Americans love the idea of a last stand, a battle to the end.  We see this in the Battle of Bunker Hill, WE see this during the War of 1812 at both Fort McHenry and at Chalmette, Louisiana, we see this during the Texas Revolution at the Alamo, at the Little Big Horn, WWII’s during Operation Market Garden and many times in popular accounts of military operations.  It’s part of our national psyche and our vision of heroism.   Fortunately, these heroic disasters are rare.

One such “last stand” occurred at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware in November of 1777.

From General George Washington to Colonel Arendt at Mud Island

Camp [near Pottsgrove, Pa.] Septr 23d 1777

Sir

It is of the utmost importance to prevent the Enemy’s Land Forces and Fleet from forming a junction, which it is almost morally certain they will attempt by seizing on Fort Island below Philadelphia, if it is possible, and thereby gain the Navigation of the Delaware by weighing and removing the Chivaux Defrize, which have been sunk for that purpose. This Post — (Fort Island) if maintained will be of the last consequence, and will effectually hinder them from Union. I therefore appoint you to the command of It, and desire that you will repair thither immediately. The defense is extremely interesting to the United States, and I am hopeful will be attended with much honor to yourself and advantages to them. There are Troops there now, and a Detachment to reinforce them will immediately march from this Army. I have nothing further to add than my wishes for your success and to assure you, that I am with esteem Sir Yr Most Obedt Servant

G.W.

On November 10, 1777, the British Captain Montresor of the British Army wrote, “We opened our Batteries against Mud Island Fort, the whole consisting of two 32-pounders, six 24-pounders Iron, one 18-pounder, two 8-inch Howitzers, two 8-inch mortars, and one 13-inch mortar for throwing round shot and car-cases.” For five long, brutal days, two thousand British troops and 250 ships shot over 10,000 cannon shells at the fort, trying to destroy it. Along with the Naval attack came a British Army assault with artillery guns from Providence and Carpenter’s islands, just five hundred yards away.  The FORT DID NOT SURRENDER!

at Fort Mifflin held the British for as long as possible, but after five days and the death of 150 soldiers, the Continental Army was forced to abandon the fort on November 15, 1777. This heroic defense inspired one of the United States founding fathers, Thomas Paine, to write, “The garrison, with scarce anything to cover them but their bravery, survived in the midst of the mud, shot & shells, and were obliged to give up more to the powers of time & gunpowder than to military superiority.

From Colonel Arendt   to General George Washington — 11 November 1777

General Varnum informed me this morning, that Colo. Smith had sent him word by an Officer, that he thought it impossible for the Fort to hold out longer than ’till night1—and asked my opinion upon the subject—it was that the Fort should be maintained to the last extremity, but that the Cannon of the Battery should be brought off with all the superfluous Provision and Military Stores—that the Cannon brought off might be placed to advantage elsewhere—and that provision and Ammunition for two days only should be left in the fort.

I went to Fort Mercer, with a design to cross to the Island and resume my Command, but my Strength was unequal to my Good Will.

After the British bombardment, Fort Mifflin was left in ruins until 1793 when the planner of Washington D.C., Pierre Charles L’Enfant, began reconstruction of the now historical landmark. In February 1795 L’Enfant was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Rochefontaine when L’Enfant proved too difficult and expensive to work with. Rochefontaine completed the construction of Fort Mifflin in 1799, marking the end of the most expensive expenditure for fortifying ports and harbors of the past five years. The Department of War had spent over $100,000 dollars on fortifying Fort Mifflin. Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton had big plans for the fort and wanted to expand and solidify its defenses before Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1800. Hamilton believed that Fort Mifflin was the most strategic military base and pushed for development, no matter the cost. After Jefferson was elected, he decreased the funding from $15,000 dollars in the year of 1800, to $1,000 dollars in 1801. Since the nation’s capital had moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. the year before, officials no longer saw the importance of Fort Mifflin.

Nonetheless, Fort Mifflin continued to serve the nation.  It was fortified as a precautionary protection measure for Philadelphia in the War of 1812 but saw no action.  During the spring of 1861, several local volunteer units manned Fort Mifflin in order to defend Philadelphia from Confederate invasion. By the end of the Civil War, Fort Mifflin had not shot one cannon at the enemy, but instead served as prison for Confederate and Union solders.  After the Civil War, Fort Mifflin as an ammunition depot in WWI and WWII. In 1954, Fort Mifflin closed.  It was the oldest fort in continuous use in the United States, having served from 1771 to 1954.

In honor of this great history, we created a new version of our Spruce Beer.  This beer, like Fort Mifflin, was born in extremity as it was originally brewed for a filming of a Discovery Channel program.  Similar to a siege, filming “tries men’s souls.”   You can watch us brew this beer on Discovery – American Spirit Revival in April 2022.

Recipe Specs

  • Batch Size (G):           20.0
  • Total Grain (lb):         44.000
  • Total Hops (oz):          16.00
  • Original Gravity (OG):    1.062  (°P): 15.2
  • Final Gravity (FG):       1.001  (°P): 0.3
  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV):  8.04 %
  • Colour (SRM):             25.2   (EBC): 49.6
  • Bitterness (IBU):         35.9   (Tinseth)
  • Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 70
  • Boil Time (Minutes):      60

Grain Bill

  • 30.000 lb American – Pale 2-Row – Toasted (68.18%)
  • 8.000 lb Brown Sugar (18.18%)
  • 6.000 lb Maple Syrup (13.64%)

Hop Bill

  • 8.00 oz Cascade Pellet (7% Alpha) @ 30 Minutes (Boil) (0.4 oz/Gal)
  • 8.00 oz Cascade Pellet (7% Alpha) @ 0 Minutes (Boil) (0.4 oz/Gal)
  • 32.00 oz Spruce Tips @ 60 Minutes (Boil)

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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