Stephen Olney's description of the action at Fort Mercer

"The fort, had been calculated for not less than 1500 or 2000 men, and our effective force of both regiments, (that is, the two Rhode-Island regiments,) was not more than 500 men, including a small company of artillery. Colonel Greene ordered a breastwork made across the fort, so as to include about one third of it, which he meant to defend, evacuating the remainder, except by a few sentinels, to deceive the enemy. Our men were on duty all the time to complete the breastwork by the 22d of October. At that very time, about one o'clock, P.M., the enemy appeared on the Jersey side, with a force said to be 1200 strong, of Hessians. They had a British Major with them, who acted as linguist, and who advanced with a flag, and demanded the surrender of the fort saying `their force was amply sufficient to take it, and if we persisted in defence, they would give no-quarter, therefore our blood would be on our own heads'"

"Lieut. Col. Jeremiah Olney, of Providence, who had been deputed to meet the flag, replied with spirit, `We shall not ask nor expect any quarter, and mean to defend the fort to the last extremity.' The place of meeting was only about ten or twelve rods from the fort, and Col. Olney had scarce time to get into it before they followed him by a tremendous discharge of grape shot and ball. Col. Jeremiah Olney, who was sent to meet the flag, was as brave a man perhaps as any in the army."

"The enemy had placed their field pieces or artillery (said to be twelve) on the edge of the woods, within point-blank shot, and their first general discharge was tremendous. It made the gravel and dust fly from the top of our fort, and took off all the heads that happened to be in the way. They then instantly advanced in two solid columns. Their left came first within musket shot, when we gave them a serious and well directed fire, which rather disordered their column. Still they continued to advance, and one or two officers were killed or wounded on the brim of the breastwork, but the column became so broken that they were obliged to retreat. By this time the other column had made its way into that part of the fort which we had evacuated, and supposing they were masters of the fort, huzzaed! and came on, perhaps, to cut up their prisoners. When within 50 or 60 paces, we began a fire upon them. They were put in disorder by getting over the fort. The officers persisted in pushing forward the men, until within about two paces of our breastwork, when our fire proved so destructive that they gave it up and retreated, leaving their dead and wounded. Eighty-seven of the former were buried in the ditch the next day. It was believed their killed and wounded exceeded 400. Our loss was small. Captain Shaw and four or five privates were killed, and 20 or 30 wounded."

"I believe Asa Potter, of our company, was killed by our own men. My company was stationed in a salient angle, connected within the curtain of the breast work, to rake the ditches on each side. When fighting, I thought my company quite secure, as the enemy looking to the bastions on each side; therefore my men were deliberate, except one little Irishman, who was frightened out of his senses, but a few strokes with the but-end of my gun brought him to his duty."

"While the enemy were in confusion, not more than 20 paces off, a man by the name Sweetzer insisted that I should see hum kill when he fired. I indulged hum four or five times, and his object fell. I then directed him to fire at an officer, and he only made him stagger a little. We fired at the column that came first. Our men partly on my left and rear fired across my station. When that column retreated and the other came up, I fired and fired upon it, and our men on the other side of the works, also fired across my station. Next day, Lieutenant Samuel Wipple told me he counted 13 musket balls lodged within the breastwork, where it was impossible the enemy could have lodged them. The first line of the enemy's artillery, intimidated some of the men so much they were afraid to show their heads above the breastworks, raised their guns and fired by guess work, notwithstanding Colonel Jeremiah Olney was busily employed trashing them with his hanger. Count Donop, the German officer, who led these Hessians to the attack, fell on this day; he received thirteen musket ball wounds and retreated out of the works, 20 or 30 rods, where he fell, but was brought into the fort after dark by Major Thayer, at the request of the Count's servant, but died in a few days."


Williams, Catherine R. Biography of Revolutionary Heroes; Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton, and Also, of Captain Stephen Olney. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1839. pg 222-225

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