How to use the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution in New Jersey Resources in a High School Social Studies Classroom

How to Use the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution in New Jersey Resources in a High School Social Studies Classroom

By: Lucille Finnegan

Abstract: This article seeks to provide other high school educators with some concrete methods for implementing the NJCSS’ resources on ordinary individuals from the American Revolution into their classroom. This article offers educators multiple ways to integrate the decision activities and the associated resources into a unit on the American Revolution.

For the past two years, educators have conducted meaningful research on the lives of ordinary individuals in New Jersey, who were present during the American Revolution. They have uncovered stories of individuals torn between the loyalties of their family members, Native Americans dealing with the aftermath of fraudulent land deals, and women trying to survive in the midst of war. These stories are engaging and illuminating, but not well known. Thus, below, I recommend different student-centered ways to implement these stories into your classroom.

Using the Decision Activities

The decision activities could be used extensively in a Revolutionary America unit centered around a question such as: “How were the lives of women, African-Americans, and Native Americans impacted by the Revolution?”  As an introduction to this unit, students could engage in inquiry based learning by investigating the decision activities of a certain group or individual. For example, one group could study women and could explore the lives of Margaret Hill Morris and Annis Boudinot Stockton. To guide students through the decision activities, students could fill out a graphic organizer similar to the one featured in Exhibit 1 (see below). After each group had read through the decision activities and completed their respective graphic organizers, students could jigsaw with the different groups to learn what other groups had discovered before culminating in a full class discussion. Stating a claim and supporting it with evidence is an important disciplinary skill in social studies.

If a teacher did not want to center their American Revolution unit solely on the question mentioned above, these activities could be very easily integrated into a unit as extension activities. For example, if students were considering how African-Americans were involved in the Revolution, they could consider the story of Samuel Sutphen, an enslaved African-American from Hunterdon County who served as a replacement soldier for his enslaver. For classrooms looking at how the American Revolution was in many ways a civil war, the Guillam Demarest decision activity would be useful. For others looking at Native Americans, I suggest using the Chief Tishcohan decision activity.

Using the Decision Activities in Conjunction with the Hamilton Education Program

Additionally, these decision activities could be used as a starting point for students participating in the Hamilton Education Program, a program run by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The Hamilton Education Program challenges students to make a performance piece (a song, skit, poem etc.) based on a key event or individual’s life from the founding period of the United States. Since these decision activities highlight the fascinating stories of individuals from the Revolutionary War period, they would serve as excellent base material for any performance piece. Additionally, the primary sources associated with these decision activities would also enable students to conduct the necessary research the program requires (see the Annotated Directory of Resources). For more information on the Hamilton Education program, please visit this page.

Using the Annotated Directory of Resources on the American Revolution

Alternatively, teachers could integrate the primary sources gathered by this project into their classroom by having students explore the Annotated Directory posted on the website. This type of lesson could be done at the beginning of the school year, when students are first learning how to analyze primary sources. After learning how to identify the author, the author’s purpose, the intended audience, and the point of view of a primary source, students could then apply their analysis techniques to one (or more!) of the primary sources located in the Annotated Directory of Resources. Students could use a graphic organizer similar to Exhibit 2 (see below) to assist them in their research and improving their required proficiencies relating to Sources and Evidence.

Exhibit 1: Sample Graphic Organizer

EQ: How were the lives of women, African-Americans, and Native Americans impacted by the Revolution?
 What did you learn about this individual’s life?What decision did you make? Why did you make that decision?How does this decision activity help you answer the essential question?
 Margaret Hill Morris                 
Annis Boudinot Stockton               

Exhibit 2: Sample Primary Source Analysis Research Organizer

 Name of Document: ________________________________
  Who is the author? When was it written? What do you know is happening around the time it was written? 
Who is the author’s intended audience? How do you think this affects what/how they are writing? 
What is the author’s purpose? How do you think this affects what/how they are writing? 
From what perspective is this author writing from? How do you think this affects what/how they are writing? 
Summarize the main ideas of the document.           

