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Baylor Massacre
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Baylor Massacre Historic Site 1778 jeh.jpg
County Historical Site in 2012
Date September 27, 1778
River Vale, New Jersey
Result British victory
 United States  Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
George Baylor (POW) Charles Grey
John Maitland
Turner Straubenzee
12 officers
104 enlisted
Casualties and losses
15 killed
54 wounded or captured

The "Baylor Massacre" (also "Skirmish Near Tappan", "Rebel Post Near Old Tapan", "Tappan Massacre", and "Raid on Old Tappan") was a British attack on September 27, 1778, which surprised the 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons under the command of Colonel George Baylor during the American Revolutionary War. It occurred in the present-day town of River Vale, New Jersey. The Continentals lost 69 soldiers killed, wounded, or captured. One British soldier was killed.


On September 22, 1778, Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton ordered Maj. Gen. Sir Charles Grey, Maj. Gen. Lord Cornwallis, and Brigadier General Edward Mathew to mobilize troops in an effort to provoke Gen. George Washington into a battle, and as a diversion for a raid against a Patriot privateering base in southern New Jersey. After learning that Col. George Baylor had secured quarters for his troops, twelve officers and 104 enlisted men, in the barns of several farms on Over Kill Road—from Dutch "across the river", since renamed Rivervale Road—Cornwallis ordered Grey to pursue Baylor's troops.


Around 11 o'clock on the night of September 27, 1778, British Major-General Charles Grey mobilized the 2nd Battalion of Light Infantry, the 2nd Battalion of Grenadiers, as well as the 33rd and 64th regiments. Between one and three o'clock in the morning, six companies of light infantry under Major Turner Straubenzie and six companies of light infantry under Major John Maitland approached a collection of 3 farm houses and six barns occupied by 116 men of the 3rd Light Dragoons. (This unit of Virginia cavalry is variously referred to as "Lady Washington's Dragoons" and "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.

Deaths in the US regiment were two officers and nine men killed in the action, and another four later died of their wounds. The total loss for the Continentals was 69 killed, wounded, or captured. Colonel Baylor, Major Alexander Clough, 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. Clough was mortally wounded in the attack. One of the other officers was killed and several others 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 American War, was also involved in this incident. The events were described as follows by General(then Captain Martin)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 Kazimierz Pułaski in which 25 to 30 men were killed in what is known as the Little Egg Harbor massacre.

Discovery of remains

In 1967, the remains of six of the dead—recognized from artifacts such as buttons and clothing remnants—were found in three abandoned vats from Blauvelt's Tannery. In 1972, facing suburban development, the site was dedicated as a county park and the remains re-interred there.

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