In the late fall of 1777, hundreds of Continental Army soldiers huddled deep in the sepulchral casemates of Fort Mifflin during a brutal five-week siege and naval bombardment, delivered by every ship His Royal Majesty King George could throw at them.
Stymied by Ben Franklin’s clever system of underwater spikes, the ships had no choice but to crack the fort if they were to proceed up the river to Philadelphia. And so they concentrated on capturing it- or smashing it. That’s bad enough, if you’re inside that casemate, with a few blocks of stone and a scant foot of earth between you and King George’s cannon. But it gets worse.
The bombardment, the attacks, even the design of the siege engines used against the Fort — all of these were masterminded by Captain John Montresor, the VERY SAME MAN WHO HAD DESIGNED THE FORT ITSELF, before he quit in disgust when the Continental Congress granted him less than half the funds he needed to do the job right.
Now this man, with all the mighty resources of the Empire behind him, was in charge of cracking the fort so the English navy could sail up the river to Philadelphia and crush the fledgling nation. Can you imagine the terror of knowing that every sledgehammer stroke delivered against the walls was guided by the man who best knew all the Fort’s weaknesses? Can you imagine wondering whether, at any moment, a new flaw will be exploited, a secret sally port revealed?
During that attack, one of every five soldiers holding the fort was killed or wounded. Can you imagine being killed in that assault, and forced to haunt the smoking, underfunded ruin on a Delaware River mudflat for hundreds of years?
Yeah, that would SUCK. And I expect you’d be ready for a good laugh. Which is EXACTLY what I plan on providing to those ragged Revolutionary specters tonight. Want to know more? DM or message @guerilladrivein on Twitter!
PS. During the siege and bombardment, 85 of the 405 soldiers garrisoned at the Fort were killed or wounded. But they succeeded in their mission: the fort delayed the British navy long enough for Washington’s Continental Army to escape to Valley Forge and safety. Fort Mifflin is called “the fort that saved America”, and for good reason.