Battle of the Kegs

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Battle of the Kegs

BATTLE OF THE KEGS. The British won control of the Delaware River in November 1777 and opened a water line of communications to the recently occupied city of Philadelphia. David Bushnell applied his inventive genius to creating floating mines (suspended below kegs and tied together with rope) that were designed to drift downriver into the British fleet, snag a vessel, and explode on contact. A daybreak attack with "a score of kegs or more" on 5 January 1778 was a failure (the British used cannon and small arms fire to detonate the mines), but it inspired Francis Hopkinson's poem The Battle of the Kegs, in which the poet says the kegs looked like barrels used to transport "pickled herring."

SEE ALSO Bushnell, David; Philadelphia Campaign.


Commager, Henry Steele, and Richard B. Morris. The Spirit of 'Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958.

Jackson, John W. The Pennsylvania Navy, 1775–1781: The Defense of the Delaware. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1974.

                        revised by Harold E. Selesky