Ambush of Geary

Cornet Francis Geary (1752-1776), son of Admiral Sir Francis Geary, and a party of eight troopers of the 16th (Queen's) Light Dragoons were engaged in a scouting mission when fired upon by a party of local irregulars under the command of Capt.

John Schenck of the 3rd Regiment Hunterdon Militia. Geary, the only casualty, fell in the first volley from the revolutionaries with a musket ball to his head. The remaining British troops scattered and returned to their lines.

The American company buried Geary in a shallow grave and divided his possessions amongst themselves. He had little on him at the time: a sword, watch, hat, coat, sash, boots, and other clothing.

The ambush resulted in British troops reducing the range of their scouting forays. This was crucial as the Americans were massing boats along the Delaware River prior to Washington's December 25, 1776 crossing to attack the British at Trenton. Geary's troops had been within five miles of the Malta Island staging area for the crossing.

On December 14th, 1776, the British sent a detachment of 8 cavalrymen of the illustrious 16th Light Dragoons, also known as the Queen's Light Dragoons, under command of a Cornet Francis Geary to investigate the Flemington storehouse. The group did indeed find the military provisions in the storehouse and set out to report to their superiors what they had found and to return with reinforcements. As they traveled through the New Jersey countryside, somewhere in the forest between Copper Hill and Larison's Corner, they were ambushed by a small group of local militia, and Cornet Geary was killed. In another undocumented retelling of the events of this day from 1894, Lowrey is given a much more prominent role in the story. Rev. George S. Mott's, "History of the Presbyterian Church in Flemington...", tells of Lowrey's actions on that day: "Geary saw a man on Mullins Hill, who was Colonel Lowrey, evidently reconnoitering; and on inquiry was told that just beyond the hill a body of troops was encamped. This was a military lie, but it had the effect to hasten Geary's departure."