fort delaware: great fun for kids of all ages (even you!)

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After the War of 1812, there was a rush to build bigger, better fortifications along the East Coast


  • Fort Delaware: Great Fun for Kids of ALL Ages (Even YOU!)

    After the War of 1812, there was a rush to build bigger, better fortifications along the East Coastagainst foreign enemies. The earliest version of Fort Delaware was completed in 1819 but itwas destroyed by fire in 1832. In 1847 Congress appropriated $1 million to construct the largestmodern coastal defense fort in the country. The current fort was completed in 1859, just beforethe start of the Civil War. Ironically, it would never fire a cannon and instead served as a POWcamp and Civil War hospital.

    When we decided to visit Fort Delaware with our two kids, my husband was as excited as theywere. He had visited the fort as a child with his family and Boy Scout troop. On the way tothe ferry dock yesterday, he recounted his childhood visits: how big the fort is, how you can explorein the catacombs, how you can run along the top perimeter and take in the view. Little did heknow that many things had changed over the past twenty-plus years. While it's still a greatplace for families and kids, many new safety precautions have been put into place, especially sincerenovations are still in progress in several areas of the fort. No longer can you explore in thecatacombs nor can you access the top of the fort and take in the view from san jose kitchen remodelany angle. There is only one upper platform available to take in the view. So, while hubby wasdisappointed, the kids still thought it was an adventure and a half, exploring hallways and tunnelsand casements. Throw in a few rides aboard a ferry on the Delaware River, and just about any kidwould have fun and remember the experience!

    View of the western side of Pea Patch Island, just arriving from Delaware.

    Fort Delaware occupies about 6 acres of Pea Patch Island, which sits in the center of the DelawareRiver halfway between the states of Delaware and New Jersey (ownership of the island and fort restswith the State of Delaware). Its walls are 32 feet high, made of solid granite and brick, varying in

  • thickness from seven to thirty feet thick and crossed by only one drawbridge on the Delaware-facingside of the fort.

    The western, Delaware-facing side of Fort Delaware with its 30-foot wide moat.

    As seen in the photo above, three tiers of guns, the two lower tiers consisting of rows of casemates,contain examples of what was once described as some of the finest brick masonry in the country. Some 25 million bricks were used to build the fort and the interior buildings.

  • A view inside the lower casemate hallway.

  • The 8-inch Columbiad cannon at Fort Delaware which is the second-largest Civil War cannon stillfired in the United States. The artillery at Fort Delaware could fire over 40,000 pounds of iron in 30minutes at an enemy ship.

    The circular granite stairways are unique architectural features.

    Small 'portholes' inthe stairways offer a view into theparade ground.

  • The parade ground sits in the center of the fort bounded by two buildings: the commandinggeneral's office and living quarters for for officers in the building on the north side; the enlistedmen's quarters, mess halls, and kitchens were in the barracks on the west side.

  • Enlisted men's mess hall and kitchen

  • The Laundry. A good laundress had the opportunity to make as much as a higher ranking officer

    since they were paid per piece rather than per hour, day, week, or month.

    The Blacksmith's Shop. The fort's blacksmith could fashion just about anything ... but he was

  • originally set-up on the outside of the fort.

    In 1862, after the Battle of Kernstown, 250 troops of Stonewall Jackson's became the island's firstlarge group of Confederate prisoners of war. Fort Delaware was not originally built for thepurpose of holding prisoners. The barracks space was over-crowded and, as a result, woodenbarracks were built outside and to the north of the fort.

    Since Fort Delaware is a living history park, these actors were on hand to act the part ofConfederate prisoners of war. They explained that as many as 200 prisoners would occupy awooden barracks building at a time, allowing each prisoner just two wooden slats on which to sleepat night (and, yes, three levels high).

    By June 1863, there were 6,000 prisoners on the island and the prison compound had beenexpanded to house 10,000 men. Most of the Confederates captured at Gettysburg, including Gen.James L. Archer, were imprisoned at Fort Delaware after the battle, and by August 1863 there were12,500 prisoners on the island. Among the political prisoners were Burton H. Harrison, privatesecretary to Jefferson Davis, and Gov. F. R. Lubbock of Texas, who was the last prisoner at the fortin 1866. Sadly, nearly 2,700 prisoners died while being held at the fort. Of these, nearly 2,400are buried in Finn's Point National Cemetery just across the Delaware River in New Jersey, adjoiningFort Mott State Park (see my next photoessay for beautiful shots of that cemetery!).

    There are many parts of the Civil War that we learn about in school, mostly the famous battles(Shiloh, Antietam, etc.), but it has been said by several historians that there was not a moreimportant site during the Civil War, diplomatically or politically, than that of Fort Delaware.

    To learn more about this site or get information for a visit, please visit