Fort Mercer


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Fort Mercer Map

Map of Fort Mercer in Revolutionary War

Mercer, FORT, a strong work on the New Jersey shore of the Delaware, not far below Philadelphia, which in 1777 had a garrison under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene, of Rhode Island. After Howe had taken possession of Philadelphia, in September of that year, he felt the necessity of strengthening his position; so, in the middle of October, he ordered Gen. Sir Henry Clinton to abandon the forts he had captured in the Hudson High-lands, and send 6,000 troops to Philadelphia. He had just issued this order, when pews of the surrender of Burgoyne and his army reached him. He then perceived that he must speedily open the way for his brother's fleet to ascend the Delaware to Philadelphia or all would be lost. He ordered Count Donop to take 1,200 picked Hessian soldiers, cross the Delaware at Philadelphia, march down the New Jersey shore, and take Fort Mercer by storm. He obeyed, and at the same time the British vessels of war in the river opened a furious cannonade on Fort Mifflin, opposite. Already the works at Billingsport, below, had been captured, and a narrow channel had been opened through obstructions above. This admitted British vessels to approach near enough to cannonade the two forts.

On the approach of Donop (October 22), Greene abandoned the outworks of Fort Mercer, and retired into the principal redoubt, At the edge of a wood, within cannon-shot of the fort, Donop planted a battery of ten heavy guns, and late in the afternoon demanded the instant surrender of the fort, threatening that, in case of refusal and resistance, no quarter would be given. Colonel Greene had only 400 men back of him, but he gave an instant and defiant refusal, saying, "We ask no quarter, nor will we give any. Then the besiegers opened their heavy guns, and, under their fire, pressed up to storm the fort. They were received by terrible volleys of musketry and grape-shot from cannon, while two concealed American galleys smote them with a severe enfilading fire. The slaughter of the assailants was fearful. Count Donop instantly fell, and many of his officers were slain or mortally wounded. At twilight the invaders with-drew, after a loss of 208 men. The Americans lost thirty-seven, killed and wound-ed. Donop died three days after the battle. He said, " I die a victim to my ambition and the avarice of my sovereign."



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