Open main menu

Fort Mercer was a fort on the Delaware River in New Jersey constructed by the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Built by Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko under the command of George Washington, Fort Mercer was built in 1777 to block the approach to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in concert with Fort Mifflin on the Pennsylvania side. Fort Mercer was located in an area called Red Bank, in what is now the borough of National Park, Gloucester County, New Jersey. The fort was named in honor of Brigadier General Hugh Mercer who had died earlier that year at the Battle of Princeton. The fort's site is now part of Red Bank Battlefield Historical Park, which includes a monument and museum. Several cannons attributed to British warships lost supporting the attack on the fort, and others found buried at the fort itself, are in the park.[4]

Fort Mercer
Red Bank, New Jersey
Red Banke. LOC gm71002224.tif
Map with detail of Fort Mercer (Red Banke)
Fort Mercer is located in Gloucester County, New Jersey
Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer is located in New Jersey
Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer is located in the United States
Fort Mercer
Fort Mercer
TypeEarthwork
Site history
Built1777
Built by
In use1777–1781
Materialsearth, logs
Red Bank Battlefield
Location100 Hessian Ave., National Park, NJ 08063
NRHP reference #72000796[1]
NJRHP #1405[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 31, 1972[1]
Designated NHLNovember 28, 1972[3]
Designated NJRHPAugust 16, 1979
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Garrison information
Past
commanders
Christopher Greene
British map showing operations on the Delaware River in 1777.
Hessian map showing campaigns against Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer (Redbank) in 1777.
Monument in Fort Mercer, 2008

Fort Mercer was built and Fort Mifflin rebuilt and garrisoned to protect a line of chevaux de frise obstacles across the Delaware River. Fort Billingsport was built downriver to protect another line of these obstacles. Fort Mercer had earthen walls with a surrounding ditch, topped with a log palisade. The fort was about 320 yards (290 m) long and 50 yards (46 m) wide and mounted 14 cannons, with bastions on the landward corners. A separate outer redoubt was located north of the fort, but this was not garrisoned. The fort could accommodate a garrison of 1,500 men, but only 600 were available, mostly Rhode Island troops of the Continental Army commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene, also a Rhode Islander. French officer Thomas Duplessis made the fort more defensible by the small garrison by having a wall built inside the river side of the fort.[5]

On October 22, 1777, in the Battle of Red Bank, an attack by 900 Hessian troops under British Major General William Howe, then occupying Philadelphia, was repelled by Fort Mifflin's defenders with heavy losses on the Hessian side, over 500 casualties including the death of their commander, Colonel Carl Emil Kurt von Donop. The defenders suffered only 40 casualties.[4] Galleys of the Continental and Pennsylvania Navies under Commodore John Hazelwood provided supporting fire. Six British warships were also involved, two of which ran aground while avoiding the chevaux de frise. Fort Mifflin and the Pennsylvania Navy engaged the stranded ships the next morning, with cannons and fire rafts, respectively. HMS Augusta of 64 guns caught fire and within an hour the fire reached the magazine and the ship exploded, though the loss was attributed to accidental ignition by the British. One account states a British Marine accidentally fired his musket into a hammock, with the fire resulting from subsequent smoldering. HMS Merlin was also lost. After the later loss of Fort Mifflin, Fort Mercer was abandoned when Lord Charles Cornwallis landed 2,000 British troops nearby on November 18, 1777. As British artillery breached the walls, the defenders of Fort Mercer blew up their magazine before abandoning the fort.[6][7][8]

The British abandoned Fort Mercer as they evacuated Philadelphia on June 18, 1778. The Patriots re-occupied the site and rebuilt the fort, manning it until 1781 when the fighting moved to Yorktown, Virginia.[9][5]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places - Gloucester County" (PDF). New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection - Historic Preservation Office. April 1, 2010. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 18, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  3. ^ "Red Bank Battlefield". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2008-06-23. Archived from the original on 2009-02-25.
  4. ^ a b Fort Mercer at RevolutionaryWarNewJersey.com
  5. ^ a b Fort Mercer at FortWiki.com
  6. ^ Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, National Park Service. Accessed September 24, 2007.
  7. ^ Roberts, Robert B. (1988). Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States. New York: Macmillan. pp. 511–512. ISBN 0-02-926880-X.
  8. ^ "The story of the battle of Red Bank". friendsofredbank. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  9. ^ Fort Mercer at American Forts Network

External linksEdit