BELLEVILLE, NJ — Belleville High School’s Class of 2018 Jordan Polite, left, and Nutley High School’s Class of 2018 Frank Gabriele, right, commemorate the 242nd anniversary of the arrival and encampment of Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army in Second River — Belleville/Nutley — on Nov. 22, 1776, during the army’s retreat from Fort Lee. The two newly enrolled college students raised the “Continental Colors” and the “Commander-in Chief” flags in front of Belleville Town Hall on Nov. 22. The Continental Colors, with 13 red and white stripes and the British Union Jack, in the upper corner, was the first U.S. national flag in use before the better know Betsy Ross flag.
The Commander-Chief flag, a blue banner with thirteen stars, was George Washington’s personal flag which accompanied him wherever he went, whether in camp or on a battlefield. Second River was the base of the 2nd Essex County Regiment during the American Revolution. During the week of Nov. 23 to 28, 1776, the local militia and George Washington’s rear guard battled the advance units of British General Cornwallis on two occasion here.
This Christmas season the Belleville Historical Society set one hundred and seventy wreaths on the graves of veterans buried in Belleville’s three cemeteries and also in Glendale cemetery in Bloomfield and at a dozen historic military gravesites in Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Union and Hudson counties. The graves held veterans from the American Revolution to Vietnam, including two Revolutionary War generals and five Medal of Honor recipients. This is the second year the society participated with Wreaths Across America but it has been setting wreaths on our own for 16 years.
Among those honored was World War 1 US Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient Gunnery Sgt. Fred Stockham of Belleville, who is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Union.