River Vale, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites
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Revolutionary War Sites in River Vale New Jersey
Baylor Massacre Park
River Vale, NJ
Baylor Massacre
Baylor Massacre Park
River Vale, New Jersey
River Vale, New Jersey

Baylor Massacre Park
Red Oak Dr. and River Vale Rd.
Map / Directions to Baylor Massacre Park

This Park is dedicated to the events that occurred on the evening of September 27 into September 28, 1778, in which members of Lt. Col. George Baylor's 3rd Regiment of Continental Dragoons were killed or wounded by British soldiers after having surrendered.

George Baylor was the son of a wealthy and influential member of of the Virginia aristocracy. His father, Colonel John Baylor had served with George Washington, in the French and Indian War. General Washington was a frequent visitor to the Baylor plantation, where John raised race horse, and so knew George Baylor before the Revolutionary war. When the war began in 1775, George was commissioned as a caption. Washington appointed Baylor as his first aide-de-camp. (An aide-de-camp is an officer who serves as a General's assistant). [1]

Baylor served at the Battle of Trenton, accepting the surrender of a group of Hessian soldiers. He had the honor of delivering General Washington's letter about the victory to the Continental Congress. Washington closed this letter (addressed "to the President of the Congress" who was John Hancock) with praise for Baylor, "Colonel Baylor, my first aid de camp, will have the honour of delivering this to you, and from him you may be made acquainted with many particulars; his spirited behaviour, upon every occasion, requires me to recommend him to your particular notice." Baylor was then given his command of a regiment of light-horseman, the Third Continental Light Dragoons. [2]

One of the plaques in the park describes the events of what came to be known as the "Baylor Massacre": [3]

"The evening of September 27, 1778, found Baylor’s Dragoons settling for the night near this site. The neighborhood's name, Overkill, came from the small bridge “Over de kill”, a kill being a creek or river to the Jersey Dutch settlers. It included the farmhouses and barns lying along the main road leading north to New York, and an old tannery, with its millstone and in-ground vats, along the river. The area was selected for its strategic location near where several roads converged above the bridge, and where information might be gathered on the northern British troop movement.

"The twelve officers took up residence in three nearby stone farm houses. The houses belonged to the extended family of the Harings and Blauvelts, and another named Bogert, not all of whom were sympathetic to the American cause. Baylor and Clough made their headquarters in the Cornelius A. Haring house 1/2 mile north of the bridge. The 104 soldiers were to sleep in six barns stretched along the Overkill Road.

"By one in the morning, “No-Flint” Grey’s troops had dispatched the guard Baylor had posted near the bridge. They surrounded the barns where the sleeping soldiers lay. Again, Grey’s men had removed the flints from their guns and stood with bayonets ready. They threw open the barn doors and attacked. Baylor's men quickly realized their hopeless situation.

"Gentlemen's rules of war called for defeated troops to receive “quarter”: if they surrendered, their lives would be spared. Unfortunately, not all soldiers are gentlemen. Eleven of Baylor’s Dragoons were stabbed repeatedly and killed, and another four died later. Thirty-three, some with wounds, were taken prisoner. The others escaped into the woods.

"British soldiers burst into the house where the officers slept. A British newspaper reported that Baylor and three of his officers tried to hide up a large Dutch chimney, but were quickly discovered. Major Clough was so severely wounded that he died the next day. Baylor was bayoneted in the thigh and groin, and taken captive."

In 1967, the remains of six of the men who died in Baylor’s Massacre were discovered here. They had been buried in 1778 near the stream that flows by here, in three abandoned wooden tanning vats. One of the six soldiers was identified as Sgt. Isaac Davenport, from the silver stock buckle discovered at the site. Unfortunately, the names of the other five men are unknown, and the graves of the other soldiers have not been discovered. Their remains of the six soldiers were re-interred next to the river, and the site was dedicated as a memorial park in 1972. [4]

A series of six historic plaques in the park tells the story of Baylor's Massacre in detail, complete with illustrations of paintings, originals documents and a map.

Baylor Massacre


1. ^ Biographical details about George Baylor and his father John were drawn from the first of a series of six historical plaques at Baylor Massacre Park. This marker is titled 'The Baylor Massacre' - September 28, 1778, and contains a section "Who was Baylor?"

2. ^ George Washington letter to The President of Congress, December 27, 1776:
George Washington; Edited by Jared Sparks The Writings of George Washington Volume 4 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847) p. 246-249
Available at the Internet Archive Here
I believe that this letter shows the high regard must have had for Baylor. This letter was sent by Washington to inform Congress of the victory at the Battle Of Trenton, which was Washington's own great triumph in the War up to that point, and yet Washington goes out of his way in this letter to praise his aide-de-camp Baylor.
Two weeks later, on January 9, 1777, Washington wrote from his headquarters in Morristown to Baylor, regarding Baylor having been given his command of light horsemen.  In it Washington wrote, "Your inclination to command a regiment of horses I cheerfully yield to, because it is the recommendation of Congress, your own wish, and my desire." This letter can be read in full on pages 269 and 270 of The Writings of George Washington Volume 4 Here

3. ^ Quoted text from the fourth of a series six historical plaques at Baylor Massacre Park. This marker is titled September 28, 1778 - A Night Of 'Savage Cruelty'

4. ^ Details about the discovery of the bodies, their re-interring and the dedication of the park were drawn from the fifth of a series of six historical plaques at Baylor Massacre Park. This marker is titled The Price of Freedom: A Patriot's Grave Marker

OVERALL NOTE: The plaques at the park provide more details about the Baylor Massacre and its aftermath.
Those interested in a more in depth article about Baylor's Massacre are recommended to the article "Overkill: Revolutionary War Reminiscences of River Vale" by Kevin Wright, which is available on the website of the Bergen County Historical Society.

Baylor Massacre Park