The U.S. is full of forts that have since been abandoned after their posts decades, and even centuries, prior. One doesn't need to go far in order to find them, especially on the East Coast. Delaware is a quiet, unassuming state that does have its historical locations but Fort Delaware is quite a bit different from the historic list of destinations one might expect.
Not only is this fort abandoned but it has also been rumored to hold its own ghost stories, which have brought many to its sleepy grounds. In addition to its paranormal lore, it also has a long history that dates back to the 19th century.
The Significance Of Fort Delaware
To know the history of Fort Delaware, one must first go back to its roots, with are deeply intertwined with the Civil War. The fort took some time in getting off the ground - the first few attempts were thwarted by natural occurrences. Since the fort was built on marshland, the concept of a solid foundation was lost on those builders who had never worked with this type of landscape before. The original foundation ended up cracking under the pressure with no way to solidify the ground, and the first attempt was a wash. In 1831, a fire swept through the fort, reducing it to ruin; it's from this that the fort's walls were reinforced before the final - and complete - Fort Delaware was built in 1860.
The shape of the fort was a testament to the marshland, and its pentagon shape helped distribute weight evenly while creating a solid fortress. The original intended purpose of the fort was to hold ammunition and cannons; however, as the Civil War picked up, it soon became clear that the fort would undergo a different kind of mission.
Prisoners Of War
During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were captured by the Union, and with nowhere to hold them, Fort Delaware gained a new purpose. In addition to the fort, barracks were built just north of it to house POWs. Both officers, soldiers, and Confederate POWs lived at the fort, and a hospital was also built to treat soldiers from both sides of the war. Prisoners were fed the lowest quality food, and were given the option to join the Union should they ever have a desire to lose their POW status - however, this was an option only given to those who could prove they had been drafted.
Despite the fact that Confederate soldiers had their own living quarters, as with any wartime hostage situation, they were not stellar by any means. The three main causes of death for Confederate soldiers were scurvy, dysentery, and smallpox, which swept through the barracks like wildfire. In a prison designed to hold only 4,000, there were about 13,000 Confederate soldiers, 2,700 of which died while being held hostage.
Abandonment Of Fort Delaware
Throughout the next few decades, Fort Delaware saw a reemergence several times before being ultimately abandoned for good. It was revived during the Spanish American War for a time, as well as during World War I and World War II.
By 1951, the fort had been turned into a park for all to visit, its long history as obvious as the wear and tear in its barracks. In 1999, the fort faced danger from the erosion that was occurring at the beach, and the Army Corp. of Engineers put in the effort to build a 3,500-foot sea wall to preserve it.
Visiting Fort Delaware Today
Today, visitors to Fort Delaware will be given a glimpse into a wartime life that not many are familiar with. Much of the original structure remains standing today and is incredibly well-preserved, including an original Columbiad cannon that's still set off during special events. Visitors will also see the names carved into the walls by Company 1 of the 14th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment soldiers who were stationed at the fort during the Spanish American War, which is chilling, to say the least.
Some visitors also claim that the spirits of those who have a history with the fort live on within its walls, especially in the dungeon. This is where some prisoners of war were held, living in unsanitary conditions that only contributed to the spread of disease. Some even claim that the spirits of pirates - who were also captured and held at the fort - exist at Fort Delaware.
Getting To Fort Delaware
Visitors interested in visiting this fort and its park can take the Forts Ferry Crossing out of Delaware City. Fort Delaware State Park is easily found on Pea Patch Island.