National Register of Historical Places

Sunk in Lake Champlain in 1776, gunboat "Spitfire" now on National Register

By Gordon Dritschilo

Vermont's latest historical site is at the bottom of Lake Champlain.

The wreck of the Spitfire, a Revolutionary War gunboat, was added to the National Register of Historical Places Friday.

Part of the fleet hastily assembled by Benedict Arnold in 1776, the Spitfire was sunk at the Battle of Valcour Island, an engagement that, while a defeat for the American rebels, held off a British advance from Canada until the following year.

A replica of the Spitfire's sister ship, the Philadelphia, is at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes.

Also sunk in the battle, the Philadelphia was raised in 1935 and the remains of the original are in the Smithsonian Institution.

Adam Kane, a nautical archeologist with the Maritime Museum, said the designation was significant for two reasons.

"One, it puts it on the list of historical and archaeological sites in the country designated as worthy of preservation and historically signifi-cant," he said.

"The second, more tangible thing it does is open it up to more federal funding."