Tracing Washington's steps
Published in the Asbury Park Press 6/28/03 6-mile walk recalls Battle of Monmouth
By Joseph Sapia Staff Writer
It was hot and humid and Uncomfortable--almost perfect, perhaps even too cool for the Battle of Monmouth.
"It was (about) 100 degrees the day of the battle," said Sally Dalik of the Battleground Historical Society, recalling the Revolutionary War event that took place 225 years ago today. "So I guess we're a little authentic here."
Dressed in colonial garb and sweat showing on her face, Dalik, 65, of Freehold greeted visitors at the circa 1726 Village Inn, the society's Englishtown headquarters. There began the commemoration of General George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, riding horseback into Freehold to meet the British in warfare.
"It's kind of warm," said Ted Narozanick, a Monmouth County Board of Freeholders member and participant in the opening ceremony, "but that's to be expected."
Yet of the crowd that began the walk in Englishtown -- estimated at 300 by Jayne Carr, executive director of the Freehold Center Partnership -- only about 35 finished the approximately 6-mile route, basically along Route 522, in Freehold. The route also passed through Manalapan and Freehold Township.
Joseph McCormick, 17, of Plainfield, participating in the walk with fellow members of the New Jersey Youth Corps, said he had fun and learned new things. "We'll manage," said McCormick, as he approached the end of the walk. "It's all right. I've had no problems. (I) keep a bottle of water on me, a nice cold one." "I really think it's fun because I'm getting tan, exercising and learning things all at the same time," said Jennie Crea, 21, a Jamesburg resident who went the distance. "It would be hard if we didn't stop. But, because everybody was so accommodating, it was a cinch."
At the Village Inn, the Manalapan Municipal Building, Old Tennent Church in Manalapan and at Monmouth Battlefield State Park on the boundary of Manalapan and Freehold Township, volunteers from various sponsoring groups distributed free water to walkers, two horseback riders -- Carl Closs, 60, of Kennett Square, Pa., playing George Washington, and "Capt." Terri Somers, 42, of Jackson, owner of the two horses -- and those riding in motor vehicles, horse-drawn wagons or on bicycles. There was also free food at the Manalapan Municipal Building.
T.J. Magg, 12, a member of Manalapan Boy Scout Troop 157, of which all six Scouts completed the walk, used a break at Old Tennent Church to overcome some midwalk wheeziness he attributed to asthma.
"They (those participating in the battle) had 100 degrees," said Magg. "This is only in the 90s. They didn't have paved roads."
The Englishtown-Manalapan First Aid Squad treated eight people on-site for minor heat-related problems, said Captain Michael Alongi.
Perhaps it was the weather that kept viewers sparse along the route.
Crea's friend, Anthony Sciascia, 19, of Mondovi, Wis., who also walked the distance, speculated about Easterners' attitudes -- "I get the sense people are wimps when it comes to the weather."
But people such as Laura Siminerio, 38, of Manalapan and her two children, Steven, 12, and Samantha, 10, toughed it out, watching George Washington ride toward Freehold.
"Usually, when these things happen in your backyard, you don't make the attempt to try to see it," said Siminerio, adding she thought coming out would be a good historical event for her children to see.
Stacy Roth of Burlington City portrayed the legend of Molly Pitcher, the water-toting woman of the battlefield.
"What I liked was the way they kept in character," said Sciascia, speaking of the historical interpreters.
Closs, joking with Crea, played Washington with a contemporary perspective.
"He saw me with the camera and asked me if I wanted a picture," Crea said. "I went up to him and put my arm around him to take the picture. He said, 'Excuse me, that was very risque, nobody gets that close to the president. You must have me confused with another president.' "
Various local, county, state and foreign dignitaries attended yesterday's preliminary to today and tomorrow's re-enactment of the June 28, 1778, battle at the state park. They included New Jersey Secretary of State Regina Thomas and Ray Raymond of the British consulate.
As George Washington rode the horse into Freehold Borough, he was greeted with a salute from Walter Kowalski, 78, and Bill Egerton, 63, members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
At Freehold, Closs, as Washington, attended the rededication of the Liberty Triumphant statue, originally dedicated more than 100 years ago to honor the Continental Army's success at the Battle of Monmouth. The dedication was next to the county Hall of Records Annex on Main Street.
In 1884, the statue was erected atop a column, but 10 years later, a lightning strike disfigured the statue. A portion of the nose remains missing.
Joe Sapia: (732) 557-5737 or (800) 822-9770, Ext. 5737, or e-mail JSapia@app.com. Bob Jordan contributed to this story.

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