Heroism of Jonas Cattell Lives on in 10 Miler
BY JACK HEATH
HADDONFIELD, NJ--When Jonas Cattell ran the nearly ten miles from Haddonfield, New Jersey to Fort Mercer at Red Bank (National Park, New Jersey), he wasnt thinking about the scenery. He didnt worry about his mile splits or even how he would get back to his blacksmith apprentice job in Haddonfield. Jonas was thinking about life and death.
Jonas was 18 on October 22, 1777. He was half Lenapi Indian
and he loved to run. When he wasnt working for blacksmith
John Middleton as an apprentice in Haddonfield, Jonas was a member
of the Gloucester County Fox Hunting Society.
On October 21, 1777 General Karl von Donop and a Hessian force of 2400 men ferried across the Delaware River unseen, camped out, and then began marching up Haddon Avenue (the ferry road) to Haddonfield.
Jonas Cattell and a number of other people the troops encountered along the way were taken prisoner and held overnight in a camp between Haddonfield and Cherry Hill, NJ at Evans Pond. The next day Jonas and the prisoners were released and told they could go home. Jonas knew what he had to do. He immediately started running to Fort Mercer along the roads, paths, and trails he knew so well to warn Colonel Christopher Greene, commander of the American troops at the fort, that the Hessians were on their way.
The advanced warning was enough notice for Colonel Greene
to redirect his cannons from the Delaware to the road leading
into the fort. The much smaller American force was able to defeat
the Hessian troops, inflicting over 500 casualties, including
Count von Donop who was wounded and then abandoned by his troops
on the battlefield. The British withdrew and decided to set fire
to their ships rather than let them fall into the hands of the
In October of 1969 a race was started by the local Kiwanis
to honor Jonas Cattells run, retracing virtually the same
route. While the brush and trails and streams he covered have
been replaced by paved South Jersey roads, you cant help
but feel his spirit if you run the race and approach Red Bank
Battlefield. Forty years later the race is the oldest in South
Jersey and the course has undergone only minor changes to improve
In 2009, 120 runners finished the 40th annual Jonas Cattell run on a crisp, clear, day ideal for running ten miles. (The days before and after the race were rainy and cold.) The race was held on October 25.
Geoff Shute, Pennsville High School (NJ) Cross-Country coach, won the race in 56:18. Chelsea Ley, the top ranked New Jersey High School Cross-Country runner, from Kingsway High School (Swedesboro), was the first female finisher in 1:07:19.
Joanne Ley, Chelseas sister and also a former standout at Kingsway was the second female finisher in 1:09: 34
David Zuzga (1:00:56) was the second male finisher, followed by Jim Sery (1:01:10).
There were a number of other notable finishes: Rowan Professor
and Running Legend Tom Osler placed third in the 60-and-over
category in 1:32:31.
Danny Wheeler was the first wheelchair finisher in 1:33:06, and he was warmly greeted by his service dog at the finish, drawing heartfelt applause from the many spectators. Wayne Keane, a blind distance runner, won the Jonas Cattell Special Achievement award running the hilly ten-mile distance in an impressive 2:10:47.
With four cannon and 1600 Hessian troops, Count Van Donop camped 300 yards east of here en route to Fort Mercer at Red Bank. A prisoner that night, Jonas Cattell, 18 years old, was released when the enemy moved out before daylight. He ran to warn the fort ten miles distant. Col. Christopher Greene ordered that the cannon commanding the Delaware be repositioned to meet the landward attack. Thanks to the timely warning that day, Oct. 22, 1777, three hundred Colonials defeated the Hessian forces. Count von Donop was mortally wounded in the attack.--From Cattells historic marker