Old road running through Mordecai Swamp

Went on a few strolls through the woods and swamps along the old causeway from Buttonwood Hill (Crowleytown) toward Batsto and into Mordecai Swamp this weekend. On Saturday, I walked west into the woods from Buttonwood Hill campground and lost track of the old road pretty quickly. I ended up bushing it across the stretch of woods till I hit Mordecai Swamp and went north to pick up the Batona and walked back to Buttonwood Hill. Today I went back out with my brother and starting from the Batona we worked our way down the eastern margin of Mordecai Swamp until we intersected with the old road that runs east-west through the swamp. It looks like someone has flagged the entirety of the old road with pink flagging tape which made it easier to follow.

This swamp and the old road have been referenced in two past threads (which were what initially sparked my interest in wandering this stretch of woods):

Meandering through the Mordecai
https://forums.njpinebarrens.com/threads/meandering-through-the-mordecai.4447/page-2

Historic Highways of America
https://forums.njpinebarrens.com/threads/historic-highways-of-america.12947/page-2#post-162592

Here's a lidar view of the area from Boyds Maps. You can see the outline of the old road running northwest from Crowleytown to the swamp and across:

https://boydsmaps.com/#15/39.6395/-74.6307/lidarHD


I'm curious if anyone knows the history of this old road that runs through the swamp. From what I understand Mordecai Andrews ran a pretty extensive logging operation in the swamp ca. 1700, and in the first thread mentioned above several folks are mentioning an 1808 road that seems to match the description of the road we traveled through the swamp. I'm not sure if that means the road was built in 1808 or if it was just showing up on 1808 maps.

Either way it's a mesmerizing stretch of swamp. Some beautiful towering cedars in there along with some impressive stands that have been annihilated in blowdowns. Old deer stands sitting in trees, mostly fallen apart at this point. Beautiful (frozen) carpets of sphagnum pretty much the whole way across. Yet some parts of Mordecai Swamp have an unusually firm quality to the forest floor that suggests to me they are parts that were heavily traversed when the area was logged centuries ago. Really neat spot.
 
Some scenes from the swamp.

1.jpg

2.jpg

3.jpg

4.jpg
 

Teegate

Administrator
Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002
24,695
7,004
Whenever you are out there look for a more modern sawmill. Beck wrote in one of his newspaper articles about searching the swamp and one of his companions found it. Beck claims he had been to it before so it was no surprise to him. I believe it was in the Buttonwood area. I have looked for that article again and could not find it. I have not looked for the sawmill from that end but have looked starting more towards the Batsto end.

Quite a bit of that swamp is dry and easy to walk in.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
Some entrenchments built by Batsto Patriots for a battle with the British that never happened are out there as well. The British intended to sneak attack batsto by sailing up the Mullica but were caught in the act at Chestnut neck by patriots whom they got into a battle with.The British won that battle but their surprise on Batsto was foiled so the Battle of Mordecai swamp never happened. The British coukld not go all the way up the river since it was blocked by trees purposely dropped in the vicinity of the Forks so they were going to flank Batsto through the swamp. Seems they had a problem with all the cannon and ammunition being made at Batsto for the patriot cause.
 

Boyd

Administrator
Site Administrator
Jul 31, 2004
8,706
2,186
Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Great post! Just a few map notes that might be of interest...

Here's a lidar view of the area from Boyds Maps. You can see the outline of the old road running northwest from Crowleytown to the swamp and across:

https://boydsmaps.com/#15/39.6395/-74.6307/lidarHD

While your link still works, it's in the old format that is longer used. And I think you'll find a bit more clarity in the new version(s) of my LIDAR maps.

Color
https://boydsmaps.com/#16.00/39.639624/-74.630528/lidar2021hd/0.00/0.00

Monochrome
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.639624/-74.630528/lidar2021bw/0.00/0.00


Or three dimensions!

Color
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.639624/-74.630528/mbx3dshader/-40.20/74.80

Monochrome
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.639624/-74.630528/mbx3dsolid/-40.20/74.80

With aerial imagery
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.639624/-74.630528/mbx3dortho/-40.20/74.80]

Or the new "spectrum" version :)
https://boydsmaps.com/#16.20/39.639624/-74.630528/mbx3dspectrum/0.60/74.60

I love tracing out these old roads. It can be really hard to trace them through the cedar swamps.

Assuming you can get a cell signal, you can access all of these maps on your phone too and use it as a GPS.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,117
3,341
Pines; Bamber area
The British coukld not go all the way up the river since it was blocked by trees purposely dropped in the vicinity of the Forks so they were going to flank Batsto through the swamp. Seems they had a problem with all the cannon and ammunition being made at Batsto for the patriot cause.
I don't think their ships could get that far up anyway, right? You can see the shoals at the island.

1643061658454.png
 
  • Like
Reactions: Average Bog Enjoyer

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
I don't think their ships could get that far up anyway, right? You can see the shoals at the island.

