Co-chairpersons Lauren Sherman and Willie Demontreaux have also worked hard to honor the 200th anniversary of one of the most important moments in American history, which occurred on the shores of the Hudson River in Weehawken.
On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr, the vice-president of the United States at the time, challenged Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Secretary of the treasury and the man whose face still graces the $10 bill, to a duel in order to settle their long-standing differences.
They met on the shores of Weehawken, and Burr fired a shot that struck Hamilton, a wound that claimed his life 32 hours later.
Ever since the township of Weehawken decided that they wanted to do something extraordinary to commemorate the anniversary, Berg, a member of the Weehawken Historical Commission, has thrown himself into the project.
"There is a lot more interest than we could have ever imagined," Berg said. "I guess there are more historic types than you would have thought. It's not an everyday event, and this is the biggest event in Weehawken history. I knew it would be a pretty big thing, but I don't think anyone could have predicted how big it's getting. It's going to be crazy."
Berg said that people from all across the country have contacted him via e-mail, requesting reservations to attend either the historic re-enactment, which is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. today (Sunday) at Lincoln Harbor Park, or the author's symposium at Weehawken High School, which will feature three well-known and highly respected authors who have written books about the historic figures.
"I have had so many people call or send e-mails," said Berg, who said that there are 700 people who have registered for the symposium at the high school auditorium. "People from California, Arizona, Maine. It's been incredible."
The national political network C-SPAN has already announced that they will televise the re-enactment, which will feature family members portraying the main characters.
Ohio native Doug Hamilton, the fifth great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, will play the role of Hamilton, while Dr. Antonio Burr, a psychologist who has an office in Hoboken and is a distant cousin of Aaron Burr, will portray Burr in the duel.
C-SPAN may also televise the symposium, which has also drawn its share of attention, considering that three renowned authors are involved: Ron Chernow whose book, "Alexander Hamilton" is currently on the New York Times best seller list; Dr. Joanne Freeman, a Yale University professor who wrote the acclaimed book "Affairs of Honor," and Tom Fleming, a Jersey City native who has etched his niche as one of the premier historians in the nation.
Fleming, who now lives in Manhattan and has written more than 60 books, both historical and fictional, said that he was looking forward to participating in the symposium.
"I'm delighted that I have something to contribute," said Fleming, whose book, "Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America," was published in late 1999 and won great praise from fellow historians and reviewers. "It's an event worth remembering and I'm happy to be a part of it," said Fleming, who was born and raised in the Bergen-Lafayette section of Jersey City and was a graduate of St. Peter's Prep. "I found the inside story behind the duel very fascinating and that's why I wrote the book."
He added, "In my book, we go back to January, 1804, and trace the lives of both men right up to the duel. I find the event to be one of the most fascinating events in American history."
According to Fleming, the two men agreed to the duel because they both had aspirations to be considered the top soldier in America. Contrary to most beliefs, Hamilton had not publicly humiliated Burr in the 1804 election for governor of New York, one that saw Burr get trounced by Morgan Lewis, the sitting Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court.
Burr held Hamilton responsible for his political demise, but Fleming points out that both men's respective political careers were in decline by the time of the duel.
"Neither man had a political future," Fleming said. "Hamilton had his newspaper [the New York Post] and Burr had sunk into depression after the [electoral] defeat. Both had a military future, and that's the real reason for the challenge. Hamilton's comments about Burr were mild compared to some of them."
Fleming said that Thomas Jefferson's political allies, namely DeWitt Clinton, the mayor of New York at the time, were out to destroy Burr's image.
"They said that Burr liked to frequent prostitutes, even when his wife was dying," Fleming said. "Considering that Burr's wife died of cancer at an early age, there wasn't a shred of truth in any of those stories. Jefferson was a hypocritical, nasty man. Once he turned on you, there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to take you down. When Jefferson threw Burr out of the White House, that's when he decided to run for governor."
After the election, Burr was considering an offer to join some New England politicos who were looking to secede from the United States. At that time, he decided to challenge Hamilton to the duel, the way that gentlemen of that era settled differences.
Some 17 duels were held in Weehawken, with its convenient location on the shores near New York. One duel claimed the life of Alexander Hamilton's son, Phillip.
After the Burr-Hamilton duel, Burr was treated as a criminal and was even supposed to stand trial for murder in New Jersey, but the trial never happened.
"I just read where Burr was referred to as Hamilton's murderer and that's not the truth," Fleming said. "Burr was never given a break on anything. He was vilified for what happened, but he was a fascinating character, America's first politician. He definitely deserves his place in history. He was a tragic character. He made mistakes, but he wasn't a despicable human being."
Fleming said that he thought about writing a book about the Hamilton-Burr duel for "about 25 years" before putting the finishing touches on it nearly six years ago.
"One historian said of my book that the duel was never explained this way before,"
Fleming is hard at work putting the finishing touches on his latest book, "All I've Got: Visions of My Father," a book that focuses on the life of his father, Jersey City political leader Tom "Teddy" Fleming, who was an influential ward leader during the reign of legendary Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague. It will be published by Wiley Books of Hoboken in April.
For now, Berg tries to put all the pieces together in time for the commemoration on Sunday.