THE BATTLE OF THE KEGS

  David Bushnell is known as the father of the submarine. He invented the first ever submarine called the Turtle. The Turtle was unsuccessfully used in attempts to sink the flagship of British Admiral Richard Howe and other British ships during the American Revolution. The plan was to attach a torpedo which was an explosive charge to the ships hull. Not until the Civil War would a submarine called the CSS Hunley be successful in sinking a warship in battle. In January 1778 Bushnell came up with a plan that he hoped would ultimately sink the British Navy ships that were anchored in Philadelphia. The British Army had slipped by Washington's army in September 1777 and captured the colonial capital of Philadelphia. Bushnell filled fifty kegs with 100 pounds of gunpowder and designed them to explode on contact with a ships hull. He even hoped that these "Infernels" as the British came to call them would set off a chain reaction because the British ships were anchored so close together. If that happened it could level a good portion of Philadelphia. On January 6, American soldiers launched these kegs on the Delaware River upriver from Philadelphia. Unknown to to Bushnell the British had surrounded their ships with log barricades to protect the ships from ice floes that routinely floated on the river in the winter. The kegs took much longer than expected to reach Philadelphia. When they finally did a barge man tried to lift one out of the river and it blew up killing him along with some curious bystanders. This set off a panic for a while in Philadelphia among the citizens. The British Army posted sharpshooters along the bank of the river. As the floating kegs came into sight these rifleman would blow them up at a safe distance. Cannon were even used to blow them up. This incident came to be known as the Battle of the Kegs and a song was even written about it.




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