The Battle of Overkill Road (Baylor's Massacre)

September 27, 1780 at Overkill Road, New Jersey

Battle Summary

A raid, widely known as the "Baylor Massacre" or the "Tappan Massacre", was a surprise attack against the 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons under the command of Colonel George Baylor. It occurred in the present-day town of River Vale, New Jersey.

Facts about the Battle of Overkill Road / Baylor's Massacre

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Col. George Baylor and consisted of 116 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles Grey and consisted of 650 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 15 killed and 54 wounded/captured. British casualties were 1 killed.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was a British victory. The battle was part of the Northern Theater 1778-82.


On September 22, ordered Major General Charles Grey, Major General Charles Cornwallis,and Brigadier General Edward Mathew to mobilize troops in an effort to provoke General George Washington into a battle, and as a diversion for a raid against a Patriot privateering base in southern New Jersey.

After learning that Baylor had secured quarters for his troops, twelve officers and 104 enlisted men, in the barns of several farms on Overkill Road (now Rivervale Road), Cornwallis ordered Grey to pursue Baylor's troops.

Battle Begins

On September 27, around 11:00 PM, Grey mobilized the 2nd Battalion of light infantry, the 2nd Regiment of grenadiers, as well as the 33rd and 64th regiments. Between 1:00-3:00 AM, six companies of light infantry under Major Turner Staubenzie and six companies of light infantry under Colonel John Maitland approached a small collection of farm houses occupied by around 100 men of a Virginia cavalry unit known as "Mrs. Washington's Guards".

Maitland's detachment was used to cut off the night patrol, while Straubenzee's troops used their bayonets to maintain the element of surprise as they went from house to house, a tactic Grey used previously in the Battle of Paoli. At least 69 of the dragoons were killed, injured or taken prisoner. Eleven were killed outright; four were left and died of their wounds.

Baylor, Maj. McLeod, and two other officers attempted to escape by climbing up a chimney. Baylor was wounded and captured—he died in 1784 from complications of the wounds incurred in the attack. McLeod was also mortally wounded in the attack. One of the other officers was killed and the other captured. After the attack, some of the injured were taken to the Reformed Church of Tappan in nearby Tappan, New York, which served as a prison and hospital.

The 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot, which was nearing the end of its service in the war, was also involved in this incident. The events were described as follows by Gen. Hunter: "While at New Bridge we heard of their being within twenty-five miles of our camp, and a plan was laid to surprise them. We set out after dark, mounted behind dragoons, and so perfectly secure did the enemy think themselves that not even a sentry was posted. Not a shot was fired, and the whole regiment of dragoons, except a few who were bayoneted, were taken prisoner".

The raid for which this attack was a diversion also included an attack on American forces that has been described as a massacre.

On October 15, British troops executed a surprise attack on forces under the command of Brigadier General Kazimierz Pułaski in which 25 to 30 men were killed in what is known as the Little Egg Harbor massacre.

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