Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Ghosts of Fort Mifflin

After the release of my third novel, “Spirit of the Revolution,” (A ghostly, paranormal romance, concerning the same) I decided I would share some of the fascinating stories of restless spirits from America’s fragile beginnings. So come back often and see what’s new!

First up: Fort Mifflin...

Fort Mifflin  by pwbaker

Fort Mifflin is located on the Delaware River and its garrison was charged with defending the river approaches, holding off the advance of British troops, and buying time for Washington’s Continental Army during their retreat to Valley Forge.  A duty they performed most admirably.

And the ghosts?

Well, in this fort, the nebulous form of a young defender, known today as “Amos,” is often seen in the shadows cleaning his gun.  (Why you ask? I don’t have a clue. But I surely hope he has a few other things to do to keep himself occupied in the hereafter...)

 A female specter haunts Fort Mifflin as well. This inconsolable wraith mourns the death of her daughter. Many identify this spirit as Elizabeth Pratt. The common belief is that Elizabeth had a daughter who had taken up residence with a young officer stationed at the Fort. Elizabeth appealed to her daughter’s sense of decency and propriety, but alas, to no avail. In a rage, Elizabeth disowned her. Some say her daughter died of typhoid fever before mother and daughter could reconcile. Distraught over the loss of her daughter without making amends, Elizabeth hung herself. Her demented screams of sorrow are said to echo throughout the Officer’s Quarters.

The blacksmith’s shop has its own resident specter known as Jacob. His rhythmic hammering is most often heard coming from the shop. Those who investigate find a shop devoid of mortal occupants, and are left to wonder, as the last echoes from Jacob’s hammer fade away on approach.

Then we have the “phantom tour guide” who hangs around the powder magazine. This helpful poltergeist will conduct visitors (who believe they have a mortal guide in period clothing) as they tour the grounds.

Casement #11 Frederikto
Perhaps the scariest is the ghost referred to as The Faceless Man (and even though he was a Union soldier that died during the Civil War, I’m going to include him anyway). William H “Billy” Howe, accused of desertion, and the murder of a junior officer, haunts Casement #5. He has the dubious honor of being the only soldier to meet his death by hanging at Mifflin. You see, Billy led an attempted escape of 200 prisoners, but failed. Subsequently, they relegated him to solitary confinement in Casemate #11 to await his death. Howe begged clemency from President Lincoln. His plea went unanswered. Shortly thereafter he became the main exhibit in a ticketed public execution. Many have spied his shade near Casemate #5. His bodily appearance is usually very distinct, but his face is always in shadow, this is attributed to the black bag they placed over his head as a mark of his shame.

And finally, we have the “lamplighter.” This ghostly apparition is often seen making his rounds on the second balcony of the barracks, carrying a pole with a flickering light at the far end.

Just as an aside... The British actually built Fort Mifflin, but the stronghold fell to the Americans in 1775. Holding the British Navy at bay for nearly 6 weeks in the fall of 1777, the 400 man garrison defeated every attempt by the English to retake it during this particular period.

But then, on November 10, 1777 the British bombarded the fort. The siege by the English left 250 American soldiers wounded or killed. In regards to these men, a British officer said, “the behavior of the enemy…did them honor, nor did they quit the place ‘till their defenses were ruined, and the works rendered to rubbish, setting the works in a blaze when they could defend it no longer.”

On November 15, 1777, just after nightfall, the commander succeeded in evacuating Fort Mifflin’s remaining garrison to Fort Mercer, using muffled oars.

I’ve often wondered if any of my ancestors were involved in the defense of Fort Mifflin, for the Robisons, Jacobs, and Speedy families were residents of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania for close to a century. With William Speedy (also known as Speddy) having served with the Continental Army, under Captain John Clark.

So, which of the Fort Mifflin ghosts would you most like to encounter... or avoid...on a dark stormy night?

I'd love to hear from you! So feel free to leave me a comment or join my blog if you haven’t already! (Though lurkers are always welcome... )


  1. I wouldn't mind running into the "phantom tour guide." I would run like hell from the faceless one. Eeek! 0_0 Thank you for sharing! What a neat blog about these ghosts... :)

  2. You make me laugh... Thanks for the comment!

  3. I think I would like Amos myself...Ain't nothing wrong with a man cleaning his gun but ya I think I would run like heck too with the faceless dude.....Loved these stories and looking forward to more...

  4. Oh come on... Maybe the guy is just shy?

  5. Okay, I have goosebumps now. I'm not sure I'd want to meet any of them, LOL, but the helpful tour guide or Amos would probably be more my speed when it comes to encountering the otherworldly. So intriguing reading about all of these phantoms. I think I remember hearing about Amos before but none of the others. What a fascinating and informative blog post, Debbie!

  6. Thank you Mae! We've got more ghostly tales coming up, so make sure you have a night light ready to go... (a big, bright one, maybe...)