The countdown to the United States’ Semiquincentennial (the nation’s 250th anniversary) may have four years left, but regional efforts to honor the nation’s beginnings have already started. The next time you get your phone or tablet out, you can tune in for history and local legends of the Revolutionary War – including critical events that took place in Central New Jersey.
The “Ten Crucial Days” audio tour introduced by Crossroads of the American Revolution in December 2021 is now available through a free downloadable app. Listeners are a click away from hearing an innovative delivery of New Jersey’s Revolutionary-era heritage, “wherever they log on from.”
Using the Ten Crucial Days audio tour, as travelers drive with the app ‘live’ on their smartphones, embedded GPS coordinates will activate brief audio stories of people, places and events in New Jersey tied to the battles and events that collectively gave birth to the USA.
Crossroads of the American Revolution is the private nonprofit partner working with the New Jersey Historical Commission on the commemoration of the Semiquincentennial. In a December interview, Crossroads of the American Revolution’s Executive Director Janice Selinger explained that the Ten Crucial Days audio tour follows the Continental Army from its Christmas 1776 Crossing of the Delaware, the march to Trenton, the two Battles of Trenton and to Princeton.
On a drive, travelers can reach a featured location and stop to explore on foot, listening beforehand or while taking in the grounds and landmarks. The app’s built-in audio wayfinding provides turn-by-turn directions to drivers.
Audio tours can help attract visitors to discover the local recreation, dining or shopping opportunities. But if the user prefers, the audio tour will narrate a scene from 246 years ago as they continue the drive without the stop.
“Ten Crucial Days is our first in a planned statewide series of audio tours that will include stories of the war’s impact on New Jerseyans of all backgrounds and the hard choices they made during the conflict. With accounts of the enslaved, free Blacks, women and children, heritage travelers will find a deeper, more nuanced understanding of life in New Jersey during the late 18th century. This audio tour, being ‘heads up and hands-free, allows the listener to tour from Washington Crossing to the Battle of Princeton with three-minute stories. You hear the narrator and characters from each site of the Revolution,” she said.
An instructional video for the audio tour begins in Trenton at the Old Barracks Museum, and the tour’s final site is at the Princeton Battlefield Monument, capping the 90-minute journey in sound. The tour is complete with musical and special sound effects for drama and entertainment.
Minus the driving and GPS sync, the audio tour program can also play anywhere someone uses their devices; at home, at work or perhaps while traveling by plane or train.
Pre-pandemic the Crossroads’ board searched for the right opportunities to connect the Garden State’s rich Revolutionary War era heritage, statewide.
Trustee Patrick Murray, leader of the Crossroads’ team that created and produced the audio tour, commented, “You’ll get to hear about the challenges faced by both the troops and the local population in ways that make you think about these events’ connection to our lives today. The stories can be heard in context, as travelers visit the many New Jersey Revolutionary War historical sites. As people are drawn into these compelling stories, we anticipate that the Crossroads tours will spur their interest to return to historic sites along the route and across the state.”
In development of the app technology to offer its audio tour, Crossroads partnered with TravelStorysGPS, a software-as-a-service company that’s produced more than 170 audio tours in 36 states and three countries.
Funding for Crossroads’ Ten Crucial Days audio tour is provided by the National Park Service, FM Kirby Foundation, George A. Ohl Jr Trust, and Friends of Washington Crossing Park – a nonprofit that supports the park on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River in Bucks County, and mutually exclusive from the New Jersey side Washington Crossing State Park.
Crossroads’ app-based audio tours in development, as funding is procured by Crossroads, will include “Retreat Across the Jerseys” – as General George Washington’s Continental Army fled Fort Lee on the Hudson, and traversed from Newark and Elizabeth across New Jersey, passing through New Brunswick while Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ British Army remains on their heels. Other tours planned include “The Road to Morristown” and the Battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield.
“When COVID hit we knew it became more important to offer the audio tours. We started to identify the funding and as of now, have secured funding to research diverse story lines of African Americans and Indigenous peoples of New Jersey. There’s a lot we’ll be rolling out starting with Ten Crucial Days,” Selinger noted.
New Jersey’s specific Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area includes 212 municipalities in 14 counties, and there were nearly 600 Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes recorded in the state during the period.
Author, content strategist and historic preservation activist Rikki N. Massand serves as Associate Editor of his hometown Montgomery News in Somerset County. He also covers Hunterdon County government, planning and economic development for Flemington’s TAPInto online news and freelances for multiple tristate area ‘newszines.’
Rikki is a regional historian and local advocate in his present municipal government-appointed roles on the Montgomery Township Landmarks Preservation Commission and as township liaison to the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission. He is also experienced in not-for-profit administration and advocacy as office administrator, records manager and bookkeeper for a local United Church of Christ.
Rikki holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and Quinnipiac University. His work has appeared in print titles including China Daily, amNew York, Syosset Advance, AsianWeek and more.