Fort Mercer Flag
Waterway superiority was to the Revolutionary War what air superiority is today to our armed forces. They who control the sky, control the battle against nation-states. They who controlled the waterways in 1777, inevitably gained the upper hand in the war. As the British began their push to regain control of the colonies in the fall of 1777, Fort Mercer was one of two major installations controlling the Delaware River which pierced the heart of key colonial territory. The fort, along with Fort Mifflin, had to be secured by the British in order to successfully supply the army which had recently taken Philadelphia from the colonists. Plans were drawn up to subdue Fort Mifflin by boat and battery and Fort Mercer was to be taken by land.
Shortly after the Declaration of Independence, Congress seized the land the fort was to be built on from a New Jersey Quaker and initiated the fort’s construction. It wasn’t completed until early fall of the following year, just before hostilities ramped up in that part of the colonies. Although initially manned by Pennsylvania and then New Jersey militia, because of the British presence and the fort’s utmost strategic importance, Continental Army forces were dispatched to reinforce it on October 7th, 1777. After the formal American defense team arrived, they took great effort to transform the site, better suiting it for a land assault and its size was ultimately reduced by two-thirds.
This transformation proved to be extremely effective during an attack by Hessian troops on October 22. Heading into this battle, the Germans were anxious for a win to counter their bruised reputation from their defeat at Trenton almost exactly 10 months earlier on Christmas Day, 1776. This battle, the Battle of Red Bank, was a tremendous success for the Americans who again trounced almost 2,500 Hessian mercenaries who lost just under 400 men to the American’s 14.
This defeat was a serious blow British General Howe who faced an oncoming winter and a withering supply line. Across the river, Fort Mifflin was also still under American control. Likely, the defeat at Fort Mercer is what led to the dispatch of overwhelming forces that were used to take Fort Mifflin during its unprecedented artillery assault on November 10th. Rather than take the forts independently, the British strategy changed to attacking one at a time. After the defenders of Fort Mifflin fled to Fort Mercer on November 15th, enough regular British army forces had amassed or were heading toward Fort Mercer to all but guarantee its fall. The Americans withdrew from Fort Mercer rather than be taken prisoners on November 20th.
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- Release: 7/20/2020