September Skirmish Anniversary

Courtesy The Belleville TimesRead the story

The battle of Second River, fought in September 1777 in what is now Belleville, N.J.

Story courtesy The Belleville Times.

Skirmish of Second River
In September of 1777 there was an engagement which is most frequently referred to as the “Battle of Second River”. It is for this engagement that a memorial plaque has been erected in the park. The British intended to expand their invasion with a larger force in central Jersey. But first, they had to pass through Second River and beneath the old church tower.

Eyes in the tower saw the advance and sounded the alarm. Under the direction of Captains Hornblower, Joralemon, Rutgers and Rutan, a defense was prepared. Skirmishes went on for two days. It began with an artillery barrage of our town followed by musket and cannon battles in the streets.

Sending for reinforcements, the American troops valiantly held their ground and managed to damage British General. Sir Henry Clinton’s hilltop headquarters with a direct hit from a cannonball, which happened to be on what is now Franklin Ave. September 14th turned into an all-day pitched battle.

With patriot reinforcements pouring in from neighboring communities, front lines eventually took shape near to Mill Street and Union Avenue. The British forces, overwhelming in numbers, eventually broke through. But once again, the local militia had succeeded in delaying the advance and weakening the invading army.

A large boulder also rests at the fork in the road between Union and Franklin Avenues on Mill Street as a landmark to mark the spot where the final shots of the Battle of the Second River were fired. A bronze plaque was placed on the rock in 1932

Sources: Norman Price, Village of Second River author; Michael Perrone, Dave Hinrichs, The Belleville Times.


Benjamin Lucas

(October 25, 1945) -- Cpl. Benjamin Lucas, 23, was killed in a plane crash in China on Sept. 28.

Lucas, son of Mrs. Louise Lucas of Newark Place, was on his way home when the plane was destroyed in a crash.

Cpl. Lucas had completed two years in the Far East, most recently stationed at the headquarters of Chinese Combat Command.

He enlisted in the Army in March 1942.

Cpl. Lucas was first stationed in India. He went through the reopening of the Burma Road and was with the Mars Task Force.

The young man had three battle stars, and had been shot by Jap snipers in the past.

Among his survivors are his brother Pfc. Andrew Lucas who was in Europe. The two brothers exchanged 500 letters while separated.


Charles Mc Ginty

Private Charles Mc Ginty was killed in action on Sept. 29, 1918. He joined the Army from New Jersey. Pvt. Mc Ginty served with the 147th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division. He is listed as Missing in Action or Buried at Sea on the Tablets of the Missing at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France.

Belleville Sons Honor Roll

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William J. Salmon

( Oct. 26, 1944) -- Marine Corp. William J. Salmon, 21, of Dewitt Avenue, was killed in action Sept. 23, on Peleleiu on Palau Islands in the South Pacific.

Cpl. Salmon was a sniper-scout on the Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester and New Guinea campaigns.

He left Belleville High School in his junior year to join the CCC.

While overseas, he met his brother on Guadalcanal in December 1941. The brothers both enlisted one week after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The Palue Islands in what is now the Republic of Palau, are in the westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands, north of Australia and west of Micronesia.


Leonard R. Willette

(Jan. 18, 1945) -- Flight Officer Leonard R. Willette, 22, was declared killed in action this week.

Willette, service number O1692873, had been listed as missing in action since Sept. 22.

He is the son of Newark Police Lt. and Mrs. Lawrence Willette, of Stephens Street.

The young man enlisted in the Army Air Corps while a student at New York University. He entered the service from New Jersey.

He refused an appointment by the late Senator Barbour to West Point in order to get into active combat more quickly.

Willette received his wings in February 1944, at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Ala.

He was a P-51 Mustang pilot based in Italy with the famed 99th Fighter Squadron, 322nd Fighter Group, under command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis.

2nd Lt. Willette, was awarded the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star, WWII Victory Medal, WWII Lapel Button.

He is also survived by a brother Pvt. Lawrence Willette Jr. at Tinker Field, Okla.

