A note from the editor: this article was originally published in the Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church newsletter. It refers to a plaque that no longer exists. Some of the information cannot be verified.
By Bob Josuweit
Did you know that there are historical markers on the Church property that have no direct connection to Gloria Dei?
One of the closest is on the outside of the front of the building just opposite the alter. In part it says “About 300 yards downstream from this marker stood the Association Battery of 27 cannon erected in 1748 by Ben Franklin’s Pennsylvania Association during King George’s war. The Battery was later enlarged to 50 cannons and was again manned during the French and Indian war. The British Army activated the Battery during the occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-1778. The site became part of the old Navy yard in 1800.”
In 1747, England and her Atlantic colonies were at war with France and Spain. Spanish warships ventured up the Delaware River seizing 15 Philadelphia merchant vessels in two years. The Pennsylvania Assembly, dominated by pacifist Quakers, refused to fund any sort of defense. This attitude incensed the city’s shipbuilders and other craftsmen.
Benjamin Franklin, a printer, called for better military preparedness in Pennsylvania in his 1744 pamphlet “Plain Truth.” This launched his political career. He used a lottery to fund the 1000 men needed to build and staff the fort. The group was called the Associators and the fort, the Association Battery.
Pictures of the fort show three buildings enclosed by a brick or stone wall rising out of the water to a height of perhaps 15 feet. Guards were posted every night, and no boat was allowed to pass between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the Association Battery was described as abandoned, although British troops briefly mounted three cannons there. According to the book, “The Buried Past: An Archeological History of Philadelphia,” the site is near Pier 56 South. It says that archaeologists suggest the fortification likely survives under the soil.