- Historic Sites
A Spy For Washington
“Loyalist” John Honeyman bought cattle, kept his eyes open —and may have made the surprise victory at Trenton possible
August 1957 | Volume 8, Issue 5
A few years later Van Dyke was employed to straighten out a legal tangle for the heirs of a prosperous New Jersey Tory who had fled with many others to Nova Scotia. Among the patriarchs he interviewed was John Ten Broek, another Griggstown veteran of the Revolution.
During the visit Van Dyke said, “I understand John Honeyman was known in these parts as a Tory, too.”
The old veteran bristled.
“Johnny Honeyman did not have to go to Nova Scotia,” he said, and retold the story as Van Dyke had already heard it.
It wasn’t until 1873 that Justice Van Dyke, satisfied at last that he had checked all the sources available on his grandfather’s mission, got around to revealing the story. It appeared in a small New Jersey periodical of local history called Our Home .
William Stryker, the historian, who was also president of the New Jersey Historical Society, investigated and came up with a few more details. Other historians quoted the story: Sir George Otto Trevelyan, who compiled the British history of The American Revolution ; Alfred Hoyt Bill, author of The Campaign of Princeton . Rupert Hughes in his George Washington, Savior of the States , said: “A splendid monument glorifies Nathan Hale and his name is a household word in America, though he failed in his short mission; but for John Honeyman, who made the first great victory possible, there is oblivion.”
Well, not entirely. There is a Revolutionary War veteran marker beside the eroded headstone on Honeyman’s grave in the old village cemetery at Lamington. And on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River at Washigton Crossing State Park, where Washington’s army landed for its march on Trenton, stands a stone memorial fountain with a bronze plaque on it. It was erected by the Patriotic Order Sons of America, and high officials of the state of New Jersey attended the dedication on December 26, 1930. It reads:
DEDICATED IN MEMORY OF JOHN HONEYMAN WHO SERVED WASHINGTON AND THE CONTINENTAL ARMY AS A SPY DRINK OF THE FOUNT OF LIBERTY LET POSTERITY INHERIT FREEDOM
John Honeyman, who found inner satisfaction far more important than acclaim for his daring achievement, would have been embarrassed at even this simple tribute.