Fort Mercer (Red Bank Battlefield Park NHL)

Monuments and reconstructed earthworks mark the location of Fort Mercer, site of a dramatic American victory 22 October 1777. Attempting to break the Continental Army’s blockade of the Delaware River, three battalions of Hessian infantry tried to storm the fort. The soldiers bravely made their way through an abatis, ditches, and pointed stakes while under intense artillery and musket fire. Some succeeded in climbing the fort’s steep ramparts only to die at the palisades. The Germans lost almost 400 men. The fort’s 600 defenders sustained 38 casualties.

Fort Mercer was constructed in 1777 as part of the fortifications protecting Philadelphia. Between Fort Mercer and Fort Mifflin on Mud Island, lines of underwater obstructions—chevaux de Frise—blocked the shipping channel. The British commander, Sir William Howe, ordered the forts stormed. The attack on Fort Mifflin, attempted October 23, was another disaster—called off after two ships were lost.

After Fort Mifflin—almost leveled by British artillery—was evacuated November 15-16, the British landed 5,000 troops south of Fort Mercer. The fort’s garrison panicked, set the fort on fire, and retreated.

The fort’s remains and the Whitall House are located along the Delaware River in a 44-acre Gloucester County Park. Archaeology in 1936 and 2015 recovered cannon and other battle artifacts.

Park Hours: Dawn to dusk.

 

Garry Wheeler Stone
May 2019