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 had been killed throughout a bloody Revolutionary War battle.

The stays had been present in a former trench that was a part of the defenses of Fort Mercer, the place 500 American patriots had been stationed to stop British ships from supplying troops within the metropolis. On Oct. 22, 1777, a contingent of two,000 Hessian troopers preventing for the British got down to overwhelm the small drive, however the day resulted in a resounding defeat, with 377 Hessians killed however solely 14 American casualties.

“Finding bone, discovering Hessians was not on my radar,” stated Jennifer Janofsky, a historian at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, and the director of Red Bank Battlefield Park. “We have documentation from that interval displaying the place mass graves are. This was not on the map.”

Genetic research are being carried out on the stays, which embody remoted physique components. The hope is to ultimately join these to the names of troopers identified to have been killed within the battle and solid a finer gentle on life and demise through the Revolutionary War.

Some of the bones show wounds from musket balls and from grapeshot that might have been fired from cannons contained in the fort or from ships within the river. “These guys had been being hit by all types of issues,” stated Wade Catts, principal archaeologist for South River Heritage Consulting in Newark, Del., who led the scientific fieldwork. “What a horrible place this may have been.”

dr. Catts stated 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, that will have belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Ernst Rudolf von Schieck, who commanded the Hessian regiment and died within the preventing.

“This is de facto a chance to develop our information of the Hessian forces — about their materials tradition, concerning the males themselves,” Dr. Catts stated.

The American troopers defending the fort had 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 had been among the many nation’s first built-in army models. Ten to fifteen % of the drive 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 pictures — sometimes used to wreck a ship’s sails — on the Hessian attackers.

For Dr. Janofsky, the human stays add poignancy to the story of the battle. Among the lifeless was a man between the ages of 17 and 19, the identical age as a lot of her historical past college students. “Very few of us have seen the violence of the battlefield, and it is what we have been for the previous months,” she stated. “I really feel like we’re charged with serving to our guests perceive that second.”

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