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Fort Delaware

May 27, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Fort Delaware is located on Pea Patch Island, Delaware. During the Civil War, the Union used Fort Delaware as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war. It's an imposing place, completed two years before the start of the war. The structure is massive, covering six acres, has 32 foot high walls that are from 7 to 30 feet thick in some places. The complex is surrounded by a 30 foot wide moat and is entered through a medieval looking drawbridge at the entrance.

The fort was first occupied sometime around 1829, but was severely damaged by fire in 1831 and in 1833 it was torn down to make room for a new fort. The present fort was erected between 1848 and 1859, and was ready to armament and garrison by 1860.

During the Civil War, the fort went from being a protector to a prisoner of war camp. The first prisoners were housed inside the fort in sealed off casemates, empty powder magazines and two small rooms inside the sally port. In those small rooms names of confederates can still be seen carved into the brick.

The first prisoners arrived at the Fort in 1862 but the most came from the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. By the end of the war almost 40,000 men would have called Fort Delaware prison home.

Conditions at the prison camp were harsh. Prisoners lived in wooden huts that barely kept out the rain, much less the cold. They were given no extra clothes; in fact it was the policy to provide as little clothing as possible.

Finn's Point National Cemetery located across the river is where most of the confederate soldiers were buried. There is but one marker. It reads "Erected by the United States to Mark the Burial Place of 2436 Confederate Soldiers Who Died at Fort Delaware While Prisoners of War and Whose Graves Cannot Now be Individually Identified."

It's been said that paranormal activity is strong at Fort Delaware. So many deaths in such cruel conditions have produced one of the most haunted places in America. Apparitions of Confederate soldiers running under ramparts have been seen, and it's been suggested that they are looking at ways to escape the prison camp.

One of the best known ghosts at Fort Delaware is the woman who haunts one of the officer's kitchens and is appropriately named the Kitchen Ghost. She's been known to call out names, and move things around. There have also been sightings of a woman and child, or people have heard children laughing, falling objects and candles moving, or tugging on clothing.

There have also been sightings by boats on the river, lights on in the Fort when there is no one on the island and the generator has been turned off. There have also been sightings of someone standing on top of the fort as if keeping guard, when there is no one on the island.



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