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Sunken Spitfire a protected dive site

VERGENNES Lake Champlain Maritime Museum officials announced that the Revolutionary War gunboat Spitfire has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. The Spitfire was found by museum staffers in 1997 resting intact in deep water. The warship is the last intact Revolutionary War shipwreck in Lake Champlain. The National Register designation is the culmination of a year of year long effort by Maritime Museum staff to prepare and submit the application. The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Spitfire is an artifact from one of the most important naval engagements of the American Revolution. In 1776, the British planned to invade the colonies via Lake Champlain. In an attempt to halt this invasion, an American fleet commanded by General Benedict Arnold engaged a superior British force on Oct. 11, 1776, near Valcour Island, New York. The two sides fought furiously, devastating the American fleet. After dark, the crippled American fleet, including the Gunboat Spitfire, escaped by passing along the western shore of the lake. In the morning the British pursued. Over the next two days nearly the entire American fleet was either captured by the British or burned by the Americans to prevent its capture. Tactically, the battle was a decisive British victory, but strategically the Americans prevailed, by affecting a yearlong delay in the British invasion plans. The British returned to Canada for the winter, and regrouped American forces thwarted Burgoynes Army at Saratoga the following year. The Spitfire was abandoned and sunk during the American retreat on the night of Oct. 11-12, 1776. Two of the Spitfires three cannon were jettisoned during the retreat in an apparent unsuccessful attempt to keep the vessel afloat. Today, the vessel sits on its flat bottom in the dark, cold waters of Lake Champlain. The boats mainmast is still standing, and its bow cannon still appears to be searching for the enemy. The Spitfire is a federally-owned warship which is managed through a partnership between the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and the U.S. Navy. Exhibits on the Spitfire, and a full-scale working replica of its sister ship the Philadelphia II, can be viewed at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Basin Harbor, Vermont. The museum is open 10 a.m.5 p.m, seven days a week. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Lake Champlain.

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