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Fort Delaware State Park
Delaware City, Delaware
Prison Camp Trail
"A thousand ill; twelve thousand on an island which should hold four; the general level three feet below low water mark; twenty deaths a day of dysentry and the living having more life on them than in them. Occasional lack of water and thus a Christian (!) nation treats the captives of its sword. "
Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, July 1863
"An Inferno of Detained Rebels"
Of the 33,000 prisoners held at Fort Delaware, approximately 2,400 never made it off the island. The combination of poor shelter, sparse rations, often poor condition at arrival, unsanitary conditions and overall dampness of the island contributed to the sickness and death.
A hospital was built to accommodate the sick and dying at a cost of approximately $32,000. From June 1863 to the end of the war it housed from 200 to 700 soldiers each month. The prisoners were afflicted with smallpox, measles, diarrhea, dysentery and scurvy as well as the ever-present louse. Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, a Northern surgeon from Philadelphia, visited the Fort in July 1863 and referred to it as "an inferno of detained Rebels." Commenting on the death of 317 Confederates and fourteen political prisoners in September 1863, a Union surgeon at Fort Delaware reported to his superior that "the morality is to me fearful and it is melancholy proof.of the unfitness of this wet island as a depot for large numbers of men."