Decision Activity: Stephen Blucke, Monmouth County, March 1782

Decision Activity: Stephen Blucke
Toms River, New Jersey, March, 1782

My name is Stephen Blucke. I am a leader of the “Black Pioneers” and the Captain of an elite group of guerrilla fighters known as the “Black Brigade.” The “Black Brigade” consists of black loyalists who have operated independently and alongside the Queen’s Rangers in Monmouth County, New Jersey for the past seven years. Respected and feared for our effective raids and kidnappings of Patriot leaders, our reputation precedes us throughout New Jersey. Our combat unit gained notoriety under the command of Colonel Tye, whose valor and courage on the battlefield made us one of the most feared fighting forces in New Jersey. Colonel Tye was killed in action during a military operation to seize Colonial leader Joshua Huddy. While the “Black Brigade” took down Huddy after a long standoff, New Jersey Militia attacked our men, freeing Huddy, and in the process, mortally wounding Colonel Tye. When he died, I was asked to take his place, commanding the “Black Brigade.” This great honor bestowed upon me is a reflection of my dedicated service to the Crown and the “Black Pioneers.” I joined the “Black Pioneers” early in the American Revolution. While I am from Barbados and was never enslaved, I was inspired by Dunmore’s Proclamation and the Crown’s promise to free all enslaved persons who fought against the Colonists. Colonel Tye died two years ago, having failed his final mission. But his memory continues to inspire his men. We are also inspired by the thought that his killer, Joshua Huddy, remains at large. We have received intelligence that Joshua Huddy is commanding a small contingent of New Jersey militiamen in Toms River, guarding a salt factory. The “Black Brigade” has the opportunity to take control of the salt factory and also take down Joshua Huddy. We have over one hundred men and Huddy has twenty-five. While we outnumber him four to one, Huddy has escaped similarly challenging situations. Where Colonel Tye failed, I must succeed.

As he prepares his troops, what should Stephen Blucke do?

Be sure to provide reasoning for your response.

  1. Use numerical superiority to overwhelm Huddy and his men and quickly take control of the salt factory, even if that means Huddy may be killed in the fighting.
  1. Surround the salt factory to preclude the possibility of Huddy escaping, and send elite soldiers to apprehend Huddy alive. Taking Huddy as a prisoner is more important than capturing the salt factory.

After making your decision complete the following extension activity:

Write a letter from Stephen Blucke, explaining which option you chose and what occurred after your military action in Toms River.

Below is a map of New Jersey around the time of Blucke’s attack on Toms River.

Use this map to answer the following:

1. Locate Toms River on the map using prior knowledge or maps online.

2. Stephen Blucke and the “Black Brigade” were stationed in “Refugeetown” in Sandy Hook over the course of the American Revolution. Locate Sandy Hook on the map.

Decision Activity: Shawuskuuhkung – Bartholomew Scott Calvin, Burlington County, 1756 to 1840

Decision Activity: Shawuskukhkung / Bartholomew Scott Calvin

Burlington County, NJ, 1756 to 1840

Shawuskukhkung or Bartholomew Scott Calvin was born around 1756 in Crosswicks, New Jersey. His father Stephen Calvin, was the first generation of his family to adopt a Western name, most likely for the convenience of white people he interacted with, choosing a surname befitting the family’s recent conversion to Presbyterianism. Many of their fellow Lenape (or Delaware) kin had left New Jersey years prior, resettling in Ohio, but a number of families opted to stay and attempt to live among the European settlers.

In 1758, Stephen Calvin was involved in the negotiations in Crosswicks that resulted in Native Americans giving up all land claims south of the Raritan River. At the same time, the remaining Delaware were given 3,284 acres of land in modern day Shamong, New Jersey. Brotherton, as it was called, would be the first Indian Reservation. Whites were prohibited from settling, hunting, or fishing in their territory. The colony and later state of New Jersey would help with enforcement and in fact, would subsidize the community economically for many years.

The Brotherton Reservation was settled in 1759 by 200 Indians. Children were frequently sent to schools for the training of missionaries, which often included forced assimilation into the white culture. The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge took an interest in Bartholomew Calvin and began paying his way to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). However, by 1775 with increasing hostilities arising between the colonies and the government of Great Britain, their funds were needed elsewhere and the young student was left with a difficult decision.

Decision Activity #1

Consider Bartholomew Calvin’s situation. What are the pros and cons of each of the following possible choices?

  • Look for another source of funding for completing his education.
  • Return to his home in Brotherton and figure out what to do with the rest of his life without his degree.
  • Join the military to resist the British government in the hopes that the new country will offer gratitude to the Native Americans who supported the cause (or because he genuinely believed in their fight).
  • Join the military to fight for the British government in the hopes that they win and offer some kind of benefit to his people in exchange for military service.

Little is known about Calvin’s military service. While it is possible that he enlisted as early as 1775, the only fixed date we know is that he was in service for the Pennsylvania Line in September of 1780 and saw active duty.

Meanwhile, conditions were deteriorating in Brotherton. Most of the inhabitants were living in abject poverty while harassment from white locals increased over time. In 1767 and again in 1771, members of the Ohio Delaware tribe, their kinsmen, invited the Brotherton Indians to join them. Apparently, this offer was not to their liking as they instead sought permission from the government of New Jersey to lease some of their land to whites. Despite the rejection of this economic lifeline, the Brotherton Indians opted to stay.

