September 28, 1778
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 ½ 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.
On October 6, 1778,
the Continental Congress requested that New Jersey's Governor William Livingston investigate what happened that night: "of the treatment of Lieutenant Colonel Baylor and his party by the enemy, who attacked them."
Subsequently, Livingston requested that Major General Lord Stirling, Commanding Officer of the area, direct the investigation. He turned to Dr. David Griffith, a 36-year-old medical doctor and chaplain to the 3rd Virginia Brigade, to procure affidavits from the survivors.
It was there that he began his investigation of what would become known as the "Baylor Massacre."
"The inclosed Testimony will shew that Congress was not misinformed respecting the Savage Cruelty attending the surprize of Colonel Baylors Regiment." Dr. D. Griffith, surgeon appointed to attend Baylor's wounds and to investigate the "Massacre," October 21, 1778.