1777 – Early in the Revolution in a chain of failed battles against the British, the American Patriots this day win a battle against a superior German Hessian force at Fort Mercer along the banks of the Delaware River, New Jersey. With support from six British man-of-war in the river the fort is attacked by Hessian Colonel Carl von Donop with a force of 1,200 men. With a combination of overeager, poor tactics by the German mercenaries and cunning defenses in the river and surrounding the fort by the Patriots, the battle culminates with over a third of the Hessians wounded or dead and in retreat with von Donop mortally wounded, minor losses by the Americans. What was to be a British-German rout of the Patriots turns into a major moral boost for those struggling for Independence.
The Battle of Red Bank (October 22, 1777) was a battle of the American Revolutionary War in which a Hessian force was sent to take Fort Mercer on the left bank (or New Jersey side) of the Delaware River just south of Philadelphia, but was decisively defeated by a far inferior force of Colonial defenders. Although the British did take Fort Mercer a month later, the victory supplied a sorely-needed morale boost to the American cause, delayed British plans to consolidate gains in Philadelphia, and relieved pressure on General Washington’s army to the north of the city.
Von Donop, whose attack had been repulsed at the Second Battle of Trenton, was eager to avenge what he considered to be a humiliation. He declared to his men: “Either the fort will be called Fort Donop, or I shall have fallen.” Von Donop divided his force into two groups totaling 1,200 men for a two-pronged attack upon the fort on the morning of October 22. Von Donop and Hessian grenadier Lieutenant Colonel von Linsing were to attack the southern part of the fort, while Colonel Friedrich Ludwig von Minnigerode’s grenadiers and Lieutenant Colonel Werner von Mirbach’s infantry were to attack the northern and eastern approaches. With six British man-of-war in the river to support the attack, von Donop was convinced that the fort would be in his hands by nightfall.
After a cannonade by the Hessian artillery, Linsing moved against the nine-foot-high southern parapet, and his men were cut down by devastating cannon and musket fire and were forced to retreat. On the north, Minnigerode’s grenadiers managed to scale the ramparts of an abandoned section of the fort. But when they moved on they were confronted by a tangled mass of felled trees with pointed branches, a kind of abatis, protecting the main wall of the fort. With little in the way of proper tools, they were soon spotted trying to claw their way through the barricade and were fired upon by the Americans waiting for them on the other side. Suffering heavy casualties, the Hessians began to retreat, falling back to their camp ten miles (16 km) away in the village of Haddonfield which they had taken after landing at nearby Cooper’s Ferry. Von Donop was wounded in the thigh during the southern attack and was left on the battlefield by his retreating troops. Mortally wounded, von Donop died three days later in the Whitall House, a farmhouse just outside the southern works of the fort between the fort and Woodbury Creek.
To make matters worse for the British and Hessians, the six British men-of-war were engaged by smaller American gunboats. During the engagement, two of the ships, the 64-gun Ship-of-the-Line Augusta and the sloop of war Merlin ran aground on a shoal trying to avoid a series of underwater obstacles called chevaux-de-frise or stockades, which were rows of large wooden spears weighted down on the bottom of the river by heavy crates filled with rocks, designed to pierce the hulls of intruding British warships. The next morning, unable to drag the Merlin off the shoal and not wanting to let the ship fall into American hands, the British set fire to the ship, while the Augusta was set on fire by American batteries from Fort Mifflin. The Augusta exploded the next day. Read more at Wikipedia
America remember and honor your history – it will give direction, purpose and security to your future.