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A Battlefield From 1777 Yields a Dozen Mercenaries’ Remains

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Archaeologists working at Red Bank Battlefield, a site on the Delaware River south of Philadelphia, have discovered the remains of 13 German mercenaries killed in the bloody battles of the American Revolutionary War.

Bodies were found in former trenches that were part of Fort Mercer’s defenses. 500 American Patriots were stationed there to prevent British ships from supplying the city with troops. On October 22, 1777, his detachment of 2,000 Hessians fighting for the British set out to overwhelm a small force, but the day ended in a crushing defeat, with 377 Hessians killed. , American casualties were only 14 of his.

Jennifer Janofsky, historian and director of Red Bank Battlefield Park at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, said: “We have documents from the time that show where the mass graves are. This was not on the map.”

Genetic studies are being conducted on remains containing isolated body parts. Ultimately, it is hoped that these will be tied to the names of soldiers known to have died in combat, giving greater clarity to life and death during the Revolutionary War.

Some bones show musket wounds and grapeshot shots fired from the fort’s cannons and river boats. Wade Catts, principal archaeologist at South River Heritage Consulting in Newark, Delaware, who led the scientific fieldwork, said: “What a horrible place this was.”

Katz said he believed the remains of German soldiers belonged to members of the von Mirbach Regiment, known for attacking the center of Fort Mercer’s defenses. He was thrilled with an additional find: a British gold coin worth about a month’s salary for an average soldier, belonging to Lieutenant Colonel Ernst Rudolf von Seeck, who commanded a Hessian regiment and died in battle. There may have been.

“This is a great opportunity to broaden our knowledge of the Hessian army, their material culture and the soldiers themselves,” Katz said.

The Americans defending the fort were from the 1st and 2nd Rhode Island Regiments, the 6th Virginia Regiment, and a small number of New Jersey militiamen. The Rhode Island Regiment was his one of the first combined military units in the country. Between 10 and 15% of the force consisted of black soldiers and members of the Narragansett Indian tribe. The fort was further supported by her 13 ships of the Pennsylvania Navy, whose artillery fired chain shots and bar shots (usually used to damage the sails of ships) at the Hessian attackers.

For Dr. Janowski, the human remains inspire the story of the battle. Among the dead included a man aged 17 to her 19, the same age as many of her history students. “Few people have seen the violence on the battlefield. That’s what we’ve seen over the past few months,” she said. She “feels responsible for helping visitors understand the moment.”

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