The Battle of Red Bank

Home » History » The Battle of Red Bank aka The Battle of Fort Mercer

About the Battle

Background:

The British aimed to control the Delaware River to supply their forces in Philadelphia. Fort Mercer and Fort Mifflin stood as obstacles to the British Navy. General William Howe dispatched Hessian forces under Colonel Carl von Donop to capture Fort Mercer.

Fort Mercer’s Defenders:

Fort Mercer was manned by the 1st and 2nd Rhode Island Regiments. Colonel Christopher Greene of Warwick, Rhode Island, commanded the 1st, and Colonel Israel Angell of Providence led the 2nd. Eyewitness accounts differ on the total number of defenders, ranging from 400 to 500 troops.

A significant aspect of the fort’s defense was the participation of African Americans. The Rhode Island regiments had the highest percentage of black soldiers among the Continental Army ranks. It’s estimated that as many as 80 African Americans, or one in every five of the fort’s defenders, participated in the battle.

The Battle:

The Battle of Red Bank was fought on October 22, 1777. Colonel von Donop led approximately 2,000 Hessian troops against Fort Mercer. Colonel von Donop, who was coming off a previous defeat at the Second Battle of Trenton, was looking to avenge his honor. Before attacking, he declared to his men: “Either that will be Fort Donop or I shall be dead.” Under the skilled leadership of Colonels Greene and Angell, the Americans utilized the fort’s defenses effectively, inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking Hessians.

Colonel von Donop was mortally wounded, and the Hessians were forced to retreat. The Americans held the fort, demonstrating the courage and determination of the Rhode Island Regiments.

Aftermath:

Three hundred and seventy-seven Hessians lay dead in the trenches. Thankfully, despite being outnumbered 4 to 1, only 14 Patriots lost their life, with another 27 wounded.

1st Rhode Island Regiment Deaths
Sgt. George Babcock, Prv. William Kirk, Pvt. William Sharper, Pvt. William Taylor, Sgt. John Gould, Pvt. John Brown

2nd Rhode Island Regiment Deatshs
Sgt. Nath. Stoddard, Pvt. Stephen Luther, Prv. Asa Potter, Pvt. Jonathan Bidgood, Sgt, Eleazer Wescott, Capt. Silvamus Shaw, Sgt. William Evertom.

The victory at Red Bank boosted American morale and delayed the British Navy’s operations in Philadelphia. However, the British continued their campaign, and the Americans eventually abandoned Fort Mercer on November 20, 1777.

Significance:

The Battle of Red Bank is remembered for the American victory and the bravery of the Rhode Island Regiments, including the significant contribution of African-American soldiers. The site is now preserved as Red Bank Battlefield Park.

In the broader context of the war, the battle was part of the Philadelphia campaign, a series of engagements that shaped the conflict in the Middle Atlantic states. The spirited defense of Fort Mercer contributed to the ongoing struggle for American independence and stands as a testament to the capability and diversity of the American forces.

Red Bank Battlefield as a National Event with SAR

The South Jersey Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) has played a pivotal role in elevating the Red Bank Battlefield to an officially recognized National Event within the SAR organization. Achieving this designation is no small feat; it requires a rigorous application and presentation process overseen by the National Historic Sites and Celebrations Committee. Criteria for approval include:

  • The historical significance of the location.
  • Evidence of participation by multiple SAR State Societies or Chapters.
  • A demonstrated commitment to the event’s continuity.

Once granted, the “National Event” status comes with responsibilities for the host State Society and Chapter. The South Jersey Chapter, as the sponsor, is tasked with maintaining the high standards initially required for the event’s recognition. This involves organizing and overseeing various activities, ensuring broad participation, and upholding the historical and educational values associated with the event. In essence, National Events don’t just happen; they are carefully curated and sustained, and the South Jersey Chapter takes great pride in its role as the steward of the Red Bank Battlefield’s esteemed status.

 

The Red Bank Battlefield Memorial Red Bank, NJ

Click Image to View Full Size

Visit Redbank Battlefield

Red Bank Battlefield Park

Upcoming Events

News & Happenings

January 20th 2024 Chapter Meeting Cancelled

January 20th 2024 Chapter Meeting Cancelled

Greetings South Jersey Chapter members, The first order of business is to announce that “This Saturday’s, January 20, 2024 meeting of the South Jersey Chapter of the SAR has been cancelled due to potential serious weather conditions.” Sorry for the late notice;...

read more
Our Chapter Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Our Chapter Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

The South Jersey Chapter of the SAR celebrated its 100 th Anniversary in September. In order to commemorate the event, a luncheon was held at Ramblewood Country Club in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. The event was well attended and well received by eighty-two participants...

read more
Rich Serfass on the Battleship New Jersey

Rich Serfass on the Battleship New Jersey

Rich Serfass, president of the SJC SAR, had the honor of presenting the Sons of the American Revolution Navy Sea Cadet bronze medal to a cadet from the USS Battleship New Jersey Sea Cadets on the Battleship’s main deck. Dressed in a uniform that mirrored that of a...

read more