Hurricane Sandy stirs up history Revolutionary War spike pulled from the river
BRISTOL BOROUGH - Members of the Anchor vacht Club set out on a tender to remove buoys from the Delaware River on Nov.10. But little did they know that the Revolutionary War would intrude on their labors.
BuRys DUH WKRsH IDPLOLDU FRORUHG flRDWHUs that are anchored by chains and attached to concrete blocks embedded in the river. They serve as hitching posts, keeping “parked” ERDWs IURP flRDWLng DwDy.
On this day, workers were frustrated early on because they had to untangle a 24-foot WUHH IURP WKH fiUsW RI 30 EuRys WKDW KDG WR EH taken up. Thanks to Sandy, the tide and the wind had downed the tree and tossed it in the drink, said Anchor’s Commodore hevin Coyne.
The second buoy brought another teethgrinding job. Another tree, or so they thought, was caught up in the chain of buoy number two – 28 still to go. A second glance at the long wooden object told a different story, thanks to the good memories of a couple of Anchor vacht Club members on land.
Coyne, a member of the land crew that day, knew on sight that the object was no tree. It was a valuable and very old artifact.
It looked, he said, just like a cheval-defrise.
Translation: a cheval-de-frise is a big spike that was lowered into the river back in CoORnLDO WLPHs, SUREDEOy DURunG )W. 0LIflLn Ln Philadelphia, to keep British ships from proceeding up the Delaware by, it was hoped, puncturing a hole in the hull. Originally designed to be used on land in medieval times against warring cavalries, the water model was produced by Robert Erskin to keep the Redcoats at bay. How would Coyne know what it was? “I thought it looked just like one I once saw in the news. It probably became dislodged from river silt around Philadelphia and the storm brought it up,” Coyne said.
Next came the expertise of Anchor vacht Club member Paul Edelkamp, who happened to be in the clubhouse while the buoys were being hauled in. Edelkamp works for Sunoco DW )W. 0LIflLn DnG wDs OuFNy HnRugK WR KDYH seen a cheval-de-frise (s-h-e-v-a-l-l d-a f-r-ee-z-e) brought up from the river near the fort a few years ago.
“I recognized it right away. But the one we sDw Ln PKLODGHOSKLD wDs sPDOOHU, DERuW fiYH feet long,” said Edelkamp.
The cheval-de-frise found by Anchor - it’s Oh to call it a spike - is 29 feet long.
Once the cumbersome object was on land, the next step was to authenticate what Coyne DnG FRPSDny susSHFWHG, DnG WKHn figuUH RuW how to preserve it, said Amy McIlvaine, an Anchor member who lives nearby and was called into action. She immediately contacted the Grundy Library and Museum to tap into available expertise.
“The Grundy Museum people began to identify the steps needed to complete the YDOLGDWLRn SURFHss DnG WR finG D KRPH IRU LW in an appropriately controlled environment,” McIlvaine said.
Grundy professionals left no stone unWuUnHG, DnG WKH nHws wDs SURPLsLng. 2Ificials from Pennsbury Manor in calls Township, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, the State of Delaware, and Meagan Ratini, a Bristol resident and a graduate student of archaeology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, are all involved.
As for the spike, it’s resting comfortably in the hands of Craig Williams, a callsington resident and an amateur preservationist. He’s following the advice of the experts by keeping it submerged in water from the Delaware River and away from sunlight.
cinding a home may not be easy, McIlvaine said, because some experts believe that funds may have to be raised to keep the cheval-de-frise intact and preserved. But it’s an exciting time because no one would expect an object so rich in history to be found off of Bristol Borough. Hurricane Sandy brought much destruction but, at least in this case, appears to have left behind a historical gem.
“PDUW RI WKH SURFHss wLOO EH WR figuUH RuW how an artifact came to the surface after 200-plus years,” McIlvaine said. “Sandy, it seems, brought history into the light.”