The Day that Altered American History

A Day that Changed the Course of American History in Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Basking Ridge, New Jersey’s most famous Incident occurred at about noon time on December 13,1776. General Charles Lee (1731-1782), was “alarmed” by Major Wilkinson while he was writing a letter to General Gates about George Washington in an upstairs bedroom of the Widow White’s Tavern. Widow White’s Tavern, named after Ebenezer White’s wife Mary Brown White, became the centerpiece of Revolutionary War history on that day, because It was on this most unfortunate day for General Lee that General Lee became a prisoner of the British Army, leaving General Washington.

If General Lee Wasn’t Captured

There was no secret that General Charles Lee had distain for General Washington. General Charles Lee, who had been captured in Basking Ridge on December 13,1776, was held by the British as a prisoner until exchanged in 1778. He once remarked, “Washington is not fit enough to command a Sergeant’s Guard”.

Washington attempted to secure Lee’s release through a prisoner exchange, but he had no captives of similar rank with which to bargain, and Lee remained in British custody for almost 18 months. During this time Lee appears to have wavered in his allegiance to his adopted country. In 1858 a document titled “Mr. Lee’s Plan, 29th March 1777” was discovered; it advised Howe on a way to defeat the Continental Army.

Major General Washington telling General Charles Lee to not retreat at the Battle of Monmouth.
Recreation: Major General Washington telling General Charles Lee to not retreat at the Battle of Monmouth. That event was the last straw for Lee who faced a court martial soon after at the hands of Basking Ridge’s own Lord Stirling.

Up to the time of his death he continued to express animosity toward Washington as a “puffed up charlatan.” In Lee’s last will and testament he asked that he not be buried in a churchyard. “I have kept so much bad company when living,” he wrote, “that I do not choose to continue it when dead.” Despite these wishes, Lee was buried at the cemetery at Christ Church, Philadelphia.

Visit the Spot

It’s very simple. If the British didn’t find out that General Lee was at the Basking Ridge tavern he may have been able to sway the Continental Congress to select him as the Continental Army’s primary General. Washington would have had to serve as a subordinate. Lee would have most likely retreated (as he did from the Battle of Monmouth) and as they say, the rest would have been history.

This small sign stands on the corner of Cedar and S. Finley reminds us how things could have been very different in America if it wasn't for what happened here.
This small sign stands on the corner of Cedar and S. Finley reminds us how things could have been very different in America if it wasn’t for what happened here.

So next time you’re traveling around Basking Ridge, stop by the sign post on the corner of Cedar Avenue and South Finley Avenue and remember the moment when Basking Ridge history changed the world forever.

Additional Information

  • Article – Widow White’s was more than just a Grog Stop
  • Article – General Charles Lee Timeline
  • Keepsake – a new wooden collectible honors the Widow White’s Tavern
The infamous Widow White's Tavern in Basking Ridge changed the course of American history.
The infamous Widow Whites Tavern of Basking Ridge keepsake is the first of its kind. The historic Widow White’s Tavern forever changed the path of American History. Click Here to learn more about the historic day and about the tavern. Limited run. You can have one of the most historic keepsakes in our American history!
This tale was captured on the back of the 1776 Widow White’s Tavern keepsake and is a perfect reminder of one of Basking Ridge’s greatest historic icons. Read the entire story of the property – Click Here

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