After Bartholomew Calvin’s service in the Revolution concluded, he returned to Brotherton where he became schoolmaster, following in his father’s footsteps. Apparently, many of his students were white locals who he welcomed into his rolls.

But by 1801, only 63 adult residents (down from the original 200) were left in Brotherton. At this time, a group of Mohican Indians living in New Stockbridge near Oneida Lake in the state of New York offered them an unusual invitation: “Kinsmen! Our necks are stretched as long as cranes looking toward your firesides! Pack up your mat and come eat out of our dish!”

Decision Activity #2

Anyone who has moved understands how disruptive and difficult the experience can be financially and emotionally. To move an entire community with the additional uncertainty of joining another group must have been a daunting consideration. That being said, things were looking very bleak for the remaining Delaware in New Jersey. Weigh the consequences of the following choices faced by Bartholomew Calvin and the other people at Brotherton:

  • Stay put. After all, this is the land your father negotiated for. Times may be tough, but who knows what would await us in New York?
  • Take the Stockbridge Indians up on their offer. Although they are not direct relatives, you have enough in common with them that you can make it work.
  • Reconsider the offer from Ohio. Life in the state of New York is not likely to be much better than life in New Jersey.

Calvin and other leaders of the community petitioned the State of New Jersey to allow them to sell their lands to finance the journey. The legislature would allow it, provided that three quarters of the adults in the community consented. It appears that they fell short of the required supermajority, but the sale proceeded in 1802 regardless. A few of the inhabitants of Brotherton chose not to make the journey to New York and became integrated into white communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Calvin continued as schoolmaster in Stockbridge.

In 1824 most of the community of Stockbridge Indians, which now included at least four different Native groups, moved to a tract of land near Green Bay in what was then considered Michigan Territory. A small number of people who had moved from Brotherton to New York opted to return to New Jersey. Calvin, however, made the trek to the new homeland, but he wasn’t quite done with New Jersey.

In 1832, at the age of 76, he returned to New Jersey as the delegate of the “original people” and addressed the state legislature. Although they had sold the reservation land back in 1802, the right to hunt and fish on that land was still theirs. Perhaps the State of New Jersey would consider buying those rights, and thereby help the remaining Delaware who had gone through so much.

What is the likelihood of success for each of the following strategies:

  • Based on the principles in the Declaration of Independence, demand just compensation for the rights to hunt and fish as well as money for the trouble the Delaware people experienced.
  • Make a speech that is highly complementary of the New Jersey government in the hopes that they’ll be more willing to give the Delaware something for their troubles.
  • Don’t bother. The idea of the government doing anything for the Delaware at this point in time is very unlikely.

In his address to the Legislature, Calvin said the following:

“My brethren, I am old, and weak and poor, and therefore a fit representative of my people. You are young and strong, and rich, and therefore fit representatives of your people, but let me beg you for a moment to lay aside the recollections of your strength and our weakness that your minds may be prepared to examine with candor the subject of our claims… We consider the State Legislature the proper purchaser, and throw ourselves upon its benevolence and magnanimity, trusting that feelings of justice and liberality will induce you to give us what you deem a compensation.”

Perhaps understanding that his bargaining power was rather limited, Calvin left the determination of an amount up to the Legislature, which in turn provided a modest $2,000 purchasing price, the rough equivalent of $70,000 in present day currency.

Teaching Colonel Tye: Slavery, Self-Emancipation, and the Black Brigade

Teaching Tye: Slavery, Self-Emancipation, and the Black Brigade

By Bill Smith

Colonel Tye represented much of the inchoate American spirit that the United States would one day embody, even though he fought against the Colonists as a commander working with the British during the American Revolution. Enslaved in Monmouth County, Colonel Tye self-emancipated one day after the promulgation of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, freeing all enslaved persons who escaped and fought alongside the British.[1]

Like many enslaved and formerly enslaved persons who participated in the American Revolution, Colonel Tye left very few written records, leaving historians to rely on historical texts sourced mostly from local legends.[2] Colonel Tye first appears in the historical record in a runaway advertisement from November 8, 1775, after self-emancipating from John Corlis, an enslaver and disowned Quaker from Shrewsbury, New Jersey. Tye may have traveled south to Virginia after self-emancipating, joining the famed Ethiopian Regiment, though this possibility lacks corroborating documentary evidence.[3] Colonel Tye then made his way back to New Jersey, likely to Sandy Hook, termed “Refugee town,” by the many free blacks or formerly enslaved persons who lived there.[4] In “Refugee town,” Tye joined the Black Brigade and eventually became the regiment’s commander.[5]

Teachers using these documents can also inform students about the dearth of sources regarding enslaved and formerly enslaved persons during the Revolutionary period while also empathizing how local traditions can become the accepted historical canon without corroborating documentary evidence. Aside from his birthdate and the location where he was enslaved, almost nothing is known from Tye’s early years.[6] However, from his self-emancipation in 1775 until his violent death in 1782, Tye appears in the historical record, most often in local newspapers. Historians, teachers, and students can use these documents to learn about the lived experience of Tye’s early twenties and the outsized impact he had on Revolutionary New Jersey.

