Battle of Gloucester

November 1777

Summary of the "Battle of Gloucester -NJ"

24, 25, 26 & 27 of Nov. 1777

Nearly 4,500 British troops occupied Gloucester Town under the command of General Lord Cornwallis.

While in Gloucester Town they would be foraging in the areas around the Netwon Creek, Little Timber Creek and Big Timber Creek.   Collecting 400 head of Cattle, horses, pigs, chickens and other food stocks to take with them into winter quarters in Philadelphia.

They had just come from destroying Fort Mercer at Red Bank (present day National Park NJ).  With the fort now destroyed, the Delaware River is open to the British Navy to supply their army in Philadelphia.

The marquis de Lafayette would lead American Troops.  The young Frenchman would take a small force of troops against a Hessian outpost guarding the King's Highway bridge that crossed the King's Run branch of the Newton Creek.

Starting in present day Haddon Heights and Audubon into Mt. Ephraim the Hessians would be driven back into what is present day Gloucester City.

There are three version maps of the Battle of Gloucester.

All three are consider to have been by Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy, the skilled cartographer who served as the Marquis de Lafayette's aide-de-camp during the American Revolutionary War.

The action known as the Battle of Gloucester took place on 

November 25th 1777.

It 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.

George Washington calls South Jersey to arms.

20 November 1777

"Freinds and Fellow Soldiers

The Enemy have thrown a considerable Force into your State, with intent to possess themselves of the post at Red Bank, and after clearing the obstructions in Delaware, make incursions into your Country"....

"I therefore call upon you, by all that you hold dear, to rise up as one man, and rid your Country of its unjust invaders."

Gloucester Town would experience the "invaders" days later when British General Lord Cornwallis with 4,300 British & Hessian troops would enter Gloucester Town on the 24th of November 1777.

[ Full text of the letter is below.]

"To the Militia of Certain New Jersey Counties

[Whitemarsh, Pa., 20 November 1777]

Freinds and Fellow Soldiers

The Enemy have thrown a considerable Force into your State, with intent to possess themselves of the post at Red Bank, and after clearing the obstructions in Delaware, make incursions into your Country.

To prevent them from effecting either of these purposes, I have sent over such a number of Continental Troops as I trust will, with the spirited exertions of the Militia, totally defeat their designs, and oblige them to return to the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia, which is the only ground they possess upon the Pennsylvania Shore, and in which they cannot subsist, if cut off from the supplies of the plentiful State of New Jersey.

I therefore call upon you, by all that you hold dear, to rise up as one man, and rid your Country of its unjust invaders. To convince you that this is to be done, by a general appearance of all its Freemen armed and ready to give them opposition, I need only to put you in mind of the effect it had upon the British Army in June last, who laid aside their intention of marching through the upper part of your State, upon seeing the hostile manner in which you were prepared to receive them.  Look also at the glorious effects which followed that Spirit of Union which appeared among our Brethren of New York and New England, who, by the brave assistance which they afforded to the Continental Army, obliged a royal one flushed with their former Victories to sue for Terms, and lay down their Arms in the most submissive manner.

Reflect upon these things, and I am convinced that every Man who can bear a Musket, will take it up, and without respect to turn or Class give his Service in the Feild for a few Weeks, perhaps only for a few days. I am Your sincere Freind and Countryman

Go: Washington"

21st of November 1777 - Diary of Elizabeth Drinker

“The Amricans had set their whole Fleet on fier”

“I was awaken'd this Morning befor 5 o'clock by the loud fireing of Cannon, my Head Aching very badly; All our Family was up but little Molly, --and a fire made in the Parlor, more then an hour before day-all our Neighbours were also up, and I believe most in Town- The Amricans had set their whole Fleet on fier, except one Small vesel and some of the Gondelows, which past by the City in the Night; the fireing was from the Delaware who lay at Coopers Point, on the Gondelows, which they did not return; Billy counted 8 different Vessels on fire at once in sight, one lay near the Jersey shore, opposite our House; we heard the explosion of 4 of 'em when they blew up, which shook our Windows greatly-We had a fair sight of the blazeing Fleet, from our upper Windows."

Events along the Delaware River leading up to the Battle of Gloucester - NJ and thereafter.

