Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Tour of Historic Trenton

I went into Trenton last week to walk the path our soldiers took at the Battle of Trenton. From a stop at Washington Crossing State Park on the New Jersey side, a second stop at one of the bridges where our troops hauled artillery down and up a ravine, we walked from the monument to the Assunpink Creek, to the barracks and elsewhere. How sad that Trenton, Mercer County and New Jersey have squandered their rightful places in our history as the site of many of the key Revolutionary War battles.

Most of us know about Washington crossing the Delaware but Pennsylvania - mostly through its marketing efforts and New Jersey’s absence of any marketing at all – has somehow captured the attention, recognition and tourist dollars. It’s the heroic struggle wintering at Valley Forge that’s become lore, not the heroic struggle wintering at Morristown. Sure, Washington had to start from Pennsylvania to cross the Delaware but he landed in New Jersey and the actual fighting was in New Jersey yet it seems as though New Jersey’s political leaders are bent on denying any role in the events or are at least indifferent to the fact such events occurred. Even the event is commonly referred to as Washington Crossing the Delaware, not the Battle of Trenton. I won't even mention there were two battles of Trenton.

We stopped at a cemetery with Revolutionary War period grave stones, including one of Col. Rall, the Hessian commander who died in the battle. Nearby, was a mass grave of Hessian soldiers hidden under a recently paved parking lot. Just baffling. Someone had to decide to pave over it and no one thought this was even remotely noteworthy. Maybe if there were Union soldiers from the Civil War, runaway slaves or veterans of Manzanar under the pavement the site would have earned some media coverage and a sign as a historic marker. Nope. It’s just the American Revolution. Is it ironic that the original bridge over Assunpink Creek, which was the site of intense fighting during the battle, was razed years ago to make room for the Dept. of Human Services building? Odd that the decline in Trenton’s manufacturing base seems to coincide with the rise of the socialist state. It’s almost inconceivable how Trenton could be dotted throughout the city with historic buildings and attractions, and do next to nothing to capitalize on it yet raise taxes year after year while crying about a lack of funds – and certainly a lack of funds for promoting history and tourism.

I’ve attended Trenton Thunder baseball games and Trenton Titans hockey games but the city offers little else as an enticement to stay longer. No cohesion of events and activities. We go to the game. We go home. New Jersey politicians find it so easy to raise taxes with virtually no consequences. Why should they work to strengthen its tourist economy when they can continually tax us and tax us and still get reelected?

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