He is memorialized at: Plot J, Row 18, Grave 17, at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.


John F. Verian

(Oct. 12, 1944) -- Sgt. John F. Verian, 22, of Washington Avenue, was killed in action in the midst of the Siegried Line in Germany.

Sgt. Verian landed in Oran, North Africa on Christmas Day 1942, six months after he entered the Army.

He was wounded in Tunisia while serving in the First Division.

Sgt. Verian was also wounded in the invasion of Sicily on July 10.

In January 1944 he went to England and was training the Yanks for five months in invasion tactics.

He landed in Normandy on D-Day.

Sgt. Verian joined the Army 25 years to the day after his father joined for World War I.


William J. Mears

(November 30, 1944) -- Marine Sgt. William J. Mears, of Jefferson Street, was killed in action in Peleliu on Palau Islands in the South Pacific on Sept. 15.
Mears enlisted in the Marines the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

During his tour he was cited as a demolitions expert. He was a veteran of Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, New Britain and Bougainville during his 28 months overseas.

He was scheduled to return to the States to begin study at officer candidate school.

The Palue Islands in what is now the Republic of Palau, are in the westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands, north of Australia and west of Micronesia.


Glenn C. Nelson

(Nov. 30, 1944) -- Ship's cook 3/c Glenn C. Nelson, 21, missing since his ship-destroyer Warrington went down off the Virginia coast Sept. 12 in what was to be known as the Great Atlantic Hurricane of Sept. 14, 1944.
Nelson enlisted in the Navy in August 1941.

His wife Anna lives on Washington Avenue.


William Russell White

(Oct. 5, 1944) -- Quartermaster 3/c William Russell White, 30, the son of Mrs. Caroline E. White of Holmes Street, was presumed to be dead by the Navy.

White had not been heard from since his destroyer the USS Rowan was blown up off the beaches of Salerno, Italy, on Sept. 11, 1943.

White enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on Nov. 2, 1942. His service number is 07087795. He was called to active duty the following May.

He was awarded the Purple Heart.

He is listed among the Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy .

Thomas A. Peacock

(Oct. 14/Nov.18, 1943) -- Seaman 2/c Thomas A. Peacock, 20, was killed in action and buried at sea in the area of Malta, in the invasion of Sicily on Sept. 11.

Peacock was believed to be aboard the USS Savannah in the Mediterranean when it was attacked by Nazi dive bombers.

A small memorial ceremony was held on Armistice Day (November 1943) in the Soho section of Belleville incorporating the Town's Honor Roll.

Peacock is believed to be buried at sea off the island of Malta.

He is listed among the Missing in Action or Buried at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy.

His letters home do not reveal much. He left for North Africa in April. Another letter said he's part of the invasion of Sicily.

Seaman Peacock received a service bar for action in the South Pacific last winter.

The young Peacock, the son of Mr. & Mrs. William E. Peacock of Harrison Street, left Belleville High School in his junior year to enlist in the Navy in October 1942.


Frank H. Metzler

(Oct. 4, 1945) -- Sgt. Frank H. Metzler, 21, was presumed dead on Sept. 10, the War Dept. notified his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Metzler of Reservoir Place.
Sgt. Metzler, a tail gunner on a Flying Fortress, had been overseas five weeks before being reported missing in Germany since March 8, 1944.

He is survived by his brother Pfc. Charles Metzler of the 1st Army who returned after 13 months in the infantry in Europe.

Arthur H. Lundgren

Sgt. Arthur H. Lundgren, of Smith Street, died at Fort Dix, in September 1942.


John F. Kirwin

(Sept. 28, 1944) -- Ordnanceman 3/c John F. Kirwin of Forest Street was killed in the South Pacific when his patrol plane (PBM) crashed at sea on Sept. 5.

"Jack" Kirwin was 19 when he enlisted in the Navy in February 1943. He didn't finish high school, he went as a senior to boot training at Sampson.

Kirwin received his specialized training in Tennessee, Florida and California before going overseas in July 1944.