Recent Activities - Fort Mifflin Siege Weekend


Battle map of the River Forts (Fort Mifflin on Mud Island)


     In 1771, a British captain of the Royal Engineers named John Montresor was selected by Pennsylvania Governor John Penn to prepare plans for fortifying the waterborne approaches to Philadelphia. Montresor chose Mud Island because it offered protection to both the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

     Work began on the fort in 1772, but proceeded slowly until the outbreak of hostilities between England and the Colonies. By 1775 war seemed imminent. Attention was once again turned to the defenses along the Delaware River, and General Thomas Mifflin was charged with completing the work of "Fort Island" (as it was called at the time.)

     Work on the fortification continued through 1777. Artillery batteries were setup to defend the main channel of the Delaware River, and a dockyard was built to help maintain the small flotilla of gunboats from the Pennsylvania Navy. The chevaux-de-frise was constructed at several locations along the Delaware River's main channel, and only those river pilots with the secret knowledge of these submerged obstacles could take a ship safely to or from Philadelphia. 

     In September of 1777 the British made their first move to breech the American river defenses. The American fortification at Billingsport, only three miles down-river from Fort Island, fell to British land forces with little resistance. The only thing that now stood between the massing British fleet and Fort Island was the Pennsylvania Navy and the chevaux-de-frise.

     From September to November the British Navy worked at moving and careening the chevaux-de-frise, and despite attacks from the American gunboats, the British managed to clear a channel through which their heavier warships could pass. At the same time, British artillery from Philadelphia moved south across Webb's Ferry and mounted batteries on Province and Carpenter's Islands. From there they were able to lay their guns on the less protected west side of Fort Island.

     By November 10th the British were in a position to launch a full scale attack on Fort Island, and on November 15th a coordinated effort of both British land and naval batteries reduced the fort to ruins. What remained of the fort's garrison escaped by boat across to Fort Mercer under the cover of darkness, leaving a handful of men at the fort's few remaining guns to create a covering diversion.

     On November 20th, the outnumbered American garrison at Fort Mercer withdrew ahead of the advancing British forces. The loss of Fort Island and the surrender of Fort Mercer opened the Delaware River to the British and allowed General Howe's army in Philadelphia to receive the supplies it desperately needed. However, the supplies came too late for the campaign of 1777 to continue. Winter was rapidly approaching, and a new campaign would have to wait until spring of 1778.

     Today the Fort boasts of being the oldest U. S. fort in continuous use, for it was not deactivated until after World War II.  It is now maintained and operated by Fort Mifflin on the Delaware, and annually hosts the reenactment of the 1777 siege.


Use the BACK key to return to this page

Click on the picture

Is this evidence that WILLIAM H. HOWE was incarcerated here?

To read about the fort's huge find

The Grand Panoramic of Historic Fort Mifflin

Satellite view of

Fort Mifflin

Diorama of original Mud Island fort, during the siege, November 1777

Christian and David take their Private's Test

Going through the Manual of Arms

Sergeant Chuck observes

The conference

The commander pronounces them full-fledged Privates

Les has a present for Private David ...

A custom made storage chest

He was already feeling sick and weak

Kristy keeps Ninja company

Alyssa helps "man" the mortar

Continental troops advance across the bridge

Taking casualties

A good crowd watches

The fort's flag is looking battle worn

David assists Noah with the children's drill

Preparing to charge

The unit celebrates its 10th anniversary

Kristy finally sits down and lets the party run itself

Much food, drink and merriment

Our "birthday" cake

Even Terry came back for a visit

Parting shot of

Ninja, only a month

before his passing

Movie Magic Bonus

320 Kb

Musket Firing Demonstration

CLICK HERE to see our dedicated Fort Mifflin Site

CLICK HERE to see Fort Mifflin ravaged by the flood waters of HURRICANE ISABEL (2003)

CLICK HERE to read the Philadelphia Inquirer's article by Michael Schaffer on this event

Outside Links to the Delaware River Battles

CLICK HERE to read the diary of Sergeant John Smith, First Rhode Island Regiment

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Philadelphia Campaign

CLICK HERE to visit the official site of Fort Mifflin

Want to visit the site yourself?  CLICK HERE for directions

Use the BACK key to return to Recent Activities