This post is very late-coming. I had a lot of school work for this class and everything has just piled up. I was temped to skip the post altogether thinking it might be too late but no; I will give it a try.
Fort Mifflin (fortmifflin.us) has been on my list of 18th Century Things to Do in Philadelphia for quite some time. So, after being inside for several days working on graduate school assignments, it was decided that we needed to get out. I was too tired to get dressed in period clothing, which was just as well. Although the gray, overcast day was quite lovely, it was also very muddy.
This is the front door but we didn’t go inside at first. Instead, we decided to walk the perimeter. Fort Mifflin was key in holding up the British forces long enough for George Washington to get their winter quarters established. Learn more about the Revolutionary War history of Fort Mifflin.
The Fort was built around 1770 on rather marshy land, once called Mud Island. Below is a map of the original Fort and Delaware River orientation, complete with boats, to demonstrate the strategic significance of the location. Philadelphia would be more or less beyond the fancy writing in the top right corner. Fort Mifflin would continue to be important through the Civil War.
Much has changed since the 18th Century. Although the Fort continues to be surrounded by a moat, enough of the area has been filled in that you can drive up to the area and walk over a small bridge. After parking, we stopped in to get our passes and a map. The caretaker also informed us that there were groundhogs lurking about and to mind any holes in the grass.
There is more than one door into the fort. This door is the service and supply entrance. The overgrowth has softened the walls and looks more like a garden than a military establishment.
We’d find out later that this lock mechanism was on the other side. I might consider this in our house just because it’s such a visually interesting lock. Too much?
Continuing along the perimeter, nature is reclaiming the walls.
Along the wall, we came across this. The internets prove useful and I was able to discover that in 1680 an attorney named John Rudderow arrived from England to be a “Crown Surveyor” and check up on the local surveyors. He supervised the establishment of the layout of the City of Philadelphia (books.google.com/books). He was going to go back to England but fell in love with a nice Welsh girl and remained in the Chester Township area. I’m not entirely sure why there is a sign with his name on it along the fort wall. He descendants continue to live on the same land given to Rudderow by William Penn.
Once we finished walking around the perimeter, avoiding mud and groundhogs of dubious nature, we ventured through the main gate and into the first room. Many of the rooms are actually built into the walls of the fort. Unfortunately, I have lost the map I have no idea what room is which but I’ll do my best. Most of the rooms in the walls are for soldiers doing watch-duty and prisoners.
More rooms set into the walls. Very, very dark. We were just about the only people there that day so it was also very quiet. Naturally, since these rooms are in the walls of the Fort, you wouldn’t exactly put large windows in to let in the light. For the convenience of modern visitors, there are electric lights but in the 18th Century – so dark.
If you’ve ever been to a castle in Europe, you’ll know what this is. Every fort/castle needs to have little openings for the guns to stick out of. Of course, I don’t think you can aim well and it probably wasted tons of ammunition but at least you were protected. We noticed that the perspective make it appear to be a passageway large enough for a person to walk down so we retook the photo with a brick to provide scale.
These are photos of the entire fort from the top of a wall. Since they are encased with dirt, it’s fairly easy to climb up from the inside.
I thought this looked like a splendid place to store one’s horses but apparently no. This is the artillery shed.
This is the blacksmith’s shop.
This is the service gate from the inside.
In many of the rooms, there are fireplaces. Since the flue is likely unique to each fireplace, it goes right up and out, allowing sunlight in. The illumination of the long-unused fireplaces was really interesting especially in contrast to the darkness of the rooms, as if to say the fires of battle and man are done; the sun returns and remains.
I did not have the courage to venture into a completely dark room in a confirmed haunted Fort with nothing but the flashlight on my phone. Frank did, shined his light on the far wall, and I captured this photo which shows how dark it is in the rooms in the wall.
Finally, a few photos from the medical room.
You are permitted to venture into every building, although not any second floors as you may, or might not, fall through. What I found particularly affecting is how peaceful it was. Perhaps because we were more or less alone and it was very quiet. One could just about imagine oneself transported back in time, if not for the regular sounds of jet engines from the airport next door.