Fort Delaware State Park

Delaware City, Delaware

Access to Fort Delaware is by ferry.
Call the Park Office for this season's schedule.

Prison Camp Trail

'Andersonville of the North?'

Many compare Fort Delaware to the notorious Confederate Andersonville prison in Georgia, but facilities and conditions at Andersonville were much harsher. It is true that of the nearly 33,000 Rebel prisoners housed at Fort Delaware throughout a four-year span, approximately 2,400 of them never made it home. They are buried at what is now Finn's Point National Cemetery across the river from here in New Jersey.

Andersonville, on the other hand, was only open for 14 months. A makeshift prison, the Union men there did not even have benefit of shelter. Of the nearly 49,000 men held there (33,000 at one time), a whopping 13,700 died. At that point in the war, the South could barely feed its own people let alone care for such a large number of prisoners. Regardless of the causes of the extreme conditions at Andersonville, the superintendent of the prison, Major Henry Wirz, was tried by a U.S. military court, convicted of murder, and hanged shortly after the war.

Death from disease, malnutrition and exposure was a common occurrence at both Fort Delaware and Andersonville. Initially there was a cemetery on the island during the early part of the war, but the high water table quickly proved to be an inferior burial ground. These graves were disinterred, and from then on most of the dead were transported across the river and buried at a cemetery in New Jersey. A lucky few were sent south for burial. The boat traffic across the river must have served as a silent, but constant reminder to both Confederate and Yankee of the bitter price being paid for civil war.

[previous page][next page]