Jonas Cattell Route to Fort Mercer at Red Bank.

October 22nd, 1777
by Robert Allen


        Jonas worked as a blacksmith apprentice to John Middleton in Haddonfield, NJ. Middleton’s farm was where the Haddonfield High School now stands, and is about 7 miles from Jonas’ family farm on Lavender Hill in Deptford. Jonas would travel to work and back on foot daily and knew every road and trail along the route. These were also his hunting, fishing and trapping grounds so he knew the land intimately.

        With the war going on around them the blacksmith shops were very busy and Jonas probably worked from sun up to late in the evening. On the evening of Oct 21st the Hessians arrived in Haddonfield, totally unexpected, and took several people captive. Jonas was unfortunately one of them, and I am sure if he had any weapons they were taken from him. He was forced to tend the Hessian fires overnight and while doing so he overheard the Hessian and British soldiers discussing their plans to attack Fort Mercer in the morning. I am sure this was disheartening for him as he had helped build the fort back in April / May of 1777.

        The Hessians being led by Count Von Donop broke camp before daylight on Oct 22nd and set their captives free. Jonas was extremely tired from being up all-night and hungry too. His adrenalin is up because of the situation at hand. His first thoughts are to head home to get warn is family that 1200 Hessian soldiers would soon be marching right past their home. The bridge is out in Westville and the only route for the Hessians to Fort Mercer at Red Bank will be over Clements Bridge. This is also the route Jonas needs to take to get home.  His most likely route would be down Warwick Road to Davis Road, then on to Big Timber Creek just east of Clements Bridge. He stays away from the bridge, still not knowing which way the Hessians are going and fearing he will be seen and stopped.

        Chews’ Landing was used as a shipping port as early as 1762 for transporting produce from South Jersey to market in Philadelphia and during the war all of the boats had been scuttled to keep the British from supplying their troops in Philadelphia. Jonas knew this, and proceeded to Isaiah Marpoles place. There were several scuttled boats there and he took one, hoping it would get him across the creek. He knew how to swim but did not want to take a dip in the cold October waters. The boat slowly filled with water as he crossed Big Timber Creek and was nearly full when he reached the other side. He is now cold, wet, hungry and tired.
        At this point Jonas crossed over Clements Bridge Rd on his way home and must have realized that the Hessians had not crossed by yet and that they must have taken the Kings Highway towards Westville and would be just finding out that the bridge is out. They will need to backtrack, then head east to Clements Bridge. This places Jonas about 5 miles ahead of them (2 to 3 hours marching time). Jonas, dripping wet from his trip across Big Timber Creek and still hungry from the night before heads straight to his family's house on Caulfield Ave. His mother was probably very concerned after not seeing him the night before and with him walking in soaking wet. I can just see her now telling him to get out of the wet clothes and gathering food for him to eat. He proceeds to tell her about his ordeal while simultaneously changing and eating. He warns the family to stay low and heads out for Fort Mercer.

From here the route is very clear and straight forward. Jonas is ahead of the Hessians and has no need to stay hidden. He has dry clothes and a small bit of food in him. Ready to run. He continues on Caulfield Ave to Deptford Rd, then Hessian Ave all the way to the fort. Probably arriving about 3 hours ahead of the Hessians.

        This changes the length of the Cattell run from the legendary 10 miles to 13 miles, and makes the Hessian route about 18 miles. I figure the average marching speed to be about 3 mph and Jonas average walking/running speed at 6 mph.

        Using these rates, Jonas could make it from Evans Pond in Haddonfield to the Fort in just over 2 hours – 3 if you take into account the crossing of Big Timber Creek and his stopping home to change. The Hessians would take closer to 6 hours, still giving Colonel Green 3 hours to prepare the Fort.


                The story about stopping home is mine and is purely speculation. The reasoning is this:

1)       He is soaking wet with 6 more miles to run.

2)      His house is less than a mile away and on the way.

3)      He would want to warn his family about the 1200 Hessian soldiers that will be coming by shortly.

4)      He needs a weapon.

It would make for an interesting reinactment if we could have Hessian Soldiers marching their route and the Cattell runners following this one. Having the runners stop at the Cattell cemetary off of Caulfield Ave for a quick snack of dried meat and some fresh water. (Thanks Rick)

The information in this article is based off of an article in the Constitution, March 10, 1846.  This tells where the Hessians camped, where Jonas was working at the time and where he crossed the river.  The roads listed are based on  quickest / shortest routes  using the points mentioned, while remaining out of site of the Hessian army. The final route to the fort was probably main roads all the way since Jonas knew he was far enough ahead of the Hessians to not be seen. 

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