11 Sep. 1777 - Battle of Brandywine results in the British Army capturing Philadelphia.

20 Sep. 1777 - Battle of Paoli, British surprise attack on American encampment.

02 Oct. 1777 - Fort Billingsport below Ft. Mercer in NJ falls to the British

04 Oct. 1777 - Battle of Germantown took place on "Cliveden" the Chew Family home.

22 Oct. 1777 - 900 Hessian fail in their attack Fort Mercer at Red Bank.

17 Oct. 1777 - British General Burgoyne surrenders 5,800 troops at Saratoga NY.

15 Nov. 1777 - Fort Mifflin on the west side of the Delaware River falls to the British.

16 Nov. 1777 - Lord General Cornwallis crosses from Chester PA to Ft. Billingsport NJ.

18 Nov. 1777 - Fort Mercer on the east side of the Delaware River falls to the British.

21 Nov. 1777 - Rebel fleet was burned off Gloucester Point near Big Timber Creek.

23 Nov. 1777 - British Army in Woodbury NJ begins move north toward the Big Timber Creek.

24 Nov. 1777 - British Army cross Big Timber Creek & camps south of Little Timber Creek.

25 Nov. 1777 - British Army cross the Little Timber Creek and camp in Gloucester Town.

26 Nov. 1777 - British Army continue to cross at Gloucester Town NJ to Philadelphia PA.

27 Nov. 1777 - British Army complete crossing at Gloucester Town NJ to Philadelphia PA.

27 Nov. 1777 - British Navy on the Delaware River cannon bombarded Gloucester Town.

28 Nov. 1777 - British Army takes up winter quarter in Philadelphia until 18 June 1778.

19 Dec. 1777 - Washington selects Valley Forge PA as the winter encampment of his Army.

1777 - 1778 - British Troops continue incursions into NJ foraging throughout the winter.

5 Apr. 1778 - Abercrombie leads 500 British grenadiers in a landing at Gloucester Town.

18 Jun. 1778 - British Army leaves Philadelphia for New York City.

18 Jun. 1778 - Nearly 11,000 British Troops land at Gloucester Town NJ march out at 10 AM.

28 Jun. 1778 - Battle of Monmouth.

The course of Delaware River from Philadelphia to Chester

(Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library)

Battle of Gloucester (Auction in Europe)

Battle of Gloucester ( National Library of France)

French to English translation from map description of the action at Gloucester on  25 November 1777

"Map of the Action of Gloucester, between an American Party of about 350 men under General LaFayette, 

and a party of troops of Lord Cornwallis, command by that General after his Raid (Red Bank) in the Jersies. 

25 November 25 1777"

a.  The English position, 5,000 men at Gloucester

b.  Baggage of the Enemy, passing to and from Philadelphia.

c.  The enemy post opposite Sand Point; from which their position was reconnoitered.

d.  Broken bridge.

e.  400 Hessian advance post, with two cannons, which were first to be attacked.

f.  American rifleman, who began the attack.

g.  Supporting militia.

h.  Parties placed in the road so that the flank might not be turned.

i.  Point where the English and the Hessians were chased, and where they held their ground, sustained by an English detachment commanded by Cornwallis.

k.  Chasseurs sent on the flanks of the enemy.

i.  Point where the English and the Hessians were chased, and where they held their ground, sustained by an English detachment commanded by Cornwallis.

l.  Point where the English and Hessians were repulsed after a lively resistance and where night ended the fighting (nearly a mile from Gloucester).

m.  Haddonfield Road, where the American were and where they returned after having assured their advantages.

More information can be found at the following links:

Battle of Gloucester:

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Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouërie.

Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouërie was more commonly known as Colonel Armand.

He was a French cavalry officer who served under the American flag.

Lafayette reports La Rouërie being with him during the Battle of Gloucester on November 25th 1777.

Promoted to general on 25 June 1778, La Rouërie took part in the battles of New York, Monmouth, Short Hills, Brandywine, Whitemarsh, the Campaign in Virginia, and the Siege of Yorktown.

In 1781, Colonel Armand returned to France to re-equip his troops, and was there made a Knight of the Order of Saint-Louis.

On 26 March 1783, he was made a brigadier general in the American Army, though he left the American Army on 25 November that year.