On November 8, 1775, Colonel Tye enters the historical record for the first time in a runaway advertisement. Using his footprints as ink, Tye wrote himself into history by self-emancipating from his enslaver John Corlis. From this runaway advertisement, teachers and students can be introduced to the future Colonel Tye, referred to in the advertisement as “Titus.”[7] Teachers can use Colonel Tye’s runaway advertisement to introduce students to the concept of reading archival sources “against the grain,” otherwise known as “counter-reading the archives.”[8] It is imperative for teachers to add context when using sources such as runaway advertisements to teach about the history and lived experiences of enslaved persons. The runaway advertisement for “Titus” reveals important biographical information about Colonel Tye. However, teachers must make students aware that this historical document was written and paid for by his enslaver in an attempt to recapture him. While using runaway advertisements in the classroom, teachers can use Colonial Williamsburg’s useful and accessible “How to” guide.”[9]

While John Corlis paid for runaway advertisements in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, some historians conjecture that “Titus” took the name “Tye” and headed south to Williamsburg, Virginia, where he served in the Ethiopian Regiment.[10] For the next two years, Tye disappears from official sources before reemerging at the Battle of Monmouth, where according to historian Graham Russell Hodges, he took on the title “Colonel Tye.”[11] After the Battle of Monmouth, Colonel Tye established himself as the leader of the “Black Brigade,” an elite combat unit comprised of black loyalists who led a series of devastating raids in Monmouth County over the last three years of the American Revolution.[12]

From 1779 until his death in 1782, Colonel Tye and the Black Brigade repeatedly appear in historical sources as New Jersey newspapers documented their attacks on Jersey shore communities. Teachers can use these newspaper accounts, sourced from throughout the state, to reconstruct the actions of Colonel Tye while also using the primary sources as a lens through which their students can view the experiences of the Black Brigade and the communities they impacted. Focusing on the summer of 1780, teachers can use two newspaper accounts, published within two weeks of one another, to compare the scale of the attacks, the types of supplies taken by the Black Brigade, as well as the response and tone of the primary source authors. For these sources and numerous others, teachers and their students can rely on Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, a collection of newspaper articles related to the American Revolution. Compiled and published in the early twentieth century, this extremely valuable collection of documentary evidence of the American Revolution has now been digitized.[13]

For a life remembered as nothing short of remarkable, Colonel Tye’s somewhat nebulous death reads like an afterthought. Indeed, a footnote rather than a coda in a well-deserved symphony of life. Tye and the Black Brigade laid siege to the Colts Neck Inn, hoping to capture Joshua Huddy, a well-known Monmouth Militia leader infamous for the extralegal hangings of loyalists.[14] After capturing Huddy following an hours-long siege, Tye and the Black Brigade rowed their prisoner across the Shrewsbury River when they were ambushed by the Monmouth Militia attempting to rescue Huddy. During the fight with the Monmouth Militia, or perhaps during the initial siege, Colonel Tye was shot in the wrist.[15] Teachers can bring the death of Colonel Tye to life by having students examine a letter written by Nathaniel Scudder, in which he describes Tye’s injury.

Tye died shortly after sustaining the gunshot wound, likely succumbing to tetanus, though no documentary evidence survives.[16] While the few remaining extant sources on Colonel Tye present opportunities for teachers and students to critically examine and contextualize part of his life, teachers can offer students secondary source readings from historians when discussing the legacy of Colonel Tye, such as Franklin Ellis, who wrote: “Like our forefathers, he fought for his liberty, which our ancestors unfortunately refused to give him.”[17]


[1] For recent works that have examined Colonel Tye, see Douglas R. Egerton, Death of Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); James J. Gigantino, The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Joseph E. Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave,” Journal of the American Revolution, (2021); and Graham Russell Hodges, Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East Jersey, 1613-1863, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Hodges has also written a local history of Monmouth County that investigates Colonel Tye. See Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665–1865, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997).

[2] Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”

[3] Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North, 92.

[4] For further elaboration on “Refugee town,” see Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North, 98-100.

[5] For more on the “Black Brigade,” see Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1, (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 420-421.

[6] Philip Papas, That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution, (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 97-98.

