Bull's Ferry, New Jersey

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Bull's Ferry, New Jersey

BULL'S FERRY, NEW JERSEY. 20-21 July 1780. On 20 July, General Washington detached Anthony Wayne with the First and Second Pennsylvania Brigade, four guns, and Stephen Moylan's Fourth Continental Light dragoons to destroy a stockaded blockhouse erected at Bull's Ferry, about four miles north of Hoboken. Although Sir Henry Clinton minimized its significance, arguing that only seventy Loyalists under Thomas Ward held "this trifling work" and used it as a base for woodcutting and for protection against "straggling parties of militia," it served as an important base for British logistical efforts to keep New York City. Washington hoped that Wayne's attack would provoke Clinton into sending a relief force from Manhattan which would then be ambushed. Wayne opened fire on the blockhouse the morning of 21 July, but it easily withstood the light field pieces. After an hour two regiments brashly tried to charge the stockade and were driven off with losses of fifteen men and three officers killed.

Clinton says that the bombardment inflicted twenty-one casualties and that the blockhouse was "perforated by at least 50 cannon shot." Without recognizing that they had avoided a trap, the British celebrated the incident as a stirring victory. John André composed a long, burlesque epic-ballad, "The Cow Chace," the last part of which appeared in Rivington's Royal Gazette the day André was captured. It begins:

    To drive the kine one summer's morn,
    The tanner took his way,
    The calf shall rue that is unborn
    The jumbling of that day.
    And it ends:
    And now I've closed my epic strain,
    I Tremble as I show it,
    Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne,
    Should ever catch the poet.

SEE ALSO Moylan, Stephen; Wayne, Anthony.


Winfield, Charles. "The Affair at Block-House Point, 1780." Magazine of American History 5 (September 1880): 161-186.

                         revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.