He returned to France in the summer of 1784. He retained his friendship with Washington after leaving America and the two continued to correspond. La Rouërie was also made a member of the Society of the Cincinnatis French chapter.,_marquis_de_la_Rou%C3%ABrie

"From Major General Lafayette

haddonfield [N.J.] the 26 november 1777

Dear General

I went down to this place since the day before yesterday in order to be acquainted of all the roads and grounds arround the ennemy—I heard at my arrival that theyr Main body was betwen great and little timber creek since the same evening—Yesterday morning in recconnoitring about I have been told that they were very busy in crossing the delaware—I saw them myself in theyr boats and sent that intelligence to general greene as soon as possible as every other thing I heard of— but I want to acquaint your excellency of a little event of last evening which tho not very considerable in itself will certainly please you on account of the bravery and Alacrity a small party of ours showed in that occasion—After having spent the most part of the day to make myself vell acquainted with the certainty of theyr motions I came pretty late into the glocester road betwen the two creeks —I had ten light horse with mr lindsey, almost hundred an fifty riflemen under colonel buttler, and two piquets of the militia commanded by colonel hite, and ellis. My whole body was not three hundred—colonel armand, colonel laumoy, the chevaliers du plessis and gimat were the frenchmen who went with me—a scout of my men with whom was Mr du plessis to see how near were the first piquets from glocester found at two miles and a half of it a strong post of three hundred and fifty hessians with field pieces (what number I did know by the unanimous deposition of theyr prisoners) and engaged immediately—as my little recconnoitring party was all in fine spirits I supported them—we pushed the hessians more than an half mile from the place were was theyr main body, and we made them run very fast—british reinforcements came twice to them but very far from recovering theyr ground they Went alwaïs back—the darkness of the night prevented us then to push that advantage, and after standing upon the ground we had got I ordered them to return very slow to haddonfield—the ennemy knowing perhaps by our drums that we were not so near came again to fire at us—but the brave major moriss with a part of his riflemen sent them back and pushed them very fast—I understand that they have had betwen twenty five and thirty wounded, at least that number killed amonghs whom I am certain is an officer some say more, and the prisoners told me that the have lost the commandant of that body—We got yet this day fourteen prisoners—I sed you the most moderate account I had from themselves—We left one single man Killed a lieutenant of militia and only five of ours were wounded—Colonel armand’s, chevalier du plessis’s and major brice’s horses have been wounded—Such is the account of our little entertainement, which is indeed much too long for the matter, but I take the greatest pleasure to let you know that the conduct of our soldiers is above all praises—I never saw men so merry, so spirited, so desirous to go on to the ennemy what ever forces they could have as that little party was in this little fight. I found the riflemen above even theyr reputation and the militia above all expectations I could have—I returned to them my very sincere thanks this morning—I wish that this little succès of ours may please you—tho’ a very trifling one I find it very interesting on account of the behaviour of our soldiers.

Some time after I came back Gral varnum arrived here—general greene is too in this place since this morning—he engaged me to give you myself the account of that little advantage of that small part of the troops under his command—I have nothing more to Say to your excellency about our business on this Side because he is wraïting himself—I should have been very glad if circumstances had permitted me to be useful to him upon a greater scale—as he is obliged to march slow in order to attend his troops, and as I am here only a volonteer, I’l have the honor to wait on your excellency as soon as possible, and I’l set out to day—it will be a great pleasure for me to find myself again with you. With the most tender affection and highest respect I have the honor to be dear general Your excellency’s the most obedient humble servant


I must tell too that the riflemen had been the whole day running before my horse without eating or taking any rest.

I have just now a certain assurance that two british officers besides those I spocke you of have died this morning of theyr wounds in an house—this and Some other circumstances let me believe that theyr loss may be greater than I told to your excellency.

3 December 1777

Future President of the United States John Adams is told of Marquis de Lafayette action at Gloucester.

John Adams is appointed Commissioner at the Court of France, joining Ben Franklin who is already there.   In the same letter he is informed about the 

"Marquis de Lafayette at the head of about 400 Militia and a detachment from Morgan's Rifles on a Picket of 300 Hessians twice reinforced by British—in which our Troops were successful, killed about 20—wounded more took 14 Prisoners and chased the Enemy about half a Mile."

The actual distance was more like 2.5 miles

Some American reports of the Battle of Gloucester (NJ) make mention that Cornwallis was wounded or killed at Gloucester.    Neither proved correct. 

Notice that Gloucester is spelled "Gloster"

[ Massachusetts Historical Society ]