Construction on Camp Vredenburg began on July 22, 1862. It was one of ten Civil War boot camps built in New Jersey, and its purpose was to train Union soldiers recruited or drafted from central New Jersey. The camp remained active until late January 1864, was then disassembled and the lumber was shipped to Trenton.
The exact location of Camp Vredenburg has been debated for years. It was originally a farm lot belonging to Jacob Herbert, but was leased by the state of New Jersey as a training camp because of its easy access to the Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad. Access to this railroad enabled movement of troops and supplies to the camp. Although the general location of the camp is known because of a property deed, the exact layout of the camp remains unknown. Following is a description of the property that appeared in the Monmouth Democrat on July 17, 1862:
"The campground has been located on a fine field on the farm of Jacob Herbert, Esq., about two miles from the village on the line of the railroad. It has plenty of good water for drinking and bathing purposes, a fine grove of trees on the rear will afford shelter form the heat of the sun, it is convenient access from all parts of the district, and just the right distance from the town for the comfort of both soldiers and citizens."
The camp was named after local judge Peter Vredenburg. His son, Peter Jr., was elected Major of the first regiment to train there. The regiments mustered out of Camp Vredenburg were the 14th, 28th, 29th, and Company H of the 35th.
The Monmouth County Historical Association has a photograph of Camp Vredenburg showing one of the main camp streets, which is lined with a large number of tall flag poles made from what appear to be local trees. In order to keep these poles erect, they would have to have been embedded several feet deep in the sandy soil. This means that there is a high probably of postmolds being intact below the plow zone. It has also been suggested that Camp Vredenburg would have had wall tents, wooden barracks, a guard house, a hospital, a cook house, and sinks. These structures may also have associated features intact below the plow zone.
As for historic artifacts, during a supervised archaeological field outing, members of Boy Scout Troop 358 excavated a late 19th-early 20th century trash pit consisting primarily of bottles.
Thus far, over 300 historic artifacts have been excavated from the site of Camp Vredenburg, including percussion caps, gun parts, minie balls, military buttons, period coins, eating utensils, bottle glass, ceramics, kaolin clay pipe and bowl fragments, and bent hand-wrought square nails. Further investigations are necessary to locate the the structures and layout of Camp Vredenburg.
The Experts Responsible for Monmouth Battlefield Archaeology:
Ralph Phillips, Garry Stone, and Dan Sivilich:
Field School at Camp Vredenberg