The hardy band of marchers who commemorated the 60th annual Colonel Edward Hand historic march stepped off on a bitterly cold Saturday morning – 245 years and six days after Hand and his band of Pennsylvania riflemen delayed British and Hessian troops on their way to what would become known as the Second Battle of Trenton on Jan. 2, 1777.
The annual march, which begins at the Lawrence Township Municipal Building and ends at the banks of the Shabakunk Creek on the Notre Dame High School campus, was held Jan. 8.
The event is a reenactment of the American troops’ delaying tactics as they tried to hold off the British and Hessian troops from reaching Trenton, which was occupied by Gen. George Washington’s army. The troops were on their way from Princeton to retake Trenton from the Americans.
Standing behind the podium in front of the Lawrence Township Municipal Building, keynote speaker Noah Lewis challenged the attendees to figure out his role: a Black man wearing the typical uniform of an American Revolutionary War soldier.
No, Lewis told the all-White audience, he was not a slave. He was an American Patriot soldier – at least, the Black man that Lewis portrays as a historical reenactor. The real-life Black soldier that he portrayed was named Edward “Ned” Hector.
The real-life Hector was a free Black man who served with Col. Thomas Proctor’s 3rd Pennsylvania Artillery during the American Revolutionary War. He was a teamster, which meant he drove the wagons led by a team of horses that transported gunpowder and ammunition.
Black history is American history, and Hector was among the 25% of American troops who were Black, Lewis said. About 3,000 to 5,000 Black soldiers fought alongside of their White counterparts during the Revolutionary War, he said.
Although he did not fight in the Second Battle of Princeton on Jan. 2, 1777, or in the Battle of Princeton the next day, Hector – as portrayed by Lewis – was representative of the Blacks who fought on the American side.
“There were patriot soldiers of all nationalities – Irish and French and Polish – and Blacks. But you don’t think of them as Irish or French or Polish or Black,” Lewis told the attendees.
“They were all Americans, and they all fought for the freedom you enjoy today,” he said.
Before stepping off on the two-mile trek, Colonel Edward Hand – portrayed by Lawrence Township resident William Agress – drew the parallel between forced vaccinations for COVID-19 and a mandatory smallpox vaccine.
Washington insisted that American troops be vaccinated against smallpox, which was the dreaded disease of its day. All of the American troops who were inoculated came down with the disease, Agress said. Mandatory inoculations or vaccinations did not start with COVID-19.
Then, the marchers set off for the banks of the Shabakunk Creek – the site of one of several skirmishes between Hand’s troops and the British and Hessian soldiers. They walked on the sidewalks on Route 206, known in 1777 as the King’s Highway.
At Notre Dame High School, the marchers gathered in a snow-covered field and listened as Agress pointed out the Shabakunk Creek. Historical reenactor Roger Williams raised the replica flag of Hand’s 1st Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, bearing its motto of “Domari Nolo” – “I will not yield” – on a flagpole at the edge of the creek.
Capping off the 60th annual commemoration of Hand’s delaying tactics, a trio of historical reenactors fired off several volleys of blanks from their replica rifles, filling the air with smoke.