Days of Yore
as recounted by

Bill Day



The Revolution in South Jersey
Every resident of Haddonfield has read at one time the tablet fastened to the old buttonwood tree that stands on east Kings highway near Haddon avenue.  It claims that the British Army passed under the tree two hundred years ago.  Sitting in the car waiting for the traffic light to change and reading the sing, the thought has frequently occurred as to where those troops were going and just what segments of the Revolutionary War were connected with this area.  Not many of us have taken the time to explore the War’s history to find what actin did happen here in South Jersey.

In 1777, General Howe, the commander of the British forces, landed via the Chesapeake Bay in Elkton, Md. And after the fight at Brandywine Creek had taken place, the British entered Philadelphia,.  Washington engaged the enemy, and after the battle of Germantown, he retreated to Valley Forge.

That winter, the British in Philadelphia, and the Americans in Valley Forge, saw their forces foraging and skirmishing in the flatlands of South Jersey.  Three American forts were firmly built south of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.  General Howe knew that the river would have to be cleared to make way for his fleet and supplies.  The forts were in the vicinity of Billingsport and Red Bank on the Jersey side of the river, and one was on an island.

On the authority of the committee of safety of the Province of Pennsylvania, the chevaux-de-frise were built and sunk across the river from Billingsport.  These obstructions would keep the enemy from navigating on the river.  The British under Colonel Stirling crossed the river from Chester and the Americans retreated form Billingsport.  The British also forced a passage through the chevaux-de-frise up to Hog Island just above Woodbury and south of Fort Mifflin on Mud Island and Fort Mercer at Red Bank.  This area fell in September 1777.

After his victory, Howe tarried for three weeks which gave Washington, with Colonel Green, the commander of Fort Mercer, the opportunity to build up a defense of the fort.

Count Donop, a Hessian officer, was given the task of storming Fort Mercer, and he left Philadelphia in October with 2400 troops.  He crossed the Delaware River via Cooper’s ferries that operated between Market street in Philadelphia and Cooper street in Camden.  He then proceeded down Haddon avenue and reached Haddonfield in the evening.  He spent the night in Greenfield Hall with the troops encamped near Hopkins Pond.  The next day the British and Hessian troops marched to Red Bank via Clements Bridge road passing through Barrington and Runnemede.

On reaching Fort Mercer they unsuccessfully attacked and were forced to retreat.  However, they realized that it ws imperative to destroy the Fort which they finally did in November with superior manposer and supplies.

During the next two years the British and American forces came to blows throughout the South Jersey area, until the British finally moved to New York and the war eventually came to its conclusions.

Haddonfield never was the scene of warfare, but the two old buttonwood trees, only one of which is still standing, could attest to the fact that our town was the scene of much activity during the Revolution.  When the British evacuated Philadelphia, they retreated through Haddonfield to the Raritan River on the way to New York.

The trees were silent witnesses to the for-day march past them. Homepage
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