Escape From Fort Delaware

1 Mile Open Water Swim

~History of Fort Delaware~

Related Information:

Fort Delaware Society -

Fort Delaware "Ghost Stories" - Published articles by David Healy, "Rebel Spirits: Searching for Civil War ghosts at Fort Delaware" and "Chance meeting sparked Civil War romance". -

Excerpt:  "There's the 9-year-old drummer boy who tried to escape by hiding in a coffin. The work detail of Rebels knew he was there and was planning to let him out when they reached the New Jersey cemetery. Unfortunately for the boy, the work detail was switched at the last minute."

Fort Delaware State Park -

Site Photos -

The "Immortal 600" -

LANTERN GHOST TOURS OF FORT DELAWARE, Pea Patch Island, Delaware City, DE, Fort Delaware also offers Candlelight Ghost Tours on some Friday evenings during July, August and September. The tour lasts about 90 minutes and costs $ 12 per person. Reservations are required. Call (302) 834-7941 to make your reservation.

~History of Fort Delaware~

Pea Patch Island is home to Fort Delaware, a Union fortress dating back to 1859. Originally built to protect the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington from invasion, the Fort housed Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. After the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, there were almost 13,000 prisoners held in the Fort's barracks. Overall, 33,000 troops, officers and political prisoners were held at the Fort during the Civil War period. An imposing structure, the fort boasts 32-foot high walls of granite, up to 30 feet thick, gun emplacements and a moat.

There is no official tally of escape attempts from the Fort. Union reports show a total of 273 escapes; accounts from Confederate diaries differ, claiming anywhere from 500 to 1000 escapes. Prisoners who tried to swim to freedom were often unprepared for the strong tidal currents found in the Delaware River -- and not all who attempted the swim made it to shore alive. Out of one group of six soldiers who broke out together, two escaped, two never made it across the river, and two were caught and returned to the Fort. Twenty men also made a breakaway by escaping through a hole cut into the bottom of an outhouse positioned directly over the river. Prisoners made makeshift floatation aids by corking empty canteens, sealing them with wax, and then tying these onto their bodies. One prisoner was captured wearing six canteens-three on each arm. Other men tried getaways on boats built from scraps of wood scavenged from the Fort grounds.

Legend has it that one man even skated to freedom from the Fort. The Delaware River had frozen over, and Union soldiers were ice-skating for recreation. The Union guards decided it would make an entertaining spectacle to watch some Southern boys - not use to ice - try to skate. According to local legend, one Confederate soldier faked that he couldn't skate, and repeatedly fell down - each time a little closer to shore - until he was close enough to make a run for freedom.

Today, Ft. Delaware State Park offers visitors a glimpse back in time; authentically clad historic interpreters demonstrate what everyday life was like over 135 years ago at the Fort. The park also includes a museum, archives, library and gift shop.


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