Gloucester Town & The Revolution
1765 to 1783
Gloucester Town's location on the Delaware River and proximity to Philadelphia, placed it in the direct path of war. The British Army, Navy and their Hessian auxiliary units entered Gloucester Town in 1777 and 1778.
Gloucester Town's Joseph Ellis would become both a political and a military leader for the American quest for Independence. Other area residents would take part in the fighting, some in favor of independence and others would remain loyal to King George III.
Gloucester Town would take part in the build up of the defenses of the River Delaware, supporting the American forces as they repulsed the Hessian attack on Fort Mercer at nearby Red Bank, present National Park, NJ.
After the British took control of the Delaware River, Gloucester Town would witness the vessels of the Continental & Pennsylvania navies as they were set on fire by their crews to keep the vessels from being captured by the British.
After British General Lord Cornwallis landed a large force British and Hessian at Billingspot NJ, he would force the American's to abandon Fort Mercer. His force would continue to march north, crossing the Big Timber Creek into present day Brooklawn on November 24, 1777. After encamping over night in Brooklawn, his forces would cross the Little Timber Creek on November 25, 1777 and reached Gloucester Court House along the Delaware River. Immediately, they began to pass back across to Pennsylvania into winter quarters in Philadelphia.
It took three days to cross the large number of troops and the food stocks which they gathered along the way while in South Jersey.
On November 25th, while Cornwallis' forces were encamped at Gloucester Town, American forces would attack a unit of Hessian's which were guarding British eastern flank. The attack began in the area of present day Haddon Heights / Audubon along the Kings Road.
The attacking Americans were made of a Morgan Rifleman, a unit of NJ Militia and a small group of French officers. The most famous being, the marquis de Lafayette.
The attack was no more than a skirmish and militarily was not significant, but politically was important due to the presence of the marquis de Lafayette. This would be the first time the young Frenchman would lead American troops in battle. Much was made of the fact that British & Hessian forces were led by British General Lord Cornwallis.
The Affair at Gloucester would be used by George Washington to place Lafayette in command of an larger American Army; with the hope of a gaining greater support for the American cause from the French nation.
The Morgan Rifleman, who were under the command of Colonel Richard Butler, would return to Gloucester Town on November 27 to attack the last of the British as they boarded the flat boats crossing to Pennsylvania.
As the Morgan Rifleman fired on the British, the British navy vessels bombarded Gloucester Town in order to chase back the rifleman.
Gloucester Town and the surrounding area would be left burning and devoid of food stocks.
As the British spent the winter in Philadelphia, some of the British vessels would become stranded in the ice on the Delaware River and would be taken by NJ Militia. The British would land at Gloucester again in April 1778 and by nearly 11,000 British troops as they evacuated Philadelphia on June 18, 1778.