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

"The surface of the island is about on a level with the river. At low tide it is prevented from inundation by a strong dike of stone and earth which is built entirely around it. immediately inside of the dike is a broad ditch running parallel to it entirely around the island while numerous others are cut in different directions to prevent the occurrence of swamps. At high tide the island is capable of being submerged with at least six feet of water. "

Private A.J. Hamilton, A Fort Delaware Journal, The Diary of a Yankee Private, 1862-1865, Edited by W. Emerson Wilson, p. 4.

"We took boats over to the New Jersey coast for burial, and some times five or six in one day. This...was a harder duty for a soldier to face than any fight upon the field or picket line. To have to jump into a boat with five or six men who died of smallpox or other deadly and contagious fevers was a bitter pill to swallow. "

From the journal of Robert James Coffey, Company G, 202nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers

"Pea Patch Island Topography"

Both the Confederate soldiers and their Union guards blamed the dampness of the island as a major cause of the sickness there. At that time, Pea Patch Island was described as "marshy and wet, mostly made ground." The island of today is about 10 feet higher than it was during the 19th century, due to the deposition of 2 million cubic tons of dredge spoil deposits of 1903-05. At the time of the Civil War the island was protected from inundating tides only by a high seawall. A series of ditches criss-crossed the island in an attempt to drain the soggy ground.

The drainage ditches have been covered by the dredge spoils and are no longer visible, but the rocks which formed the top of the high wall can be seen along the edge of the marsh. What was the top of a levee, 10 to 12 feet above low water in prison times, is at ground level today.

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