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Remains of Hessian soldiers found at Revolutionary War fort in New Jersey

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Image Source: USA Today Network video screenshot

On Tuesday, researchers discovered human remains in New Jersey dating back to the Revolutionary War. The battle site, Fort Mercer, is now believed to be the location of a mass grave containing as many as 12 Hessian soldiers.

During the Revolutionary War, the British Army hired 30,000 German troops to help fight against the Americans. The German troops were referred to as the Hessian army.

In June, while digging through a trench at the battle site, archaeologists unearthed a human femur. Scientists found additional skeletal remains and items, including musket balls, brass buttons, a knee buckle, and a King George III gold guinea. The remains and items have been buried for 245 years.

Those involved in the excavation included scientists from Rowan University, Gloucester County officials, and 100 volunteers.

“On June 26 during the final hours of a public archaeology dig at the site of the battlefield’s Fort Mercer trench, a human femur was discovered,” noted Rowan University professor of history Dr. Jennifer Janofsky.

The archaeologists believe that some of the remains of the 377 Hessian soldiers killed during the Battle of Red Bank have been found at Fort Mercer.

South River Heritage Consulting of Delaware principal archaeologist Wade Catts confirmed the findings during a news conference. “Based on everything we’ve found and the context of what we’ve found, these appear to be Hessians.”

Forensic anthropologists with the New Jersey State Police will examine the bones to confirm their origin. Scientists are conducting additional studies to discover the life history and health of the remains. They hope to use that information to reach out to their descendants. After the remains have been tested, they will be moved to another site.

“It’s an extremely rare find to have what we believe to be a Hessian mass grave burial. I can’t think of another site that has something like this. It’s an opportunity to study who these individuals were, where they came from, why they were here. So, the opportunity to tell their story is something I think is really compelling as a public historian,” stated Dr. Janofsky.

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