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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baylor's Massacre and the Persistence of Brutality

On September 27, 1778, British General Charles "No Flint" Grey led a  night assault, with no flint and bayonets only, against Colonel George Baylor's 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons while they slept in various houses and along what is now Rivervale Road, in Rivervale, New Jersey.  Despite pleas for quarter, none was given, with the exception by one British captain.  The American regiment was virtually destroyed.  In 1967 the remains of some dragoons were found at what is now the burial site park, pictured here.  

The episode became the subject of intense American propaganda as to the brutal nature and atrocities committed.  Even British Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stuart of the 26th Foot wrote a few days afterward that "[a]s they were in their beds and fired not a shot in opposition, the credit that might have been due to the Corps that effected the surprise is entirely buried in the barbarity if their behaviour." On the other hand, General Henry Clinton wrote of the attack that he "had the satisfaction to find that the move had not proved altogether fruitless."

Today we live in a world of brutality that seems so commonplace, on a 24/7 basis, that we are jaded.  It is useful to read Stuart's sense of outrage and hope that after centuries of such brutality, we can stand in a place like this and think about what we are as human beings.

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