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Fort Delaware

Ft Delaware

Fort Delaware
Visitor Center, 38 Clinton St, Delaware City DE 19706
Fort Delaware Society
 Road map  (visitor center)

   A ½-mile ferry ride takes visitors from a small visitor center on the Delaware City waterfront to the fort on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River.

   The first masonry fort on the island, built to protect Philadelphia, was completed in 1823. The current Fort Delaware was finished in 1859 after fire destroyed the earlier structure. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the fort was armed with heavy guns and an artillery garrison was put on a wartime footing. (The guns of the fort never were fired in anger, however.)

   The first Confederate prisoners arrived in July 1861. Three years later the prison population topped 10,000 men confined in a series of wooden barracks under the guns of the fort. The prison also confined various political prisoners and Union deserters. Inadequate rations and clothing, heat and unsanitary conditions combined to cause the death of more than 2,400 prisoners (of the estimated 30,000 housed at Fort Delaware during the war).

   The last prisoner, Jefferson Davis’s personal secretary, Burton Harrison, was released in January 1866.

   Today visitors may take a self-guided tour of the fort and a reconstructed prison barracks building. A visitor center at the fort features artifacts, a short film and a 3-D map. Officer quarters, casemates and other areas of the fort have been furnished and restored to their Civil War appearance. Frequent living history and ranger programs are offered each day throughout the season.

   The park is open mid-June through Labor Day Wednesday–Sunday. Before and after the season, it is open weekends only starting in late April and ending in late September. Ferries leave hourly beginning at 10 am. The last ferry from the fort back to Delaware City leaves at 5 pm. $11/adult includes ferry ride.


Note: Many of the Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Delaware are buried across the river at the Finns Point National Cemetery near New Jersey's Fort Mott State Park and about 6 miles northwest of Salem NJ. Finn's Point was the location of a Federal battery protecting Philadelphia, which increasingly became a spot to bury prisoners during the war. The National Cemetery was dedicated in 1875 with both Union and Confederate burials. A Union monument was installed in 1879. A Confederate monument, listing the names of 2,436 Confederate prisoners of war who died at Fort Delaware, was dedicated in 1910.