Landscape view at Red Bank Battlefield Park in New Jersey
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Fort Mercer

New Jersey  |  Oct 22, 1777

A force of Hessian soldiers in Sir William Howe's British army were ordered to take Forts Mercer and Mifflin following the fall of Philadelphia. 

How it ended

American victory. Hessians suffered nearly fifty percent casualties including Colonel Karl von Donop. The Americans recorded few casualties. The fort remained in American hands for a few weeks longer.

In Context

In the summer of 1777, British General Sir William Howe sailed south from New York City to capture the rebel capital of Philadelphia. General George Washington prepared to meet Howe and defend the city. The two armies clashed at Brandywine Creek on September 11 and the battle resulted in a British victory.

Howe then entered and occupied the city. Washington tried to dislodge one of the Howe at Germantown but failed. The Philadelphia Campaign was nearly complete. 

The British captured the Patriot capital of Philadelphia on September 26, 1777. Following the defeat at Germantown, the Americans hoped to deny the British access to the city via the Delaware River. This was done by reinforcing Fort Mercer on the New Jersey side of the river and Fort Mifflin on the Pennsylvania side. As long as the Continentals held both forts, the British could not resupply the city from the sea. Along with the forts, they had a small flotilla of Continental Navy ships which were supplemented by the Pennsylvania State Navy. The American fleet was small and outgunned by the nine vessels the British would bring in to assist in the attack on Fort Mercer. The British sailed up the Delaware on October 20th.

The Hessians ferried across the river on October 21, landing near Camden, New Jersey. Met with light resistance, they marched closer to the fort. Jaeger Captain Johann Ewald approached the Salem and Cape May County militia. A skirmish broke out but the Americans were unable to halt the Hessians, who made camp for the night at Haddonfield. They marched for Fort Mercer at 4 a.mm on the 22.

Forces Engaged
1,700
American
500
British
1,200

Colonel Carl von Donop was overly confident in the upcoming attack and said to have claimed “either that will be Fort Donop or I shall be dead.” The Hessians began their attack at 4:45 p.m. on October22. The American defenders, under Col. Christopher Greene of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, awaited the assault. The Hessians gained entry to the abandoned section of the fort but because they didn’t have axes or tools to cut through the obstacles they became sitting ducks for Greene's men on the walls. When the battalion’s commander was shot, the Hessians panicked and a temporary retreat ensued. At the same time American gunboats opened a supporting fire, which pinned down the attackers. Despite being wounded, von Donop stayed remained in the fight. He was shot thirteen times and collapsed on the field.

American
40
0 killed
0 wounded
0 missing & captured
Estimated Casualties
554
American
40
British
514
British
514
0 killed
0 wounded
0 missing & captured

Although the assault failed, the British were determined to capture the forts and open their supply line to Philadelphia.  A few weeks later, both forts fell to the British. Howe spent the winter in Philadelphia while Washington camped at Valley Forge.

All battles of the Philadelphia Campaign

Rev War  |  Battle
Brandywine
Pennsylvania  |  Sep 11, 1777
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,887
American: 1,300
British: 587
Rev War  |  Battle
Paoli
Pennsylvania  |  Sep 20, 1777
Result: British Victory
American: 272
British: 11
Rev War  |  Battle
Siege of Fort Mifflin
Philadelphia, PA  |  Sep 26 - Nov 16, 1777
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 370
American: 250
British: 120
Rev War  |  Battle
Germantown
Philadelphia  |  Oct 4, 1777
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,644
American: 1,111
British: 533
Rev War  |  Battle
Fort Mercer
New Jersey  |  Oct 22, 1777
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 554
American: 40
British: 514
Rev War  |  Battle
Monmouth
New Jersey  |  Jun 28, 1778
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 706
American: 325
British: 381

Related Battles

New Jersey | October 22, 1777
Result: American Victory
Forces Engaged
1,700
American
500
British
1,200
Estimated Casualties
554
American
40
British
514