The massacre took place shortly after the Battle of Chestnut Neck, a British raid aimed at suppressing privateers who used the area as a base to harass and seize British ships and their cargoes.
At the time that Captain Patrick Ferguson was wreaking havoc on Colonial shipping in the Mullica River, Kazimierz Pułaski and his newly raised forces were ordered to oppose his actions. Pulaski's Legion, along with three companies of light infantry, three troops of light horse, and one artillery detachment, came too late to be of great use against Ferguson's operations. But their arrival did stop Ferguson from raiding the iron works at Batsto, and stemmed their attacks on privateers at The Forks of the Mullica River.
Pulaski's troops were deserters, mainly, as well as a number of foreign adventurers. They reached the Little Egg Harbor district (near present-day Tuckerton), and immediately set up camp on a farm. A deserter, Lt. Gustav Juliet, found Ferguson and told him of Pulaski's encampment; he mentioned that morale was fairly low, and security almost nonexistent, so that a surprise attack would be devastating.