Fort Mifflin Garrison Flag
If ever there was a piece of land that was a “hard place” as alluded to in the phrase “between a rock and hard place”, Fort Mifflin was indeed a hard place. An American fort in the Delaware River that was not only a thorn in side of the British, it was a hard place to take and stood firmly for almost a week amidst the largest barrage of artillery in the Revolutionary War.
After success in eastern Pennsylvania, defeating the American forces at Brandywine, the British army rolled into Philadelphia. The Continental Congress and other patriots had escaped not long before but the city didn’t lay empty very long. To supply the new occupiers, General Howe needed the numerous supply boats that lay just off shore about 15 miles downstream from Philadelphia at Chester, PA. Without these boats and ultimately command of the Delaware River, Howe’s army would be trapped and their recent victories for naught.
Fort Mifflin was one of two key river installations the Americans still held despite losses in the previous few weeks and it was only about six miles south of Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. It not only put Americans in proximity to the newly taken Philadelphia, it’s ten cannons were a major problem for the navy and boats that Howe would need to supply the city and continue his campaign. Compounding the British problem of Fort Mifflin was Fort Mercer which lay across the river to the east about 2000 yards. Together these two forts were pincers and put a choke on the British navy. So critical was Fort Mifflin, which lay on Mud Island in the river, General Washington gave instructions that the fort was to be held “to the last extremity”.
For about six weeks about 400 soldiers in Fort Mifflin did hold over 250 British ships and over 2,000 redcoats at bay and prevented them from successfully re-supplying the city. Realizing that freezing, winter weather would soon create another problem of ice in the river, the British put forth a massive effort to subdue the forts. On November 10th, 1777 the British Navy unleashed five days of torrential cannon fire at Fort Mifflin, at one point expending 1,000 balls in one hour. Approximately 10,000 cannon balls were reported to have been heaped upon the fort by the time the soldiers abandoned the fort on the night of November 15th only after running out of ammunition. The fort had endured the largest bombardment of the war. The culminating delay that Fort Mifflin secured was sufficient to give Washington time to get his troops re-positioned for the Battle of White Marsh and finally retired to Valley Forge for the winter.
The Flag of Fort Mifflin is somewhat unique in its arrival to the history books because it was originally a Continental Navy Jack . The defenders of Fort Mifflin borrowed the flag from the very small American navy that helped vex the British along the Delaware River. They had no other flag and to signal to the surrounding area that the fort still lay in American hands, the troops relentlessly kept the colorful flag flying, even during the five day assault at the end. At one point the flag was shot down and two soldiers died putting it back up.
Today the Flag of Fort Mifflin still flies on site at the fort because it is technically a base for the US Army Corp of Engineers making it the oldest active military base in use today. Its mesmerizing stripes of red, white, and blue captured on our patch are a reminder of what commitment, duty, and grit really mean, and a symbol of American resolve.
- Hook backing
- Released: 7/30/2020