FADEN, William (1750-1836)
The Course of Delaware River from Philadelphia to Chester with the Several Forts and Stackadoes raised by the Americans and the Attacks made By His Majesty’s Land and Sea Forces.
London: printed for Wm. Faden, Jany. 1st 1785. Copper-engraved map. Provenance: Martin P. Snyder. Restoration to center fold. Sheet size: 21 1/4 x 29 1/4 inches.
The Snyder copy of the third and final state of one of the most important maps of the Revolutionary War, depicting the dramatic military events that transpired on the Delaware River, just below Philadelphia.
This large scale and finely engraved masterpiece of military cartography embraces the Delaware River estuary from Philadelphia down to the town of Chester. In great detail, the map showcases the momentous events of November, 1777 when a British assault of combined naval and army forces struggled to wrestle control of the river from the Continental forces. In September, 1777 the British retook Philadelphia, the Continental capital and the largest city in the American colonies. However, they knew that their hold on the city would prove fleeting unless they managed to secure its access to the sea, which was blocked by a formidable American cordon militaire. The Americans could cover the entire width of the Delaware River with artillery, as they controlled Fort Mercer at Red Bank on the New Jersey shore, and the adjacent Fort Mifflin, on Mud Island in the middle of the river. Menacingly they also constructed stockadoes, or chevaux de frise, across the largest channel of the river, both under the American artillery positions at the aforementioned forts and at Billingsport, New Jersey. The placements were essentially caissons constructed in the river that were intended to ensnare and slow British ships, making them more vulnerable to attack. Their construction is depicted in diagrams on the lower-right of the map. The British mounted their assault in prongs from the south, one force under Lord Cornwallis captured Billingsport, before moving on foot to besiege Fort Mercer. The large inset in the upper-left shows the fierce canonade that ensued, that eventually forced the Americans to surrender Fort Mifflin on November 16th. As depicted on the map, the Continental fleet, the contents of which are listed at the lower centre of the map, mounted a brave resistance to the superior British force, but were overcome after intense ship to ship combat. After taking Fort Mercer, Lord Cornwallis' force continued on to Gloucester, New Jersey, where the Americans had torched the remainder of their fleet to prevent it from falling into British hands. The conclusion to the dramatic action portrayed on this map marked the high point of the British Philadelphia Campaign, as the city was now safely in their grasp. However, their victory was wasted. The British dithered in complacency, while the American forces under George Washington spent the following winter in legendary deprivation at Valley Forge. Washington's trial in the wilderness galvanized the morale of his men to mount a spirited campaign in New York the next year, the success of which eventually forced the British to abandon Philadelphia in an attempt to shore up their fortunes further north.
Cf. Nebenzahl, Atlas of the American Revolution, map 29; Nebenzahl, A Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution 1775-1795, 132, state 3; Snyder, COI 79B; Stevens & Tree, "Comparative Cartography" in Tooley, The Mapping of America, 17(b).