In History – Declaration Of Independence Signer Survived In Cave

photo by Alan Edelson, May 13, 2010, Courtesy of

On this day in History, May 11th, 1779, John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, died at the age of 66. In 1776, as Washington’s Army retreated across New Jersey, John Hart hid from the Hessians in a cave as the Hopewell area was ravaged. Thank you, John Hart, for your brave service. – In June 1776 he was elected as one of five New Jersey delegates to the Second Continental Congress with authorization to vote for independence. His fellow delegates and future signers were Abraham Clark, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon. When John Hart arrived in Philadelphia, in June 1776 to attend the Congress, he strongly supported the idea of Independence. John Hart was the thirteenth delegate to put his signature on the historic document. He was willing to pledge his life his fortune, and his sacred honor in doing so.

In August of 1776 New Jersey elected a General Assembly under their new state constitution. Hart was elected to that body, and was selected to be Speaker. He soon returned home to attend to family matters. Sadly, his wife Deborah died on October 8, 1776 with John at her side.

In December of 1776, as Washington’s army retreated across New Jersey, the British and Hessians ravaged the Hopewell area. Hart’s home and property suffered severe damage, two young children fled to the homes of relatives and Hart himself took refuge wherever he could in the woods, hiding in caves and in the Sourwood mountains. When the British began their withdrawal from the area after the American victories at Trenton and Princeton, Hart returned to his home.

John Hart was re-elected twice as Speaker of the Assembly and served until November 7, 1778.

In June 1778, John Hart invited the American army to camp at his farm. Washington accepted his offer, and 12,000 men camped in John Hart’s field during the growing season, and refreshed themselves with the cool water that flowed on the property. The troops left on the 24th of June, and four days later fought and won the Battle of Monmouth.

John Hart died of kidney stones after a long and very painful suffering. He was in his home surrounded by family, and died on Tuesday, May 11th 1779, at the age 66. John Hart died owing money, and most of his property was sold for a pittance. His sons later moved from Hopewell, but his daughters married men from the surrounding area.

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