Story by MAJ Angela King-Sweigart on 04/19/2017FORT MIFFLIN, Pa.-In 1777 during the Revolutionary War more than 200 men were garrisoned here, located on what was then the banks of Mud Island in the Delaware River, during the Civil War the facility held prisoners, WWI munitions, and WWII it housed anti-aircraft guns. In 1954 part of the facility was decommissioned and in 1970 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
What many may be unaware of is located next to the historic landmark, in a separate facility, members of the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, also known as "The Dandy First," a unit in the Pennsylvania National Guard still train in facilities co-located with the ancient fort.
Today's Solders with the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division are at training at the same location they helped to defend in 1777. This makes them one of the oldest military units to operate out of one of the oldest posts in the nation.
"To know that I'm working at the same location that our colonial militiamen helped to defend against to British to gain our independence is amazing," said Maj. Joseph Martinkis, the unit's administrative officer. "It helps tie us to the past."
The unit is the oldest continually serving unit in the Pennsylvania National Guard and one of only a handful of military units that trace their lineage to colonial times.
The 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion was officially organized in Philadelphia on December 7, 1747 tracing its lineage back to the Associators a group of men who, along with Benjamin Franklin, met informally in Philadelphia. The artillery battalion was commanded in 1777 by Col. Jehu Eyre. Members of the unit were stationed at Ft. Mifflin, along with three other forts to defend against the British. The unit has remained in service ever since, fighting in nearly every conflict in U.S. history and earning its nickname, "The Dandy First" during the Civil War.
Today the unit operates out of both the facility at Fort Mifflin and an armory building located on the Drexel University Campus. The buildings at Ft. Mifflin are undergoing renovations and repairs to ensure they are meeting today's military standards.
A new parking lot has been constructed and further improvements of the buildings are planned.
"These buildings were likely used as part of the munitions warehouses from about the first world war," explained Capt. Eric Knight, project management specialist with the Pennsylvania National Guard's chief of facilities and management office. "We're looking at ways to improve them and make them better for the Soldiers training out of here."
Founded in 1747, the Pennsylvania National Guard is comprised of nearly 20,000 Soldiers and Airmen in more than 90 communities across the Commonwealth.
Some information for this article is attributable to: History of The First Regiment Infantry of Pennsylvania. The 103rd Engineer Battalion (Infantry Division) Pennsylvania National Guard (The Dandy First) 1777-1961 by Harmon Yerkes Gordon copyright 1961.