Things start to change when you cross south of the 195 border into South Jersey. QuikCheck’s become Wawa’s, you’ll hear “Go Birds” more often, and every highway sign points you in the direction of Camden or Atlantic City.
But that’s not all that changes. Ask anyone in Camden or Gloucester counties what they mean when they are “going to Red Bank,” and few people will be going up to see a show at Count Basie.
Instead, going to Red Bank in South Jersey means going to Red Bank Battlefield, a park located on the banks of the Delaware River in National Park.
Even though there’s no South Jersey equivalent of Bull’s Run or Mount Tammany, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great spots along the Delaware in South Jersey, as the river starts to widen out. Red Bank Battlefield is one of them, and like most parks in New Jersey, it intertwines history with nature.
The history hits you immediately when exiting 295 in West Deptford. The main road to get to Red Bank Battlefield is called Hessian Avenue. The Hessians were German soldiers who were hired by the British during the Revolutionary War, and they were a big part of Red Bank Battlefield’s history. In October of 1777, the Continental Army defeated the Hessians here in a battle that helped spur the Americans onto victory.
And the grounds around the Battlefield are steeped in history, too. This week, a public archeological dig discovered the remains of a dozen Hessian soldiers in an adjacent lot. It’s kind of grisly, but don’t feel too bad—the Hessians were notoriously ruthless during the war.
The Continental Army used Red Bank Battlefield as a fort due to its proximity to Philadelphia. This was against the wishes of Ann and James Whittall, who owned the property. The couple were prominent Quakers and, due to their religious beliefs, they refused to pick a side in the war. Still, the Continental Army used the property anyway, and their house served as a mini hospital during the Battle of Red Bank.
The couple’s house is still on the property today, and you can take a tour of the house anytime from 1-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. A volunteer will guide you through the house and show you ancient war artifacts.
In one parking lot, there is a memorial to Hugh Mercer, a Revolutionary War general who led the Continental Army to victories in Trenton and Princeton. Also around the memorial are information boards about the importance of the Battle of Red Bank, and the use of African American soldiers by Col. Christopher Greene, a key figure in the Battle of Red Bank.
History aside, Red Bank Battlefield is just a good spot to chill, and you can see a little bit of everything in the park. In recent years, the park became popular due to it being a gym on Pokemon Go. (There’s no better place to catch a Pikachu in my humble opinion.)
At the park, you have a great view of Center City Philadelphia, the Platt bridge, the shipyard in South Philly, Philadelphia International Airport,and you can see Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play. So, pretty much, you get a view of all the important infrastructure in Philly. To the south you can even see the Commodore Barry Bridge that connects Gloucester County to Chester, PA.
There are walking trails around the park, and playgrounds in the back of the park for kids. Also depending on the tide, you can walk the beach along the Delaware River.
You won’t feel tired or have breathtaking views of mountains during this journey. There are places upriver on the Delaware for that. But this is a great spot to just sit back, enjoy the view of the Philly skyline, listen to the waves crashing and watch planes land. A perfect spot to come and think about life (and history), or just to walk around.
And, word to the wise, try to come during the late afternoon hours as you get one of the best views of sunset in South Jersey.