Jun 282016

Did you know that during the 6 day siege at Fort Mifflin the 400 American’s inside the fort had only 10 cannon to defend against the British with 2000 troops, a fleet of ships, and 228 cannon?  It was a cold and wet November in 1777 at Fort Mifflin (Named after General Thomas Mifflin), a wood and stone structure located nine miles from center city Philadelphia, on a muddy island in the Delaware River. What happened here may well have changed American history. But few people are aware of it.

Join us on Monday, April 10th as we welcome Elizabeth Beatty, executive director of the National Historic Landmark Fort Mifflin.

Our lectures have proved to be very popular and we strongly recommend that you book your seat now. 

Register NOW

Click here to register for this lecture

The all inclusive admission price is $49 per person which includes the 18th century American Fare Buffet, all soft beverages and coffee, family style sweets during the question and answer session, all tax and gratuities, the lecture, and a donation to help support the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.

Your admission also includes a raffle ticket for a chance to win a night’s stay at the General Warren Inne. There will be one winner drawn at each lecture.


Ariel View of Fort Mifflin

In 1777 (from November 10th to the 15th), British troops bombarded the 22-acre fort with more than 10,000 cannon balls, eventually destroying the structure.

Inside the fort, a cold, wet and hungry garrison of 400 men suffered 240 casualties in the effort. So short were the Americans on ammunition that anyone retrieving a cannonball that could be fired back was promised a gill of rum — about four ounces.

The weather hurt the Continental soldiers in another critical way. With unusually heavy rains flooding the back channel, two British ships were able to sail up the channel and bombard the fort’s only unfinished walls at point-blank range. British Marines even climbed up to the crow’s nest of the HMS Vigilant and threw hand grenades at soldiers inside the fort.

With the fort walls collapsing around them from the incredible shelling, most of the Americans evacuated after nightfall on November 15th, rowing with muffled oars across the river to nearby Fort Mercer (now part of Redbank Battlefield Park, Gloucester, New Jersey).

The 40 men remaining at Fort Mifflin set fire to what was left of the structure, and then joined their comrades. But they left the fort’s flag flying, and they never surrendered.

Sinking of the HMS Agusta

Sinking of the HMS Agusta

Biggest Boom: The explosion of the 64-gun HMS Augusta in the Delaware River in October 1777 after running aground and being fired on by Americans at Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer. Author Tom Paine, of “Common Sense” fame, who was on the road between Germantown and Whitemarsh, wrote to Ben Franklin that the sound was “like the peal of a hundred cannon at once.” The Augusta was the largest ship ever lost by the British to the Americans in two wars.

What they accomplished: The troops at Fort Mifflin bottled up 250 British ships in the Delaware River for about six weeks, destroying several — and preventing food, clothing, gunpowder and munitions from reaching the British army in Philadelphia.

By holding “to the last extremity,” as General George Washington had ordered, the men at Fort Mifflin gave Washington time to move his exhausted troops to Valley Forge for the winter — and very possibly saved the country.

After the war, Fort Mifflin was rebuilt. It served as a prison during the Civil War, and a naval munitions depot during World War I and II. Beth Beatty, who became executive director in 2010, views the fort as a veteran who has served and sacrificed for the country over an extended period of time.


For donations to Fort Mifflin, or to volunteer, go to: www.FortMifflin.us, or call 215-685-4167.

May 142014

The Battle of Paoli is the 9th deadliest battle in the American Revolutionary War. In fact there are three battles mentioned here that make up the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777.

One of the most comprehensive sources of casualty figures is Howard Peckham’s The Toll of Independence (The University of Chicago Press, 1974). Despite its age and shortage of British totals, historians still often point to this volume for American loss data.

Based on records for 1,331 military and 218 naval engagements, Peckham concludes that 7,174 were killed and 8,241 were wounded during the eight-year war.

Beyond these summaries, Peckham’s book is loaded with figures that would make any statistician drool and, of course, many historians debate.  With such a resource at my fingertips, I thought it would be interesting to list the Revolutionary War’s 25 deadliest battles, looking at engagements both on land and at sea. After all, the Revolutionary War is second only to the Civil War in deaths relative to population. This list is based exclusively on Peckham’s figures of Americans killed and wounded, which are totaled in (parentheses) and sorted in order of most killed and wounded to least. Then, for perspective, I included British killed and wounded totals from multiple sources, which are in {braces} and cited to their respective sources.

Based on Peckham’s casualty figures:

  • Camden comprises nearly 37 percent of all the Americans killed and wounded during military engagements in 1780.
  • Bunker Hill comprises 54 percent of all the Americans killed and wounded during military engagements in 1775.
  • Germantown and Brandywine, combined, account for 35 percent of all Americans killed and wounded during military engagements in 1777.

Interestingly, the 25 deadliest battles total 7,696 Americans killed and wounded, which accounts for 50 percent of all Americans killed and wounded during the entire eight-year war (using Peckham’s Americans killed/wounded war total of 15,415). That means that the other 50 percent, or 7,719 Americans, were killed and wounded during the remaining 1,524 military and naval engagements! So, the Revolutionary War’s 80-20 rule was closer to a 50-2 rule with nearly 50% of the American killed and wounded casualties occurring in 1.6 percent of the military and naval engagements.

Of course, this is all based on a numbers game and new casualty sources are regularly added and subtracted. As Peckham summarized, “If we cannot offer the final word on casualties of the American Revolution, we hope that we can at least elevate the discussion of those losses by the addition of figures that have heretofore been unknown or unavailable.”

EDITOR NOTE: To focus on the “deadliest battles,” casualties were limited to killed and wounded, but missing and captured could increase the totals or raise additional questions. As demonstrated in the introduction, war casualty figures during the Revolutionary War were often used as propaganda. Casualty data continues to be disputed and debated today. As such, we welcome all arguments against Peckham’s American casualty numbers to unfold in the comments below.

[FEATURED IMAGE AT TOP: Xavier della Gatta’s Battle of Paoli painting (1782). Source: American Revolution Center Collection]

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