Battle of the Barrels
Created | Updated Feb 20, 2007
The American Revolutionary War in the Middle Atlantic States:
Battle of New York City | Washington's Retreat from New York City | Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River
Battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey | British Capture of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania
The Paoli Massacre | Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania | Battle of the Barrels | The Winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey | Battle of Stony Point, New York | Battle of Springfield, New Jersey | General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne
Molly Pitcher | General Lord Charles Cornwallis
In January 1778, the Colonial forces were desperate to harass the British occupying Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their plan was simple and simply did not accomplish anything like what they had hoped.
It all started with Connecticut inventor David Bushnell's design for a naval bomb. He fitted barrels of gunpowder with fuzes so that they would explode at the slightest touch.
In 1778, several hundred of these barrels were dropped into the Delaware River north of Philadelphia with the idea that they would float downstream and bump into British warships, causing enough damage to sink a few. Since it was winter, most of the ships were docked as the British didn't want them damaged by ice floes.
But a small boat's crew saw the floating kegs and went out to investigate, with explosive results.
Alerted to the danger, British sharpshooters spent a few days shooting at every bit of floating debris in the river, detonating most of the kegs. No other British ships were damaged nor were any other casualties reported from this incident.