[7] The New Jersey History Partnership transcribed a copy of the runaway advertisement, “John Corlies’ Ad for Runaway Slave Titus, a.k.a. Col. Tye, 12 November 1775,” New Jersey History Partnership. While this transcription and some other sources uses the spelling “Corlies,” the runaway advertisement uses the spelling “Corlis.” Tye is referred to as “Titus” in this runaway advertisement, however, this article will use his chosen name of “Tye.”

[8] On “counter-reading” the archives as a historical methodology and the issue of archival silences, see Stephanie E. Smallwood, “The Politics of the Archive and History’s Accountability to the Enslaved,” History of the Present, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2016); Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press Books, 1995); and Marisa J. Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

[9] Deirdre Jones, “How to Read a Runaway Ad,” Colonial Williamsburg, June 11, 2020. Accessed 2/19/2023.

[10] Egerton, Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America, 71.

[11] Hodges, Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North, 97.

[12] Hodges, Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North, 106.

[13] “Documents relating to the revolutionary history of the state of New Jersey,” digitized by Digital Commons Providence College, part of United States History Commons.

[14] Egerton, Death or Liberty, 67.

[15] For differing accounts, see Hodges, Slavery and Freedom, 104; Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave;” Sutherland, African Americans at War, 421; and Papas, That Ever Loyal Island, 97.

[16] Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”

[17] Franklin Ellis, The History of Monmouth County, New Jersey, (Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Co., 1885), 114, in Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”

Decision Activity: Nicholas Collin, Gloucester County, 1777

Decision Activity: Nicholas Collin

Raccoon (Swedesboro) Gloucester County (1777)

February 10th, 1777

It has been over seven years since I have seen my family and my beloved country of Sweden. Seven years since they urged me not to come to this country, warning me that it was dangerous and full of Indians who were ready to scalp me. I laughed them off all those years ago, but it seems they were right about the danger, just not about its source. But how could they have predicted a civil war?

I came to this country full of wonder and ready to serve the Lord and the mission of the Swedish Lutheran Church. I do not regret this decision. Since coming to Raccoon, New Jersey, I feel I have faithfully served God. I have visited the sick and dying, no matter the time of day. I have married dozens of couples, provided funeral services for those who need them, and preached to all those who are willing to accept God into their lives. Just last year, I baptized “several children…one [child] 4 years old, two above 2 years, and another [child] 18 months” (Journal 236). Despite the sickness and destitution I have endured as result of my endeavors, this work has given me great joy.

When this war began, I, like many, felt great anxiety over it. But I continued to fulfill my duties as best as I could. I did not expect to one day have the American militia accuse me of treason and then haul me off for a 16 Swedish mile journey, on which I felt I could be shot and killed at any moment. My captors, one of which I deem to be a man of “bad character” as he seems to lack religion, claim I am a supporter of the British (Journal 237). They point to the fact that I, upon my arrival to this country seven years ago, paid a visit to the royal governor. They say my neighbors have reported that I seem unsympathetic to the rebel cause.

But how can I be sympathetic to the rebel cause when it goes against my duties as minister? I did not come to this country to become involved in their political affairs! I did not come to support or condemn a revolution! I came but only to “chastise godless persons and to prevent arson and theft…” (Journal 238). Why should I be condemned for simply doing the work of God?

My captors have given me a choice, of which they demand an answer in the near future. Either I must go join the British  or sign an Oath of Allegiance to the new American government. The former option would require me to abandon the post I have been given by my own government, sell all of my belongings for less than half their worth, and join a group of people to whom I do not have a connection to. The latter option asks me to betray my allegiance to the Swedish government. I do not see how either option is a desirable one.

God, please give me guidance on how to navigate this difficult situation so that I may continue to do Your work in this beautiful country.

What do you think Nicholas Collin should do?

  1. Join the British
  2. Sign the Oath of Allegiance, pledging his support for the American cause
  3. Another course of action — come up with your own suggestion!

Ultimately, Nicholas Collin was able to convince his imprisoners to let him sign an Oath of Neutrality, in which he swore to remain neutral in the war and “to do nothing which would be unworthy of [him] as a Swedish subject” (Journal 238). Later that year, he was accused of being a spy and nearly lost his life to the gallows. However, he was able to convince his captors that he was innocent through the testimony of a man who Collins had once sheltered from the English army. While Collins did consider returning to Sweden in 1781, he ultimately remained in New Jersey until his death in 1831.

Using Decision-Making Activities to Think Critically in History Classrooms

Using Decision-Making Activities to Think Critically in History Classrooms

            Using a variety of different strategies, resources, and activities is essential to keeping my ninth grade Social Studies students engaged from one day to the next. I frequently get asked, “Miss, why are we even learning about this?” or “this was so long ago, why does this even matter?” One of the strategies I have found to be successful in combating student boredom and encouraging engagement in the application of decision-making activities.

