Drexel Students Recreate a Giant, Terrifying, Revolutionary War-Era Spear

The original weapon was used to stop British ships in the Delaware River.

Photo courtesy of Britt Faulstick

Photo courtesy of Britt Faulstick

Back during the Revolutionary War, there was a 100-foot spear weighing hundreds of pounds that was stuck to the bottom of the Delaware River, pointing up. Its purpose, according to scholars, was to stop British ships dead in their tracks.

More specifically, the weapon was used to prevent an invasion of Philadelphia.

Drexel University students, along with anthropologist and associate professor Glen Muschio, are reconstructing the terrifying spear so that the Independence Seaport Museum can create a brace and show the real thing this year.

The spear was found in 2007 when the Delaware River was being dredged.

“The weapon is roughly equivalent to a telephone pole with a sharp metal tip, capable of puncturing the hull of a boat. Weapons like this were originally used on land as obstacles to prevent cavalry charges. But during the Revolutionary War, Ben Franklin devised a way to use them for maritime defense,” writes Drexel’s Britt Faulstick in a blog post about the project. “According to war historians, several of these weapons, known as chevaux de frise, would be attached to boxes affixed to the river bottom. With artillery fire coming from forts on both sides of the river, British boats could be forced directly into the path of the submerged spikes.”

So, y’know, just a friendly heads up to any giant inflatable ducks in the vicinity of Penn’s Landing this year.

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