The Battle of Bound Brook

April 13, 1777 at Bound Brook, New Jersey

American Forces Commanded by
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
500 30 30 80-90
British Forces Commanded by
Gen. Charles Cornwallis
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
4,000 1 ? ?
Conclusion: British Victory
New York and New Jersey, 1776-1777

In the spring of 1777, British forces reinforced with Hessian troops were stationed in New Brunswick, New Jersey and conducted foraging raids against local targets in the area with little success. Gen. George Washington at this time held the Continental Army north near Morristown. His southern outpost on the Raritan river, and closest to the 17,000 British troops, was his outpost garrison of about 500 men at Bound Brook, under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. As the foraging strategy did not prove to be successful, Gen. Lord William Howe and Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis decided to take the American outpost at Bound Brook.

On April 13, under the command of Cornwallis, 4,000 British and Hessian troops were used in a 4-pronged surprise attack against the garrison at Bound Brook. Two groups moved north along both sides of the Raritan River, while a third contingent crossed the river further up to attack from the West, and the fourth group moved from the East to cut the potential retreat route of the Americans. The vanguard of Hessian Field Jaeger Corps under Col. Johann Ewald encountered at first fierce resistance from the Americans on the left bank of the Raritan river. Shortly thereafter, the main contingent of the British army crossed the Queen’s Bridge to the left side and entered Bound Brook. The American forces were caught be surprise and fled fighting during their retreat. Lincoln barely escaped and “did not collect his clothes”. The fourth column of the British coming from the East along the Watchung mountains arrived late, nevertheless many men were captured.

Howe indicated that about 30 Americans were killed and 80-90 captured, while Lincoln reported that 60 of his men were killed or wounded. On the British side, one soldier was killed. The British captured also cannons, ammunition, and supplies, looted in Bound Brook, but returned the same day to New Brunswick. In the evening, the Continental Army, under Gen. Nathaniel Greene, occupied Bound Brook again.

While the Continental Army was caught by surprise by an overwhelming force, the British did not press their advantage and returned to New Brunswick. Thus, it was a shallow victory. Washington recognized that Bound Brook itself was a difficult place to defend.

A local farmer was suspected of having learned the password and giving it to the British. The militia were blamed for the surprise attack. They were supposed to be guarding the river, which could be crossed at just about any place. This incident caused Washington to reduce the number of his detached posts to prevent their being destroyed by other British surprise attacks. This decision also was able to let him quickly gather his troops when the British started their expected spring offensive.

On May 28, he moved his army from Morristown to the (first) Middlebrook encampment, just north of Bound Brook, but well protected between the first and second Watchung Mountain range. From the top of the Watchung mountains, he could monitor British movements and continued to harass and disrupt their supply lines. Eventually, the British changed the focus of operations, left New Brunswick, and embarked their troops to sail South to attack Philadelphia.

While the Continental Army was caught by surprise by an overwhelming force, the British did not press their advantage and returned to New Brunswick. Thus it was a shallow victory. Washington recognized that Bound Brook itself was a difficult place to defend. On May 28, he moved his army from Morristown to the (first) Middlebrook encampment, just north of Bound Brook but well protected between the first and second Watchung Mountain range. From the top of the Watchung Mountains, he could monitor British movements and continue to harass and disrupt their supply lines. Eventually, the British changed the focus of operations, left New Brunswick, and embarked their troops to sail south to attack Philadelphia.

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