Missing in Action

Philly landmark seeks help recovering a cannon that walked off its post earlier this month.

What would you do with a 300 lb cannon the size (and shape) of a large Basset hound?

Sometime during the first two weeks in June, a one-inch bore “signal” cannon was stolen from off a 14-foot wall at Fort Mifflin, a National Historic Landmark on the Delaware river. Back in Revolutionary War times, signal cannons were positioned up and down the river, and scouts would fire them to alert troops of possible threats in the area.

“The cannon’s meant to make noise, not fire ordinance,” said the fort’s executive director, Beth Beatty, in a recent interview. It’s operational – and indeed you can purchase ammo online – but frankly this isn’t a particularly impressive specimen, as far as historic artillery goes. Beth admitted there were far better cannons in much easier locations – it’s a mystery as to why the thief/thieves chose to abscond with this one. Still, the loss stings. “This is sort of a sentimental cannon for us,” she said.

If only they had security cameras! Unfortunately, Fort Mifflin’s surveillance technology hasn’t changed much since the Fort was commissioned in 1771. They may not use cannons to communicate anymore, but “I spy with my little eye” is still how they watch over the 84-acre property, which includes many irreplaceable structures and artifacts dating back to Colonial times.

The signal cannon, however, was just a replica – worth about $3,000, and placed where it wasn’t very visible to staff. “It could’ve been gone for a few days before we noticed,” said Beth, who added they will “probably be looking into trail cameras” to help prevent future losses.

While the PPD’s investigation continues, Fort Mifflin is asking people to spread the word that they want their cannon back! If you’ve seen or heard anything, please contact FortMifflinInfo@gmail.com or call 215-685-4167.

Keep your eyes peeled for new lawn ornaments or fraternity mascots… 👀👀👀

And while you’re at it, consider scheduling a visit out to the crime scene. Fort Mifflin is a fascinating place to explore – one of America’s oldest intact battlefields and the only fort in Philly. The British bombed the heck out of it in the Revolution, firing more than 10,000 cannonballs, leaving pocks and dings still visible in its ramparts today. There’s also old weaponry on view, and a gift shop that sells replicas and Colonial-era treats. PRO TIP: Ask how you can fire a signal cannon for $20!

Terrific scenery, too. With nature trails and picnic areas overlooking the river, no wonder Fort Mifflin is often touted as one of the city’s best kept secrets. It’s even dog-friendly, just be sure to check their Events Page for cannon/musket demos that may frighten skittish pets. This summer, their calendar includes ghost hunts and game nights, holiday celebrations & re-enactments, colonial food & cocktails – plus something called “Pirate Day” (?!).

Despite being down one signal cannon, Fort Mifflin’s a great daytrip for locals and tourists alike.

Fort Mifflin on the Delaware
6400 Hog Island Rd (South Philly, near the airport)
Open March 1 – December 15,
Wednesdays thru Sundays (10AM – 4PM)
Adults $10, Seniors $8, Kids $6 (under 5 free)
215-685-4167 / fortmifflininfo@gmail.com
Follow @OfficialFortMifflinInfo on Facebook and @TheFortMifflin on Instagram

💥😲 Loose Cannons 😲💥

You’d think something as heavy and conspicuous as a cannon would be an unusual thing to steal, but you’d be wrong. Cannons disappear all the time! They’ve been swiped from Texas, Georgia, Boston, Florida… Even right here in Pennsylvania, where one is known to have spent 20 years submerged in the Susquehanna River before being hidden in a hotel, stolen again, and finally recovered for good (now on display in Fort Augusta).

Closer to home, police in Hatboro were frustrated in 2000 after one of two historic cannons was taken from the grounds of Crooked Billet Elementary School. They’d been placed here in the 1960’s to commemorate the site of a Revolutionary War battle where dozens of Americans suffered cruel and unfortunate fates. No one knows if Hatboro’s cannons were actually used in this conflict, however, or even where the cannons came from, or who they belong to (the school? the city? a private donor?).

It’s clear, though, that someone wanted them enough to saw through steel bands to lug them away… why? Melted down, the bronze would be worth about $1,500, and maybe as much as $10,000 if sold as a historic relic. But certainly a scrap metal yard would have questions, right? And even eBay buyers will want a certificate or some kinda provenance – you can’t just say “I found this” and not raise eyebrows.

After 20+ years, the plot thickens: Early photographs show there had actually been FOUR cannons at the site’s original monument. Somewhere along the line, two of them disappeared before this one — and nobody has a clue what happened to any of them. You “cannon” make this up! 😂

About Michael Thomas Leibrandt 8 Articles
Michael Thomas Leibrandt is an Engineer/Consultant/Author/Creator. He lives and works with celiac in Abington, PA

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