William Bradford Burns Fort Billingsport
William Bradford was a printer and longtime rival of Benjamin Franklin leading up to the American Revolution.
Bradford became well known for his work and publish several articles critical of Franklin while he was in London before the Revolutionary War began.
A firm Patriot, William fought in the war and eventually received command of Fort Billingsport.
Please note: Bradford is not related to the William Bradford who signed the Mayflower Compact. Instead, he is the namesake of another William Bradford who first brought the printing press to the Middle Colonies.
William Bradford grew up learning the family trade: printing.
He soon became a rival of the only other print shop’s apprentice: Benjamin Franklin.
Bradford and Franklin would dominate publication in Philadelphia for several decades leading up to the American Revolution. While their competition would remain friendly for the most part, with Franklin even loaning Bradford money on occasion, this would all change during the Stamp Act Crisis.
When hostilities began to rise between Great Britain and her colonies, Pennsylvania’s Assembly selected Franklin to return to London as their representative.
The men who voted against Franklin were so concerned about his appointment that they decided to publish a protest in Bradford’s Pennsylvania Journal. Probably written by John Dickinson, the protest concerned, among other things, Franklin’s tendency to make enemies in England. Additionally, they thought (incorrectly) that he played a role in the creation of the Stamp Act.
For the next several years, Bradford would continue to publish criticisms of Franklin, many of which he wrote himself.
By 1774, William Bradford had established the London Coffee House, a frequent haunt for local merchants. This year he was chosen as the official printer for the First Continental Congress.
Soon after, William left the business in the care of his son and joined the Pennsylvania Militia.
Bradford quickly achieved the rank of Colonel, serving in the New Jersey Campaign and sustaining wounds at the Battle of Princeton.
William was then appointed as Commander of Fort Billingsport on the Delaware River. When the British marched into Philadelphia they started attacking the surrounding forts.
When the Redcoats approached Fort Billingsport it was undermanned and if an engagement took place the soldiers would have been absolutely slaughtered. Bradford made the only reasonable decision he could…abandon it.
On his way out, Bradford destroyed the cannons and burned the buildings down to keep Billingsport from benefiting the enemy.
Still recovering from his wounds, and now over 60 years old, William resigned his commission and returned Philadelphia where he continued printing for his final years.
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