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British Excursion to Jersey

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

November 24.—Last Tuesday, (21st,) at about one o’clock in the morning, a party consisting of one hundred men, embarked from New York in two flat boats and one gunboat, and proceeded to Roger’s Ferry, where they landed and moved towards Newark, New Jersey, with one three-pounder, (which they posted on an eminence half way between the aforesaid ferry and the town,) with a number of musketeers to cover it and secure their return to their vessels, where they left one gun-boat to cover their passage over the marsh, should the enemy pursue them. Captain Thomas Ward then advanced at the head of fifty men undiscovered, within four hundred yards of the rebel guard-house, when the advanced party, under Captain MacMichael, fell in with their patrol, who immediately fired upon him; he charged them, but finding himself flanked by numbers, who had posted themselves in different houses, he thought proper to bring up the piece of cannon, which was soon effected by the vigilance of Captain Housen. Until his arrival they maintained their post in the centre of the town, though the enemy endeavored to gall them as much as possible; but a few rounds of grape dispersed them for a little, when as they were disappointed in their expectation, it was thought most prudent to retreat towards their boats.

After keeping possession of the town an hour, apprehensive the enemy posted at Cranestown would march down against them, they accordingly began to retreat, but before they got out of town, discovered a body of rebels on their right flank endeavoring to cut off their retreat, whilst others proved troublesome in their rear, by keeping up a scattering fire. They retreated some distance, when another party of rebels were discovered on their left, who, finding it impossible to cut off their retreat, closed upon their flanks, and hard in the rear, which obliged them to form a square to secure their piece of ordnance. This they did by keeping up a scattering fire until they arrived at their boats. Shortly after the enemy brought a six-pounder to the edge of the marsh, and kept up a constant fire upon them during their re-embarkation. They lined the banks of the river below them with musketry to harass the refugees whilst falling down in their boats; but by the bravery of Captains Housen and Hollingshead in the gun-boat, they were kept at such a distance that they did but little damage.

Strict orders were given against entering a house or plundering, which were obeyed; but when they first entered the town, a party of the enemy fired upon them out of the upper windows of Neil’s house, but they paid for their folly, as some of the party set fire to the lower part, which consumed the whole building.

Never did men behave better (being undisciplined) than this small party. Their escape was almost miraculous. Six men are wounded and two missing, one of whom it is imagined was killed at the first onset. From the best accounts that have been obtained, the loss of the enemy was three killed and seven wounded, exclusive of those supposed to have been burned at Neil’s house.1

 

1 Gaine’s Mercury, November 27.

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