COMMUNICATED FOR THE CONSTITUTION
The following reminiscence I procured from Jonas Cattell, the mighty
hunter, who when the war commenced was 18 years old. He was then an
to a blacksmith by the name of
Middleton, who lived in Haddonfield, in the last house in the upper end of the town.
The Hessians, numbering about 2500, arrived in Haddonfield by the old ferry road, on their way to Red Bank, in the evening, and pitched their tents in a field owned by John Key, just above the mill. Nothing had been said of their approach, and their arrival was entirely unexpected, so far as he had heard. He along with a number of others were taken prisoners, and forced to stay all night by the camp-fire in the middle of the street, just opposite the house. The fire was fed by the pailing from their garden fences. Numbers of the soldiers entered the houses and took the beds from the families for themselves to sleep upon. He heard the cry of the sentinels through the night. Before day in the morning they moved off; an officer then gave him liberty to go home.
He slipped quietly away, and started immediately for Red Bank, to give notice of the approach of the enemy. He crossed great Timber creek at Isaiah Marpole's. The boats on the creek had been scuttled to prevent the people from taking produce to market for the enemy; he evertheless pushed off in one, thinking it would take him across before it quite filled - at any rate he knew he could swim. He succeeded in crossing the creek, but not till the boat was even full of water. He then pushed on for the fort, and arrived the fore part of the day. Colonel Green, the commander, was pointed out to him, who he gave the information, that the enemy were on their way, and would arrive there in the course of the day to attack them. This was news to them, and of course created much surprise.
The drums beat to arms, and every disposition was made to give them a warm reception. All persons not absolutely wanted to man the fort, were ordered to leave, telling them to take care of themselves. He then closed the three iron gates and locked them. These gates were in the south end of the fort. He thinks two or three hundred militia, with about one third of his own troops, left. He noticed that a number of his men were of a dark swarthy appearance, with long black hair, and looked like foreigners. I asked him the question, whether they were Negroes or mulattos? He said not; but looked like foreigners. (We presumed they were Frenchmen. It is known that M. De Mauduit, a French engineer and officer of artillery was there as an assistant to Col. Green.)
Those who left retired to the south side of Woodbury creek, where they waited the result of the battle. He (Jonas) supposed from seeing so many leave, that he intended to surrender, and therefore kept as few as possible to man the fort. He, with a man by the name of Ben Haines, and a number of others, mounted an ash tree standing in the meadow of James Whitall, where he had a good view of the fort, to watch the progress of events.
It may be proper to state here, for the benefit of some who would not otherwise understand the account of the battle, that the fort was oblong, extending along the river. It was divided by a cross embankment into two parts; the upper end being much the largest. Into this the enemy entered when they made the attack. The cross embankment was armed by a masked battery of cannon, loaded with grape, chain and canister shot, which, when the enemy was fairly entered, and they were burraing, thinking they had possession, was opened upon them, and swept the area of the upper part of the fort, carrying death and destruction in their ranks.
They had not been long in their places when the enemy made their appearance, and formed themselves in the edge of the woods fronting the fort. They marched to the attack carrying pine bushes, which, he observed, they threw into the ditch surrounding the fort, making a bridge of them, over which they passed to mount the embankment. He saw them enter the fort -- not a gun was fired as they approached. Directly after the enemy has passed the walls, he heard the report of small arms which was soon followed by a large explosion; and such a volume of smoke hung over the fort, he said to Ben Haines, it must have blown up! This, no doubt, was the discharge from the masked battery that opened upon them. The battle took place in the late afternoon. He left his place in the tree just before sunset, and crossed Woodbury creek in a scow, about half a mile above the mouth, at Jehu Wood's landing, on his return home. He did not return to the fort to hear the result of the battle, but made his way up the river to cross at the mouth of great Timber creek. He observed as he went along, that the enemy had returned, by the marks in the road as he crossed their track. He crossed Timber creek at Charles West's, and crossed opposite to the tavern kept by Simon Parks.