            Decision-making activities at the secondary level can assist in the ways that students consider and absorb information. One activity required students to consider, make, and justify a series of decisions about prison ships located in the water by Perth Amboy, NJ during the American Revolution. They had to choose to make decisions either as an officer negotiating for the release of imprisoned men or as a prisoner facing a difficult-to-navigate situation such as hunger, disease, or death.. In a different, smaller activity, students were given a ‘do now’ each day that asked them a scenario related to lessons in the unit on Manifest Destiny. For example, the students were given a scenario such as, “You hear that the Transcontinental Railroad has been completed but tickets are very expensive and the only ones left will arrive in California in the late fall. You could also travel by horse and wagon using the Oregon or California Trails to go west, which is a more dangerous trip but you will arrive sooner and save money. Which should you choose?” Once they work as a group and make their decisions, a random fate would be revealed.

            These activities meet many of the NJ Social Studies Learning Standards that help students learn historical content, critical thinking, decision-making skills, and discussion abilities. For example, RH.9-10.9 states that students should be able to “[c]ompare and contrast treatments of the same topic, or of various perspectives, in several primary and secondary sources; analyze how they relate in terms of themes and significant historical concepts.

            These activities also engage and involve different demographics of students in my classroom. Many of my 504 or IEP students need regular check-ins and evidence of their participation. The distinct steps of these activities allow for this kind of monitoring while also ensuring that advanced students follow the same progression. This activity is also easily modified for bilingual students of different levels by translating elements of it or modifying some of the primary source texts or changing them to visuals.

            These activities relate directly to the students by engaging with them where they are. When they are able to personally connect with the content, the students are more likely to participate in and think critically about the content. The students are able to place themselves into the context of the time period with an assignment such as this more easily than traditional assignments. Furthermore, for students who live in Middlesex County, they may also be able to personally connect to some material from the Revolutionary War unit because this area has so much colonial and Revolutionary War era history.

            Decision-making activities such as these allow the students to engage more critically and thoughtfully with the material and content provided to them. It engages students and encourages them to become better writers and ‘critically-thinking’ learners and citizens.

Decision Activity: Chief Tishcohan, Warren County, 1737

Decision Activity: Chief Tishcohan (He Who Never Blackens Himself)

Delaware River Valley, Warren County, 1737

During the eighteenth century, the relationship between the Lenni-Lenape and the colonists would continue to deteriorate. Land ownership became a major issue throughout New Jersey, as well as the rest of the colonies, as the English took over control and established their dominance throughout the continent.

Several Lenape chiefs attempted to secure land deals with the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware colonies. These efforts culminated in the Walking Purchase of 1737. Chief Tishcohan (or He Who Never Blackens Himself) was one of the signers of the Walking Purchase of 1737. The Walking Purchase was a treaty with the Penn family that later caused the Lenape to lose most of their land in the Delaware Valley.

Chief Tishcohan

The original event occurred September 19-20, 1737 when Thomas Penn, refer to a Treaty that was allegedly made between his father, William Penn and the Delaware Indians, hired three runners to “walk” for a day and a half westward from Springfield, Bucks County.  The walkers actually ran during the entire event and he Penn family claimed over 1,200 square miles of Indian lands. 

It’s certain that the infamous Walking Purchase defrauded the Lenni-Lenape of a considerable amount of land in eastern Pennsylvania. The Walking Purchase led to years of recriminations and bad feelings. This was one of the factors that led to many Lenni-Lenape leaving New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania prior to the American Revolution.

Answer each question below.

  • Hypothesize why Chief Tishcohan and the other Lenni-Lenape leaders have signed the Walking Purchase of 1737?
  • How did this agreement affect the Lenni-Lenape over time?

This was one of the dozens of land deals that were either fraudulent or not honored by the colonies and later by the United States government. Answer each question below.

  • How would history be different if the U.S. government honored these land agreements?
  • Would the United States look differently today?
  • Were repartitions an appropriate solution for compensating the Indigenous people, specifically the Lenape and Delaware nation) living within the borders of the United States for the land that was taken from them? Indian Claims Commission  Delaware Indian Land Claims  U.S. Decision on July 17, 1899

Below is an excerpt from the transcript of a deed associated with the Walking Purchase of 1737.  Read and analyze the excerpt and answer the following guided questions:

  • Write one sentence summarizing this passage.
  • What was happening at the time in history when this passage was written?
  • What did you find out from this excerpt that you might not learn anywhere else?

