On Tuesday we headed over to Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Monmouth Battlefield is a place I have been to many times before. Having grown up about 16 miles away my father took us there when I developed an interest in the American Revolution. In college I did a public history internship looking for the site of Washington’s camp the night before the battle, and when I was a re-enactor with the 3rd NJ the park let us use the Visitors Center for our meetings.
I had heard that the park had built a new VC and had all new interpretive exhibits and I was curious as to what it all looked like. The new exhibits look great. I was happy to see a breakdown of the battle along one wall with pictures and maps showing where the action on the battlefield took place. A new electric map shows troop movements and narrates the battle. I was also impressed with the displays showing how the battlefield had been used over time. Because of my association with the 3rd NJ which was a Civil War re-enacting group I knew that there was a training camp, Camp Vredenburg within the bounds of the park, but it was nice to see a display on it.
On the downside, the gift shop was not open (only on “most” Sunday’s 1-4) which was sad because there were about 5 families that were visiting when we were and most likely would have purchased something – I KNOW I would have. (On a side note, according to the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield website they do want to expand the store’s hours – at least it is in the 5 year plan). There also needs to be some better signage especially for the turn off of 522 to the Perrine Hill area. (These are also part of the Friends’ group 5 year plan.)
While I applaud the work of the Friends’ group and encourage my readers to visit their website and consider donating or joining – especially any NJ readers – I have to ask why the state isn’t taking a more active role. By contrast, for example, we visited two NPS sites on this trip and the rangers there also ran the gift shop. Here in VA the ranger at False Cape State Park was the one to sell me my obligatory patch and pin. Why can’t the folks at Monmouth do likewise?
Overall it was a good trip to a place I’ve enjoyed for years and will hopefully visit again. You can look for more discussion of the Battle of Monmouth here in the near future.