originally published 1964
Battle of Gloucester
Tuesday, November 25, 1952 was the 175th anniversary of the Battle, and sometimes referred to as the skirmish at Gloucester.
Here are some of the events that led up to that engagement. On July 4, 1776, besides the action of the Continental Congress which we, as a nation celebrate, occurred another historic event. Six hundred pounds of Pennsylvania currency was ordered paid to Margaret M. Paul, widow of John Paul, and Benjamin Weatherby one of her sons, for 96 acres at Billingsport. The deed, dated July 5, 1776, is on record in the Gloucester County Court House, Woodbury, conveying the land to George Clymer and Michael Hillegas, treasurers of the Thirteen United Colonies.
The Continental Congress had decided it was necessary to build a redoubt (fort) at Billingsport (named for Sir Edw. Byllynge). Lincoln Park, a pleasure resort in the late 1880’s was built on the site of the fort, and to place Chevaux-de-frise in the channel to defend the Delaware from the British, who wanted to open the river to Philadelphia.
The Chevaux-de-frise were frameworks with pointed iron tipped logs fastened to them that were floated into position, filled with stone and sunk.
General Washington and Lafayette inspected the defense measures at Billingsport on August 1, 1777 and proof is in Washington’s account of his expenses: 296 pine logs were donated by patriotic farmers living near the river front for the making of the river fortifications. Remains of the Chevaux-de-frise are preserved and can be seen near the battle ground at Red Bank.
Lafayette who was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, and while the wounds were unhealed, joined the Continental troops at Haddonfield under Col. Joseph Ellis on November 25, 1777, having been given permission to reconnoiter the British troops occupying Gloucester under Cornwallis.
He, with about 150 riflemen under Lt. Col. Butler and the same number of New Jersey militiamen under Col. Ellis, who commanded those from Gloucester Co., a few mounted men under Capt. Richard Cheeseman, and a group of four French officers.
The skirmish, also called the Battle of Gloucester, took place late in the day and lasted about three quarters of an hour at a point near where Kings Highway and Gloucester Road meet, in what is now Brooklawn between Big and Little Timber Greeks. This is not far from where the bridge crosses Little Timber Creek, which was the southern exit from Gloucester.
Near this bridge and near the battle was the old Tatem farm house, later the Dickensheets farm.
The original sketch map of Lafayette’s engagement at Gloucester is in the Library at Cornell University. Lafayette’s letter to Gen. Washington the next day is very descriptive of the battle and complimentary of the conduct of the soldiers under him. Here is a letter written by a Jersey boy, a lieutenant, from Cumberland County, Militia. Haddonfield, 11 at night, 25th of November 1777. Dear brother, we have no other loss in our company except Thos. Harris, who had his arm broken. We must have killed many of the enemy for we took the ground on which they first engaged. We have ten or twelve prisoners. I am ready to believe that the enemy are crossing the river at Gloucester Ferry and it is expected that we shall have none of them in Jersey by tomorrow morning. Signed: Azariah More.
Cornwallis’ army retired across the river from Gloucester on November 26th and 27th, where he spent less than a week, and while there occupied the home of Col. Ellis. The trenches, traces of which, up to a few years ago could be seen near Jersey Avenue at 6th Street were dug by the Continental forces before the arrival of the British.
While Mr. A.E. Pearce of 819 Chambers Ave., was on a business trip to England a few years ago, he visited a lodge meeting where he announced his home as Gloucester City, N.J. After the meeting, one of the members introduced himself as Lord Cornwallis, a descendent of the Lord Cornwallis, who he said had a very unpleasant experience at Gloucester during the war of the Colonies and Britain.
Marquise de Lafayette commanding Continental Troops, including local militiamen under Col. Joseph Ellis and Capt. Richard Cheeseman, met and held against British troops under Lord Cornwallis. Fearing further attack, two days later the British forces withdrew from Gloucester Point into Pennsylvania.
Erected by The Historical Society of Gloucester City, November 22, 1958.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The above monument was moved sometime ago from the Rose Haven Motel (now The Envoy Motel, Route US 130, Gloucester City) and placed in front of the Gloucester City High School at U.S.130 and Market Street. Also placed in the same location was this commemorative panel about the Battle of Gloucester
Due to the efforts put forth by Gloucester historian Frank White, we have the following information about the British Frigate Augusta.
When the county park engineers built the seawall along the river bank at the county park, part of the hull of the Augusta was buried under the ground. The engineers had large pieces of the timbers cut from the hull and secured permission to have them cut the pieces into sizes at the mill of Stinson and Dickensheets.
source: The History of Gloucester City, NJ 1664-1964 New Jersey Tercentenary
RELATED: Gloucester City History
TO BE CONTINUED