“We, Teesshakomen, alias Tisheekunk, and Tootamis alias Nutimus, two of the Sachem’s or Chiefs of the Delaware Indians, having, almost three Years ago, at Durham, begun a treaty with our honourable Brethren John and Thomas Penn, and from thence another Meeting was appointed to be at Pensbury, the next Spring Following, to which We repaired with Lappawinzoe and Several others of the Delaware Indians, At which Treaty Several Deeds were produced and Shewed to us by our said Brethren, concerning Several Tracts of Land which our Forefathers had, more than fifty Years ago, Bargained and Sold unto our good Friend and Brother William Penn, the Father of the said John and Thomas Penn.”

Decision Activity: Joshua Huddy, Monmouth County, 1780

Decision Activity: Joshua Huddy
Shrewsberry, New Jersey, September 1780

My name is Joshua Huddy, and I may only have a few minutes left to live. I am an ardent patriot and the Captain of the Monmouth Militia. I just heard glass break downstairs, and from my window, I can see members of the loyalist “Black Brigade” surrounding my house. I see Colonel Tye, standing about six feet tall, commanding his troops. While I fear no man, I begrudgingly respect the military prowess and fighting ability of Colonel Tye. It almost seemed inevitable that we would meet one day in combat. His infamous raids of Patriot homes and my raids of Loyalist homes in Monmouth County set us on a collision course.

We almost came musket to musket at the Battle of Monmouth. But alas, we are not facing off on the battlefield, but rather, at my home. I am outgunned and outmanned, but I am determined not to go down without a fight. Colonel Tye is demanding that I surrender and come out of my house unarmed. Can I resist? In April, Mr. Russell resisted Colonel Tye, and he was killed. I am sure Colonel Tye and the Loyalists want my blood. In 1777, my men and I dragged Loyalist Stephen Edwards from his home in Shrewsberry and hanged him. The Loyalists have wanted revenge ever since. Can I surrender? Will they kill me? Even if they take me prisoner, that may be worse than death. Rumors abound regarding the treatment of Patriot prisoners of war. Most do not survive. It is only me and my mistress, Lucretia Emmons, home tonight. But I have muskets and I have ammunition. We cannot fight Colonel Tye and his men from Refugeetown alone, but perhaps we can hold them off until members of my Monmouth Militia arrive. However, time is of the essence.

As Colonel Tye and his men surround my home, what should I do?

Be sure to provide reasoning for your response.

  1. Surrender to Colonel Tye and face the consequences of my raids? I may face the hangman’s noose. But I am a Captain of the Monmouth Militia. They may be able to negotiate my release.
  2. Fix my bayonet, load my musket, and go down in a blaze of glory. Even if I am taken down, I will try to take out Colonel Tye, and save my fellow Patriots from his raids.
  3. Defend my home by loading several muskets and placing them at every window. Then move from window to window, firing at Colonel Tye and his men, in an attempt to convince them that I have several soldiers here fighting along my side. This can buy me time until the Monmouth Militia arrives.

After making your decision complete the following extension activity:.

The Monmouth Militia has arrived. Write out your orders for your men to fight against Colonel Tye.

Below is a map of Monmouth County in 1781.

Use this map to answer the following:

1. Locate Shrewsberry on the map and describe the geographic features of the area.

2. Colonel Tye and his men were stationed in “Refugeetown” in Sandy Hook over the course of the American Revolution. Locate Sandy Hook on the map and use the “scale of miles” to determine the distance between Sandy Hook and Shrewsberry.

Decision Activity: William Franklin, Middlesex County, 1776

William Franklin: Like Father, Like Son?

Decision Activity: Middlesex County 1776

            Join or Die? Famous words from my old man in 1754. A little dramatic if you ask me. His message to the colonists was simple: unite, fight against the French and their Native American allies or…die. My dad’s words created negative sentiments for the Native Americans, both during the French and Indian War when they were published, and after. As a loyalist and supporter of the Oneida and Lenape natives in my state of New Jersey, I would ultimately strive to send a different message than my father during the Revolution.

            I wasn’t always a Jersey boy. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1730. I never knew my mother, and I wasn’t born into a life of privilege like my contemporary, George Washington. I referred to my dad earlier-have you figured out yet that it’s Benjamin Franklin? My dad was a successful printer, and turned his attention to politics in the 1750s. He was also an engineer, inventor–you can consider him a renaissance man of sorts. I wanted to be just like him. I followed him everywhere, including to Albany in 1754 where my dad laid out his famous Albany Plan of Union. Part of this plan was to create a colonial alliance during the French and Indian War. My dad created a woodcut of a severed snake that represented the demise of the colonies if unity was not established. Get it? Join. Or die. I know, I know. I mocked the join or die thing just a moment ago. But at the time I supported the sentiments.

            After the French and Indian War, I became the royal governor of New Jersey. Being royal governor meant I was expected to uphold the rules of the British crown. After the Stamp Act, tensions in the colonies were heating up and my dad was becoming more and more anti-British. I on the other hand wanted New Jersey to remain true to King George III.

