The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) will host a presentation by Art Cohn on the histories of the gunboats Spitfire and Philadelphia, I and II, on Tuesday, June 6, at 6:30 pm. Cohn, Senior Advisor & Director Emeritus of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, will give his presentation at the Old Base Memorial Chapel, on the Oval, in the City of Plattsburgh.
In October, 1776, British forces were committed to taking back control of strategic Lake Champlain and to that end, engaged an American fleet under the command of General Benedict Arnold, in a three day naval contest. In the course of the first days, during the Battle of Valcour Island, the gunboat Philadelphia sank one hour after darkness and caused the fighting to stop. That night, in an attempt to gain the safety of Fort Ticonderoga, Commodore Arnold escaped past a British blockade, but in the night had to abandon two weakened gunboats. One of these gunboats, the Spitfire, sank into the deep, dark waters of Lake Champlain.
In 1935 the gunboat Philadelphia was located and recovered by Colonel Lorengo Hagglund. In 1961 the Philadelphia was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. In 1991, using the Smithsonian’s plans, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum built, launched and began operating an exact replica of the original, the Philadelphia II. In 1997 the gunboat Spitfire was discovered upright and intact on the bottom of Lake Champlain.
This talk will share the story of these three gunboats followed by a book signing. CCHA’s lectures are free and open to the public.
The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. For more information, visit their website or call (518) 561- 0340.
Photo: The gunboat Philadelphia is the second oldest surviving American fighting vessel. Built in 1776, it was sunk in Lake Champlain during a naval battle with the British in the same year.