Delaware STARS went as a group to visit one of the most unique and historic sites in Delaware, Fort Delaware, located near Delaware City on Pea Patch Island. If you have not been, we highly recommend a trip here to learn about early US history, our Civil War, and how Delaware played a role in housing Confederate prisoners during the war.
We started out our day by caravanning on up to Delaware City, a small port city on the Delaware River, where we picked up our ferry to head over to Pea Patch Island. You can purchase ferry tickets online ahead of time or at the port terminal.
After departing the Fort Ferry onto Pea Patch Island, we were greeted by a pick-up pulled tram that carried us through a dirt path through the thick marsh grasses. We began to see how having a prison on a marsh island could definitely be a deterrent to potential escapees. But we were to learn more about that later on our tour.
Upon clearing the marsh grasses, we saw our first clear view of the Fort and it was ominous to say the least and must have been incredibly intimidating to the confederate prisoners who were brought here. In 1963 there were over 11,000 prisoners at Fort Delaware and Pea Patch Island, including political dissidents, in particular a Delaware state Senator from Laurel, who had a band play Dixie at a private celebration. And we think getting banned on Facebook is bad! Another political dissident imprisoned at Fort Delaware was a New Castle physician who made a toast at his mother-in-law's home bemoaning the state of affairs and our tattered US flag....arrested and imprisoned for insulting the flag! But who tattled, was it his MIL??
Arriving at the gates of Fort Delaware we were greeted by an in costume physician, and company commander. Notice the moat surrounding the fort. Currently no alligators.
We were then treated to a live musket fire.
And live cannon fire!
You are also free to explore the Fort on your own, which is several stories high, but many areas are definitely at your own risk. We also travelled with the future Delaware State Teenage Republicans, ages 5 through 11, the STARlets. Teens are eligible to join Delaware State Teenage Republicans at age 12. Yes, we start them young! God bless America! https://www.sussexteenagerepublicans.com/join
We also learned that despite the fortifications, the moat, the marshlands and the Delaware River, there were still confederate prisoner escapes from Pea Patch Island. One escaped by ice skate when the Delaware River froze over, another escaped by coffin, Edgar Allen Poe style and one escaped by acquiring a Union soldier uniform and blended in disembarking the island on a ferry! And for those who did not escape, we are able to visit the prisoner barracks with bunk beds stacked 3 high. No ladders allowed, to prevent the possibility of building rafts to escape the island out of ladders. The latrine was the Delaware River. No accommodations for bathing!
Travelling back in time to immerse ourselves in the Civil War times, as enjoyable as it was, we were grateful to come back to the future and modern amenities via a quick ferry ride back to Delaware City and to modern rations that STARS enjoyed at Crabby Dick's on the water.
We will remember our time exploring history with fondness and hope to return again to Fort Delaware, perhaps in the fall for one of their haunted tours at night!