View attachment 16661
I"ve canoed through there and your right it is very shallow but they would have left the ship downstream and rowed their smaller boats up the batsto probably to the forks and then marched up the space between the river which would have protected their flanks
 
  • Like
Reactions: Boyd
Apr 6, 2004
3,382
371
Galloway
Some entrenchments built by Batsto Patriots for a battle with the British that never happened are out there as well. The British intended to sneak attack batsto by sailing up the Mullica but were caught in the act at Chestnut neck by patriots whom they got into a battle with.The British won that battle but their surprise on Batsto was foiled so the Battle of Mordecai swamp never happened. The British coukld not go all the way up the river since it was blocked by trees purposely dropped in the vicinity of the Forks so they were going to flank Batsto through the swamp. Seems they had a problem with all the cannon and ammunition being made at Batsto for the patriot cause.
Al, you crack me up. Last time you mentioned this idea, you weren't nearly as dogmatic about your conjecture. Did you dig your heels in the sugar sand once I challenged you? Hehe. No way these were trenches dug out to thwart a British invasion. There would be no reason to expect the British to march into that area, as there was nothing of importance. Even if cannonballs were hidden back there per local lore, there is no reason to believe the Brits would trouble themselves with the effort to retrieve them (assuming, against the odds, that they were informed of the whereabouts of the cache). Besides, these trenches aren't nearly big enough to have served the purpose you'd like to ascribe to them. Nay, these ditches were just borrow pits where they mined sand for use in construction of the 1808 road. Sorry. Not sorry. ;)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: bobpbx
Apr 6, 2004
3,382
371
Galloway
Whenever you are out there look for a more modern sawmill. Beck wrote in one of his newspaper articles about searching the swamp and one of his companions found it. Beck claims he had been to it before so it was no surprise to him. I believe it was in the Buttonwood area. I have looked for that article again and could not find it. I have not looked for the sawmill from that end but have looked starting more towards the Batsto end.

Quite a bit of that swamp is dry and easy to walk in.
It's closer to Batsto. We visited this saw mill when we hiked the 1808 road.
 
Apr 6, 2004
3,382
371
Galloway
I"ve canoed through there and your right it is very shallow but they would have left the ship downstream and rowed their smaller boats up the batsto probably to the forks and then marched up the space between the river which would have protected their flanks
They wouldn't have made it past the forks in any boat, not because of the shoaling but because it was a hotbed of Rebel operations.
 
  • Like
Reactions: manumuskin

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
Al, you crack me up. Last time you mentioned this idea, you weren't nearly as dogmatic about your conjecture. Did you dig your heels in the sugar sand once I challenged you? Hehe. No way these were trenches dug out to thwart a British invasion. There would be no reason to expect the British to march into that area, as there was nothing of importance. Even if cannonballs were hidden back there per local lore, there is no reason to believe the Brits would trouble themselves with the effort to retrieve them (assuming, against the odds, that they were informed of the whereabouts of the cache). Besides, these trenches aren't nearly big enough to have served the purpose you'd like to ascribe to them. Nay, these ditches were just borrow pits where they mined sand for use in construction of the 1808 road. Sorry. Not sorry. ;)
Ditches in places shaped like redoubts? And some of them are along island edges hundreds of yards from the old road.The Brits were not after cannonball caches but to destroy the source of the cannonballs and cannon forged at Batsto. Many of the ditches are along the islands strung out to the south of the road and all are along the southern edges facing the Mullica
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
I am going to plan a trip to Mordecai soon as the weather warms up a bit but before the leaves come out.I"m going to map the trenches and photo them. I remember many of them being quite far south of the road. They were large enough for me tpo get in on my hands and knees and almost deeo enough with the berm to mak good shooting position from on knees,I"m sure the berm has worn down some and there may have been log revetments on top of the berm.They would have been built hastily probably after receiving word by horseback from chestnut neck perhaps before and they couldn't be dug much deeper then they were or they would have been laying in water.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
One section of trench is visible on 2021 LIDAR https://boydsmaps.com/#16.00/39.636107/-74.630076/lidar2021bw/0.00/0.00
Also where the trenches do follow the road why are they only on the southern side? The road is much bigger and higher then could account for the little bit of sand that would have been dug out of these trenches,besided the dirt dug out is obviously piled up in berms on the south side of the trench.

Of course then again why not just use the road as a breastwork in the area where it is convenient? Is it certain this road is as old as the Battle of Chestnut Neck? I"ll have to see if I cab research this.Apperars Chectnut Neck was fought Oct 6,1778. Now to find out the roads age.
 
Last edited:

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,354
2,176
58
millville nj
www.youtube.com
Okay have established that the man who built Crowleytown wasn't even born till 1788 so the town was not there.Could the road have followed present 542 on down the river to Tuckerton? or somewhere else on the coast or maybe just went to an old landing on the Mullica near present Crowleytown?the water would ahve been deeper down there.
 
Top