Less than 24 hours after the crew finished shipping-channel maintenance near Fort Mifflin in South Philadelphia, Van Florcke glanced up at the dredge’s nine-foot-wide drag head and spotted something lodged in its grate.
“I was talking to my wife on a cell phone and told her, ‘I think that’s a cannonball,’ ” said Van Florcke, of Long Island, N.Y.
He climbed up to retrieve a 24-pound ball and found two other treasures six feet away on the other side of the drag head.
One was the rare tapered iron tip of a cheval-de-frise, the business end of a log once embedded in the river, along with many others, to gore the hulls of British warships that menaced Philadelphia in the mid-1770s. It had been silently resting a few hundred yards from the fort.
Next to it was a huge iron staple that had held together the chevaux-de-frise