After my first book was released, I had the opportunity to become friends with some that invites me along to kayak the Brandywine River each summer. It has since become an annual excursion for us. This year, because of the research for my new book, he asked if I would rather paddle the Schuylkill River this year. I agreed and we took the trip a couple of weeks ago. I really wanted to try and find the fords along the Schuylkill that pertain the Philadelphia campaign.
This year, we decided to explore between Phoenixville and the Valley Forge area with the hope finding Gordon’s Ford, Long Ford, Richardson’s Ford, Pawling’s Ferry crossing, and Fatland Ford.
I believe we were successful in all but one. We entered the Schuylkill at Lock 60 in Phoenixville and began working our way downstream. Gordon’s Ford is almost certainly where the Route 29 bridge crosses the river today. We also think we found Long Ford. There is still an island in the river here today near where the Pickering Creek enters the river; also, modern Longford Road comes into this area on the north side of the river near Port Providence. Richardson’s Ford I believe is now the site of a railroad bridge behind where the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center is located today.
The Pawling’s Ferry crossing (where the skirmish involving Light Horse Harry Lee and Alexander Hamilton took place at Valley Forge) is fairly easy to locate since the old ferry crossing was located just downriver from where Valley Creek enters the Schuylkill.
Unfortunately, we were unable to locate Fatland Ford which the British used to cross the Schuylkill River. There are no obvious shallow points in the river or obvious roadbeds leading to the river in this area. My research tells me the ford was located behind where the Washington Chapel is today in Valley Forge. I need to head over and walk around the woods behind the chapel to see if there is any trace of a road bed back there.
We exited the river not far from this area at Betzwood Park. Exploring rivers/creeks by kayak or canoe is a very effective way to explore these historic crossing points that are often inaccessible any other way.