A Battlefield From 1777 Yields a Dozen Mercenaries’ Remains
Archaeologists working at Red Bank Battlefield, a web site alongside the Delaware River south of Philadelphia, have uncovered the stays of 13 Hessian mercenaries who have been killed throughout a bloody Revolutionary War battle.
The stays have been present in a former trench that was a part of the defenses of Fort Mercer, the place 500 American patriots have been stationed to stop British ships from supplying troops within the metropolis. Where Oct. 22, 1777, a contingent of two,000 Hessian troopers combating for the British got down to overwhelm the small power, however the day led to a resounding defeat, with 377 Hessians killed however solely 14 American casualties.
“Finding bone, discovering Hessians was not on my radar,” mentioned Jennifer Janofsky, a historian at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, and the director of Red Bank Battlefield Park. “We have documentation from that interval exhibiting the place mass graves are. This was not on the map.”
Genetic research are being carried out on the stays, which embrace remoted physique elements. The hope is to ultimately join these to the names of troopers identified to have been killed within the battle and solid a finer mild on life and dying in the course of the Revolutionary War.
Some of the bones show wounds from musket balls and from grapeshot that may have been fired from cannons contained in the fort or from ships within the river. “These guys have been being hit by every kind of issues,” mentioned Wade Catts, principal archaeologist for South River Heritage Consulting in Newark, Del., who led the scientific fieldwork. “What a horrible place this might have been.”
Dr. Catts mentioned he believed that the Hessian stays belonged to members of the Regiment von Mirbach, which is thought to have attacked the middle of Fort Mercer’s defenses. He was excited by a further discovery: a British gold coin, price about one month’s wage for the typical soldier, which will have belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Ernst Rudolf von Schieck, who commanded the Hessian regiment and died within the combating.
“This is actually a possibility to develop our data of the Hessian forces — about their materials tradition, in regards to the males themselves,” Dr. Cats mentioned.
The American troopers defending the fort have been from the First and Second Rhode Island Regiments, the Sixth Virginia Regiment and included a small variety of New Jersey militiamen. The Rhode Island regiments have been among the many nation’s first built-in navy items. Ten to fifteen p.c of the power was made up of Black troopers and members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The fort was additional supported by 13 ships of the Pennsylvania Navy, with cannons that fired chain and bar shot — usually used to break a ship’s sails — on the Hessian attackers.
For Dr. Janofsky, the human stays add poignancy to the story of the battle. Among the useless was a man between the ages of 17 and 19, the identical age as lots of her historical past college students. “Very few of us have seen the violence of the battlefield, and it is what we have been taking a look at for the previous months,” she mentioned. “I really feel like we’re charged with serving to our guests perceive that second.”