Inspired by the article on fox hunting by Caroline Jones in our October, 1973, issue, Charles Crabbe Thomas of Camden, New Jersey, has sent us the following extraordinary story of the unsung Jonas Cattell.
No article about fox hunting in the colonies is complete without mention of the Gloucester County Fox Hunting Society, which was mentioned in your article. But you missed Jonas Cattell.
Jonas Cattell was a member of the Gloucester County Fox Hunting Socjety just after the Revolution. However, he did not ride to hounds, he ran to hounds. He was a great runner and followed the dogs on foot. We are informed that he was in on the kill about 50 per cent of the time—a very good record. This is explained by the fact that he could get through the underbrush of old Gloucester County more readily than those riding horses.
Jonas Cattell was a notable runner. He lived in Deptford—his house still stands—and he once ran from Deptford to Cape May and back, 187 miles, in three days. His most famous exploit, however, was his run from Haddonfield to Fort Mercer.
He was a boy of eighteen and working in a blacksmith shop in Haddonfield when the Hessians under Colonel von Donop passed through on their way to attack Fort Mercer in 1777. Cattell slipped away and ran the 9-7 miles to Fort Mercer to notify Colonel Christopher Greene that the redcoats were coming. His trip contrasts with Paul Revere’s in three ways: (i) he ran instead of riding, (2) he was not captured but stayed to help repel the assault, and (3) unfortunately he had no Longfellow to immortalize him. (1 tried to celebrate his achievement in poetry but could get no further than “Who the hell was Jonas Cattell?”)
We like to brag that he arrived in time so that Colonel Greene could move his cannon from where they were covering the Delaware to the land side to help repel the attack. Unfortunately, it appears that others besides )onas kept pouring in on Colonel Greene with the warning that the British were coining, to the point where the good colonel began to get worried that something had happened to them and sent out a scouting party to find them. The scouts did find the Hessians, and the Hessians stormed the fort and were driven off with terrific loss.
It remained for Cornwallis to capture Fort Mercer a few weeks later, after the fall of nearby Fort Mifflin. However, we of the Deptford Kiwanis celebrate Jonas Cattell by holding a yearly run from Haddonfield to Fort Mercer, and some of the runners no doubt better Jonas’ time.
For a publishable Longfellow parody going further than Mr. Thomas on the exploit of Jonas Cattell, one dollar old tenor (i.e., real silver), a complete set of Hansard’s House of Lords Debates for 1955, and The American Heritage Book of the Revolution . The editors enjoy absolute powers in deciding what, if anything, to publish.