.
During this family-friendly living history event, visitors can explore a pop-up Revolutionary War encampment, interact with George Washington and other reenactors, play with colonial toys and games, watch canon and musket demonstrations, and much more! Activities are scheduled between 10 AM and 4 PM.
This year’s program will feature a procession and concert by the internationally renowned Massachusetts Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums, made possible by the National Park Service’s Washington Rochambeau National Historic Trail. The band will start lining up at 2 PM in front of the historic Wallace House, which served as Washington’s winter headquarters between 1778-1779. At 2:30 p.m., the Fife & Drum Corps will parade one mile down Main Street to the historic Courthouse, where they will perform a finale concert with music from the Revolutionary War era around 3 PM. (The band plays earlier in the day in nearby Westfield, NJ.)
Among the songs will be a musical tribute that the French gave to Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, among others, at a party near Paris in 1783 that has not been performed since.
The tribute came in the form of a “drinking song” of 22 verses, composed by the philosopher Abbé André de Morrelet, and performed after an enormous feast and the borrowed mansion of Ben Franklin near Paris. The second verse, translated to English, sums up the sentiment of the occasion:
“I will never complain
On the Fate that made me a Frenchman.
But at this moment I envy
In this feast,
I make myself American.”
The lyrics were discovered by historian Dr. Iris de Rode and the melody found and arranged by reenactor Antoine Watts, both of whom will be on hand for the performance. New Jersey jazz vocalist Stacey Schulman, of As Is Jazz, will join the band to interpret the lyrics.
“The Frenchmen who fought alongside American officers as the new nation’s first allies were as excited as the Americans at the thought of having changed the course of history, toward freedom and self-determination,” explains Dr. Iris de Rode, the scholar who discovered the song which, notably references New Jersey’s capital city, Trenton. The historian will give a short lecture on the role of the French in winning the American Revolution at the Wallace House at 1pm before the brand musters at 2pm to march 1 mile along Main Street to arrive at the courthouse green.
“We are thrilled to have the amazing Massachusetts Middlesex County Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps perform for us at this year’s History on the Green event,” said Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “Somerset County is proud of our rich heritage and our designations as both a Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area and part of the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail.”
Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeaur, General Comte de Rochambeau, led French troops through the Somerset County towns of Bernards, Bridgewater, Manville, Millstone, Franklin, and Rocky Hill, as they joined the Continental Army in the fight for independence. General Washington served as the commander of the allied armies, while General Rochambeau had the military expertise to play a vital role in strategic planning. In fact, Rochambeau’s army was instrumental in the victory achieved in Yorktown, Va., in 1781, where British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to General Washington, sealing the American victory.