Friday, December 26, 2014

Revolutionary War ship built by Benedict Arnold found in Lake Champlain

There have been several naval ships named Philadelphia. The first Philadelphia was raised from the deep of Lake Champlain on August 9, 1935, by a group of marine archaeologists. The Revolutionary War gondola is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology. Here's the story of this ship, which is supposedly the oldest intact fighting vessel in existence. Philadelphia was a gondola (length 57'; beam 17'; draft 2'; complement 45; armament, one 12-pounder and two 9-pounders). Constructed by General Benedict Arnold (yes, that one) at Skenesboro, New York, Philadelphia was laid down early in July 1776 and launched in mid-August. Arnold's flotilla was built to check the expected British invasion being launched from Montreal. The English planned a thrust down the historic Lake Champlain-Hudson Valley corridor to sever New England from the middle and southern American Colonies. They embarked on a vigorous shipbuilding program to achieve naval superiority. Arnold, however, was undaunted. Late in August, he assembled his little fleet and cruised provocatively on the upper lake. On September 23, 1776, he stationed his ships on the New York shore near Valcour Bay to intercept the British squadron's advance on Fort Ticonderoga. The two forces clashed on October 11. During the six-hour fight, the British guns sank the Philadelphia on Lake Champlain with a 24-pounder shot. Arnold slipped away with the remainder of his fleet, but he lost most of his ships during a two-day running battle. The sacrifice was not in vain. Arnold's ships delayed the British advance until approaching winter caused them to suspend operations until spring. A much stronger patriot army awaited General Burgoyne in 1777 and it finally forced him to surrender at Saratoga.

Revolutionary War ship built by Benedict Arnold found in Lake Champlain

The Philadelphia on display at the National Museum of American History. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Philadelphia on display at the National Museum of American History. (Wikimedia Commons)

There have been several naval ships named Philadelphia. The first Philadelphia was raised from the deep of Lake Champlain on August 9, 1935, by a group of marine archaeologists. The Revolutionary War gondola is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology. Here's the story of this ship, which is supposedly the oldest intact fighting vessel in existence.

Philadelphia was a gondola (length 57'; beam 17'; draft 2'; complement 45; armament, one 12-pounder and two 9-pounders). Constructed by General Benedict Arnold (yes, that one) at Skenesboro, New York, Philadelphia was laid down early in July 1776 and launched in mid-August.

Arnold's flotilla was built to check the expected British invasion being launched from Montreal. The English planned a thrust down the historic Lake Champlain-Hudson Valley corridor to sever New England from the middle and southern American Colonies. They embarked on a vigorous shipbuilding program to achieve naval superiority.

Arnold, however, was undaunted. Late in August, he assembled his little fleet and cruised provocatively on the upper lake. On September 23, 1776, he stationed his ships on the New York shore near Valcour Bay to intercept the British squadron's advance on Fort Ticonderoga.

The two forces clashed on October 11. During the six-hour fight, the British guns sank the Philadelphia on Lake Champlain with a 24-pounder shot. Arnold slipped away with the remainder of his fleet, but he lost most of his ships during a two-day running battle.

The sacrifice was not in vain. Arnold's ships delayed the British advance until approaching winter caused them to suspend operations until spring. A much stronger patriot army awaited General Burgoyne in 1777 and it finally forced him to surrender at Saratoga.

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HMP was conceived and formed in 2008 by Sam Katz as part of a plan to produce a multi-part series on the history of Philadelphia. It is now a full service production company with a focus on helping organizations with a rich history tell their stories through the powerful medium of film.

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