A State Divided: Delaware During the Civil War
January 24, 2012 – December 20, 2012
curated by Maureen Cech
Fort Delaware was established as the principal defense of the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington along the Delaware River. During the Civil War, the Fort was converted into a prisoner-of-war compound and earned the nickname “The Andersonville of the North,” comparing its poor conditions to the notorious Andersonville Prison at Fort Sumter. The prison’s population included Union deserters, Confederate soldiers and officers, and, with the suspension of habeas corpus, many citizens held on suspicion of Confederate sympathies.
United States Bonds; or Duress by Federal Authority: A Journal of Current Events During an Imprisonment of Fifteen Months, at Fort Delaware. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1874.
Isaac W. K. Handy was a Presbyterian minister who married into the prominent Dilworth family of Delaware and served a number of Delaware congregations from the 1830s to the 1850s. Rev. Handy was minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, and was visiting with in–laws in Sussex County when he was arrested on suspicion of disloyalty to the Union. Handy was held in Fort Delaware for fifteen months without trial for his refusal to take the loyalty oath.
Prison Life During the Rebellion, Being a Brief Narrative of the Miseries of Six Hundred Confederate Prisoners Sent from Fort Delaware to Morris Island to be Punished. Singer’s Glen, Virginia: Printed by Joseph Funk’s Sons, 1869.
This memoir reports on the mistreatment of a group of Confederate prisoners who came to be known as The Immortal Six Hundred at the hands of Union soldiers in federal prisons. The prisoners were captured by the Union Army in retaliation for the Confederacy’s rumored use of Union officers as human shields against the firing on civilians in Charleston in 1864. The soldiers’ incarceration included several transfers, beginning and ending at Fort Delaware. The memoir documents the soldiers’ sufferings, escape attempts, and general refusal to take the oath of allegiance.
“View of Historic Fort Delaware” [postcard]. Wilmington, Delaware: James P. Ward, Inc., 1939 or later.
Story of Fort Delaware. Photographs by Harry A. Lemmon. Wilmington, Delaware: Wilmington Printing Co., 1954.
The last prisoner was released from Fort Delaware in 1866. The Fort was abandoned in 1944, after periods of intermittent activity. Beginning in 1951, the non–profit Fort Delaware Society organized the preservation efforts of the Fort and grounds, and Fort Delaware became a Delaware State Park in 1956.