The bridge here and at great Timber creek were both destroyed :
he returned home to
Haddonfield, and being fatigued, he went into a stable to sleep. Here the Hessians, on their return the next morning, found him and again took him prisoner. He supposed they had made their way to Gloucester, and there crossed the river on their return to the city. They took him to the lower end of the town, where were a number of other prisoners. After detaining them a short time they were set at liberty. Here were collected their remaining troops; they were much exhausted and in great confusion. Their cry was for brandy-wine. Their baggage wagons had on them hams and chickens, etc. which they plundered in their route. When they went down they had four brass field pieces, 4 pounders. They were beautiful guns. They returned with only the gun-carriages, the guns having been left behind. He saw the guns as they went down, and also the gun-carriages without the guns on their return. It was supposed from their hurry to get away, they found them too heavy to get along with rapidity, and they hid them somewhere on their route. The only bridge standing was Clements bridge. If that had been thrown down, he thinks with a few troops they might all have been taken prisoners. They crossed at this bridge in the night, and stopped at Marpole's close by, to rest for a short time. Here they committed to their graves a number who must have died on the way; for a grave yard near had 40 or 50 new graves made by them. It was supposed at the time that the cannon were buried here, or thrown into the creek. So sure were they of this that the next Sunday they went down to search for them. They dove to the bottom in search, and sounded the creek. He also made a steel pointed spear to sound the graves, thinking they might be buried in the grave yard -- but the smell was so nauseous they did not persevere, and did not succeed in making and discovery. It is generally believed to this day, by many, that those cannon are somewhere on that route; and search has been made for them in the swamps and woods and the ground dug up in many places, but without success.
Mr. Cattell, though young when the war commenced, was found in the service of his country. He served as a volunteer at one time, with Capt. Samuel Hugg; scouring the country from Timber creek to Mount Holly. Haddonfield was one occasion visited by a body of British troops, amounting to about 2000. He was at that time working at his forge when he was pointed out by a refugee as having served in the rebel army. He with a Mr. Hillman, were taken prisoners, and with a number of others marched off with them towards the city. They had taken two horses, one belonging to Col. Ellis, and one to Squire Key; he was mounted on one and Hillman on the other; they were out upon a foraging party, and had bayoneted some hogs and caught some chickens among the rest of their plunder. The hogs were tied together by their feet and swung across his horse for him to carry -- the fowls were served in the same way for Hillman, and they were placed in the van with the light horse.
On their way to the ferry they were alarmed by the report that the rebels were going to attack them, they turned and rode back when they dropped their plunder and put whip to their horses to make their escape, riding down the rode they went to Kaighn's Point. They soon heard the troopers in pursuit, when they turned off into a swamp, penetrating into the thicket they dismounted, tied their horses, and returned in a circulous way to Haddonfield. A woman living in the neighborhood found the horses and returned them to their owners. In the militia it was customary to go out in turn, serving four months at a time. The refugees, a savage set of fellows, kept them in active employment. In one of these turns he was in the artillery service with Capt. Cheesman; they were engaged in a severe battle with the enemy on Little Timber creek. - The enemy numbering about 5000, had gone down the river and crossed at Billingsport, and made their way up through Woodbury to Gloucester Point. Their object was to collect provisions and destroy Red Bank Fort, which had successfully resisted the Hessians. They had accomplished their object; the fort had been blown up, and they had principally gone to Gloucester.
A considerable body lay near little Timber Creek, at what is called the Brick farms. It may be proper to observe that the two creeks were about a mile apart, and the road then parsed from creek to creek in front of Sheriff Browning’s house then occupied by Blackwell. It was determined to attack them; for that purpose the troops were divided into two bodies -- the regulars to pass down the north side of the creek, the militia the south; the former to attack them in front. Every thing took place as arranged; the militia passed down the south side of the creek, and when the firing commenced they brought down upon a party of the enemy who were in Blackwell's lane, now in Joshua Browning's field, and captured several pieces of canon. They would have removed them, but they had neither horses nor tiller ropes; just at this time word came that about 2000 of the enemy were crossing great Timber Creek, and would be upon them directly; they had therefor to make a hasty retreat. Part of the enemy's troops were composed of horse; as soon as they crossed, they turned directly up he creek, crossed a bridge over a small stream, and made a circuit to get into their rear; they barely escaped capture.
It is well known that an attack was made upon a body of several hundred of the British under Cornwallis, near Little Timber Creek; the American regulars, among whom were Morgans mounted Riflemen, were commanded by Major Butler, and the militia by General Lafayette. The troops fought with great gallantry, and beat the enemy. A number of both sides were killed. 18 of the wounded were buried from the Friends Meeting House in Haddonfield.
The lady from whom I received the first reminiscence published, told me she saw Gen. Lafayette upon his return from the expedition. He spoke of the conduct of the militia, in most enthusiastic terms, in her presence; saying they were equal to French soldiers.
Mr. Cattell describes a bridge which the enemy carried with them upon a wagon, upon which they crossed great Timber Creek. It was made of copper plates united together by hinges , and when not in use was folded up in leaves upon a wagon. It was stretched across the creek by means of ropes and tackle. It was wide enough for a wagon to pass, with three feet to spare, on this bridge the whole of Cornwallis's army crossed the creek.