When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
November 16, 1777 Siege Fort Mifflin
On September 22, Howe succeeded in achieving an uncontested crossing of the Schuylkill River and four days later occupied Philadelphia. Having taken the city, the British commander sought to open the Delaware River in order to allow his army to be supplied by sea. These efforts were blocked by the American defenses downstream which included Forts Mifflin and Mercer, obstructions in the river, and Commodore John Hazelwood’s small flotilla from the Pennsylvania State Navy.
Fort Mifflin was sited on Mud Island in the middle of the river. Designed by Captain John Montresor, construction of the fort began in 1771 and the walls on the river side were built of stone. With the beginning of the American Revolution, Continental forces completed the fort using a mix of wooden palisades and earthen walls. Protected by a mixed battery of artillery, the fort was surrounded by sharpened logs and trous-de-loups (tiger pits). To further protect the fort, American forces broke dikes along the river to prevent the British use of adjacent Province and Carpenter’s Islands.
In Philadelphia, Howe’s supply situation became increasingly desperate as Washington’s men cut off the land routes to the city. On November 10, the British commenced a prolonged bombardment of the fort. Under fire all day, the garrison did not suffer any casualties but the large sections of the western defenses were severely damaged. Two days later, a specially-design shore bombardment ship, HMS Vigilant (20), approached Fort Mifflin and opened fire from a range of twenty yards.
Supported by other British warships in the river, Vigilant pounded the fort’s walls. Though American naval forces approached, heavy British fire prevented them from rendering aid to the fort. With the fort in ruins, the American defenders withdrew to Red Bank.
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