Forgotten History of 5 Miles Beach and the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

turtle-gutFor a small island known predominantly known for our rides and boardwalk, there’s a lot more history to be acknowledged and preserved here in the Wildwoods. For instance, what was once 5 miles beach separated by two inlets: Hereford and Turtle Gut, are now the cities of Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, West Wildwood and North Wildwood. Anyone who fishes or paddles in Cape May County have more than likely traveled through the Cape May Inlet – a deep, fish inhabited channel sandwiched between two jetties: one beach side known as the rocks, and the other known as poverty beach. However, few realize that Cape May Inlet once shared a neighboring inlet known as Turtle Gut, which traveled through the middle of Wildwood Crest around what is now rambler road. Many also fail to know that the Turtle Gut Inlet was the site of a naval battle in 1776 between the British and the United Colonies. In order to prevent the Americans from receiving war supplies through the port of Philadelphia, the British Navy established a blockade off of the Delaware Bay, including a fleet of over 240 cannons. The Nancy, a brig captained by Hugh Montgomery and chartered by Robert Morris of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety loaded supplies in St. Thomas and St. Croix, including 360 barrels of gunpowder, fifty fire locks, one hundred and one hogshead of rum, and sixty-two hogshead of sugar, heading for Philadelphia. On June 28th, 1776, a lookout spotted the Nancy sailing toward Cape May in hot pursuit by British forces. On June 29th, Nancy, still in pursuit by the British, ran aground in a heavy fog nearby Turtle Gut Inlet, after which, 3 American relief boats set out to assist Nancy by attempting to salvage the cargo, especially the gunpowder kegs. By late morning, June 29th, 265 kegs of gunpowder had been removed and stashed in the dunes off of 5 miles beach, with the help from residents of the island, leaving 100 kegs of gunpowder remaining on the ship. It was then that Captain Barry of the Lexington relief boat ordered the main sail of the Nancy be wrapped around fifty pounds of gun powder to create a long fuse running to the remaining 100 kegs of gunpowder. The fuse was then lit, the majority of the American crew abandoned the Nancy brig, and the British quickly boarded the vessel taking the American crew’s abandonment as surrender. Shortly after the British boarded the Nancy, the gunpowder exploded with a blast felt for miles, killing many British. The battle of Turtle Gut Inlet demonstrated the resourcefulness of the American forces, and as a result, the British Navy moved their blockade further away from the Cape May area. Had it not been for the ingenuity of Captain Barry and the American crews in the battle of Turtle Gut Inlet, we very well might still be under British rule.

“Most residents fail to comprehend the historical significance of this place, only seeing the boardwalk, rides and waterpark; but, this island was inhabited for hundreds of years by people of all walks of life,” said Kona Surf Co. Owner, Mike Sciarra. “Next time you go through the Cape May Inlet, walk down to the rocks or can catch a glimpse of the jetties from poverty beach, try to remember the Battle of Turtle Gut, and the lives of those fallen soldiers that fought for our freedom against British reign, and remember that there are soldiers right now fighting for our safety and wellbeing” said Sciarra. Kona Surf Company is a proud supporter of our armed servicemen/women and veterans, and we thank all of those who have served or are serving in the military for their dedication to our country. If you are a veteran or are currently serving in the military, stop into our Kona stores and ask about our veterans/military discount!

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