The winter of 1777 - 1778 had been particularly harsh on both the British and the Colonial troops. British commanders learned that the rich agricultural supplies in lower New Jersey could be obtained with little resistance and sent detachments to obtain provisions and supplies.
The colonists were determined to prevent the British from gaining access to their provisions, and moved their livestock below Alloways Creek. British Commander, Colonel Charles Mawhood was just as determined to not only obtain them, but to also "chastise the rebels." His foraging parties, however, were turned back at all of the bridge crossings by the entrenched Cumberland and Salem militia.
After two days of skirmishing, Colonel Mawhood, more determined than ever to defeat the militia, chose the community around Hancock's Bridge to concentrate his efforts. Major John G. Simcoe was dispatched with a force of 300 trained guerilla fighters and orders to spare no one.
In the darkness of the early morning hours of March 21, 1778, Simcoe's troops quietly surrounded Judge William Hancock's house where a small Quaker garrison of about 30 colonial militia, including Judge Hancock, were sleeping. Simcoe's troops entered the house simultaneously from the front and back and in the darkness of the night, quickly bayoneted all occupants. Some survived, but unfortunately one of the casualties turned out to be Judge Hancock.