How can we ensure that a new government will be better than this?

What will we lose in the process?

What if this turns to anarchy?

Because of my sentiments in keeping the royal government unchanged in the colonies, militias made up of Patriots were on to me. I was arrested in June of 1776 in Perth Amboy and there was no hope in keeping New Jersey “loyal” or should I say “irreconcilable” after that. I was jailed in Litchfield, Connecticut, 135 miles away! I guess they were expecting me to sit in my cell and ‘think about what I did,’ but instead I was pardoning Loyalists. Jokes on them! I left the prison two years later, and spent the remaining years during the Revolution in New York City. I continued to have correspondence with King George III, and eventually I returned to England in 1782 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Join or Die. Hm. What was there to “join”?

Supporting Questions/Decisions:

Have you ever gone against the beliefs of your parents or guardians?

What impact did this have on your life?

How did it affect your family members?

How did William’s decision affect his relationship with his father, Benjamin Franklin?


In your opinion, did William make the right decision in supporting the British crown? Do you think this influenced New Jersey’s history?


Is your history book more focused on the Patriot perspective than the Loyalist perspective during the Revolution? If yes, what changes would you make?


Decision Activity: Elizabeth Covenhoven, Monmouth County, 1778

Elizabeth Covenhoven

Decision Activity: Monmouth County, 1778

“What’s a Woman To Do … In Times Like These?”

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Those infamous words were echoed throughout the colonies since the publication of Thomas Paine’s American Crisis in December of 1776. But what then, can be said, of us ladies? Women: married, single, daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. A war where loyalties were drawn, neighbor against neighbor, friend against newly formed foe. And here, especially in New Jersey, the war was always in our backyard. With the colonial victories at Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777 it would seem as though Washington’s troops were making some progress toward their campaign for victory. But the British were a tough enemy. They were unrelenting and refused to let a rag-tag group of Patriots win. That’s why it was no surprise to me when I heard the rustlings around town that the British were moving throughout the area on their way to New York, perhaps even stopping in the area of the Monmouth Courthouse, my hometown! (Freehold, New Jersey) This was a scary thought, especially to me, since I had heard rumors of British troops burning down homes, taking animals from the barns, and stealing good supplies, foodstuffs, and other valuables from the colonists!

Those of us ladies that remained were often left on our homesteads, alone, to fend for ourselves in the midst of war. I myself have reared 10 children in a one-room home that has stood on this property at 150 West Main Street for the past 25 years. After our children were grown and gone, my husband William and I built a substantial home with the wealth that our families left us, making it one of the most impressive in Monmouth County. We were also able to purchase some very nice furniture, and of course, a beautiful set of china plates, for entertainment purposes of course. I have worked too hard to lose any of these things!

            I guess by now you’re wondering, who am I? Well, my name is Elizabeth Covenhoven.   My husband William is a 5th generation Dutch-American who roots in Monmouth County date back to 1709.  At the time that the war came through my backyard in 1778, I was 74 years old, left alone to fend for myself alongside my four enslaved persons that lived with me on my property. My husband, unfortunately, was not here at the time that General Clinton passed through, and therefore, I alone had to make tough choices in order to survive. My home and its belongings are all I have. 

What should Elizabeth Covenhoven do in order to survive the British occupation of her hometown? Be sure to provide reasoning for your response. 

  1. RUN. This might be a bit challenging due to her age, but certainly, she can hopefully make it to one of her children’s homes and see if they can offer her protection from the British. That is, if they themselves aren’t already in trouble …
  1. OUTWIT. She realizes the limitations of her age. However, with the help of her enslaved persons, she can most certainly hide what possessions she has in the nearby woods and under the earth. The British certainly can’t be that intuitive to know what she has done …
  1. NEGOTIATE. Certainly, the British can’t be *as bad* as how they are perceived? And besides, she is a wealthy Monmouth County socialite, that could be helpful to tired and hungry soldiers and their officers.
  1. FIGHT. She can attempt to defend her land claims and property with the support of her four enslaved persons. Certainly, she can’t take on the British Army by herself, but she could attempt to not let them into her house to seize her property and possessions or set fire to her home.

After discussing and deciding on your decision, select one of the following activities. Be sure to use support from your knowledge of the time period in order to justify your response:

  1. Write a letter to your husband, William, justifying the choice that you made for survival. Remember that you will need to outline what happened to your possessions, as well as the home.
  1. Write a letter to General Clinton. Make sure that you state your case as to why your home should be spared from invasion/destruction of the British.
  1. Write a letter to General Washington. Explain your case to the General of the Continental Army and ask for any type of retribution that has to deal with what has happened to your homestead.