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Middletown Life

The old fort, slightly up stream

Dec 31, 2020 11:28AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Photo by Jim Coarse
Text by Richard L. Gaw

Like many fortresses of its kind, Fort Delaware State Park – located just minutes from Middletown, Odessa and Townsend -- serves as a reminder of Delaware’s past, and with the imagination of its volunteers and staff, visitors who ferry there are taken on a tour back in time. To many who live in those towns, Fort Delaware is the equivalent of an old fort, located slightly up stream along the Delaware River.

Originally constructed by the U.S. Army in 1815 near the conclusion of the War of 1812, Fort Delaware is a 288-acre property on Pea Patch Island that was constructed to protect the harbors in nearby Wilmington and Philadelphia.

The State of Delaware deeded Pea Patch Island to the U.S. government in 1813, and construction of Fort Delaware was completed around 1859. After a fire, the fort was rebuilt prior to the Civil War, and soon after the war began, it was converted into a Prisoner of War camp for as many as 12,000 Confederate soldiers at one time. The fort continued to serve as a watch patrol site for the Delaware River through World War I and World War II, and in 1951, it became Fort Delaware State Park, one of the first state parks in Delaware.

Today, the park, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has become well known for its many historic programs, its paranormal tours offered in the fall, and for hiking and picnicking along the Prison Camp Trail. Throughout the year, costumed interpreters introduce visitors to the fort’s parade ground, its officers’ quarters, barracks, kitchen and blacksmith shop, and to the sound – and scents -- of the fort’s Columbiad cannon fire.

Fort Delaware also shares Pea Patch Island with the Pea Patch Island Nature Preserve, where one of the largest wading bird nesting areas on the East Coast serves as the summer residence for herons, ibises, and egrets.

Fort Delaware is located at 108 Old Reedy Point Bridge Road, Delaware City, Del. 19706. Access to Pea Patch Island and Fort Delaware is by ferry only. The ticket office and ferry dock are located at 45 Clinton Street in Delaware City.

To learn more about Fort Delaware, call 302-834-7941, 877-98-PARKS, or visit:

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