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American Revolutionary War Battles

The Little Egg Harbor Massacre

October 4-5, 1778 at Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey

Battle Summary

The affair at Little Egg Harbor took place in southern New Jersey. In what the Americans called a massacre, the Loyalists killed nearly 50 Patriot men, bayoneting them as they slept.

The attack took place about one week after the Battle of Chestnut Neck, a British raid aimed at suppressing privateers who used the area as a base to harass and seize British ships and their cargoes.

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Facts about the Little Egg Harbor Massacre

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski and consisted of about 50 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Capt. Patrick Ferguson and consisted of about 250 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 30-50 killed and 5 captured. British casualties were estimated to be 3 killed and 3 wounded.
  • Outcome - The result of the massacre was a British victory. The massacre was part of the Northern Theater 1778-82.

Prelude

Captain John Ferguson led a raid on Chestnut Neck, on the Mullica River, to retrieve supplies taken by privateers and try to stop their use of the town as a base for the distribution of their prizes and shipment of captured goods to General George Washington at Valley Forge.

Brigadier General Kazimierz Pułaski and his newly raised forces were ordered to oppose his actions. Pulaski's Legion, along with three companies of light infantry, three troops of light horse, and one artillery detachment, arrived the day after Ferguson departed Chestnut Neck. But their arrival did stop Ferguson from raiding the iron works at Batsto, and stemmed their attacks on privateers at The Forks of the Mullica River. For a week, the two forces were at a standoff.

Battle Begins

On October 4, Ferguson learned that Pulaski and his Legion was was camped a few miles away with lax security. Captain Gustav Juliet deserted to the British camp and revealed this information to Ferguson. Ferguson gathered a force of 250 of the 70th Regiment, the 3rd New Jersey (Tory) Regiment, and a large naval force to approach from the opposite direction to support him.

They rowed, in the dark, some 10 miles to what is now Osborne's Island. He then marched a further two miles to the site of the infantry outpost, which comprised 50 men a short distance from the main encampment.

On October 5, at 4:00 AM, the British and Tories charged into three houses and bayoneted 50 American troops; only five were taken alive. Pulaski heard the commotion and arrived with his dragoons, rallied the survivors of the bayonet attack, and drove Ferguson and his men back to their boats.

Later, the Americans accused the British of committing a massacre, and the British commanders denied the charges.