Ann Cooper Whitall
1716 – 1797
I nursed soldiers who were injured at a fort built on my family’s land.
I was born in the Cooper family in Woodbury, New Jersey, and married James Whitall. We were Quakers, and between 1760 and 1762 I kept a diary and recorded how to best live a Christian life. I was very concerned that the society around me was very sinful, that my sons and husband and sons were not serious enough in their religion, and I feared that we would receive a terrible judgment from God.
That judgment came when Patriot soldiers arrived on our property and told us they were building a fort, to be called Mercer, along the Delaware River. We Quakers are against warfare, and James told them, “This is your war, not mine.” But we could not stop them.
On October 22, 1777, war came to Fort Mercer when it was attacked by 1200 Hessian soldiers in the Battle of Red Bank. I tried to keep calm and sat down to spin some wool. When a stray bullet flew into our house, I moved down to the cellar.
After the battle, there were many wounded soldiers, so I turned our home into a hospital. While I nursed them with whatever I had available, I couldn’t help reminding any who complained that they had brought misery on themselves by engaging in violence. A few weeks later, the Americans abandoned Fort Mercer and the British ransacked our home.
Another kind of judgment came many years after the war. When I was 82, an epidemic of Yellow Fever swept through and killed me, along with five of my children. But many people remembered my kindness in helping wounded soldiers, and today many people still hail me as the “Heroine of Red Bank.”