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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fort Billings

Three forts were part of a  matrix of defenses to protect Philadelphia and control the Delaware River.  Forts Mifflin and Mercer were just south of Philadelphia on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river.  The third, Fort Billingsport, was a few miles to the south.   General Thaddeus Kosciuszko was involved in the work on Fort Billingsport, his first engineering assignment authorized by the Continental Congress, but the full construction was never completed.

The British held Philadelphia following the American loss at Brandywine.  Seeking to free the river so that supplies could be transported to Philadelphia, occupied by the British on September 23, 1777, General Howe ordered assaults on the American positions.  Washington deemed the forts critical enough to urge they be held “to the last extremity.” On October 2, 1777, the 112 man garrison was evacuated, and the British took the fort.

What is significant is that it was a strategic move led by two of the early American marine officers, Dennis Leary and William Barney, memorialized by a plaque on this site.  Ultimately, both Forts Mifflin and Mercer fell, as did Philadelphia, but it did not mark the end of civilization. let alone the war, some were projecting. 

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