Fort Mott and a Confederate Cemetery in New Jersey
Fittingly on the 5th of July we turn to a nearly forgotten page in history. Our day trip takes us south on 95 to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey. In Jersey we follow along 49. Using the neighborhood streets we stay as close to the river as possible. To our surprise we come across a historic homestead and a park with a monumentally spectacular view of the bridge. It was also a great place for my four dogs to run and chase. After a few minutes of play time and a good bowl of water we hopped back in the car. A bit further down the road was our destination, Fort Mott. The fort is now part of a lovely park on the banks of the Delaware. Here I kept the boys on leash. The Delaware at this point is rather rough, its muddy waters lashing up against the stones and rocks that line the riverfront. Fort Mott is primarily an earth work reinforced with brick and concrete. Several gun mounts are still in place. Fort Mott was part of a three fort system that guarded the Delaware. Fort Mott was on the New Jersey side. On the Pennsylvania side was Fort Dupont (we'll be heading there later this summer). In the middle, on an island, in the river, Pea Patch Island, to be exact, was and still is, Fort Delaware. Fort Mott was not built until after the War Between the States, but Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island dates from the War of 1812. Fort Delaware's walls have seen moments in American history that are little known to most of us. During the war, up to 33,000 Confederate soldiers, many captured at Gettysburg, were imprisoned on the island fort. Towards the end of the war, 600 Confederate officers were sent aboard the Union ship "Crescent" where they would serve as human shields in the shelling of Charleston. It would seem that this move was in retaliation for a similar use of Union soldiers by the South. What I find curious is that I do not ever recall every hearing of these three ports in my schooling. Yet, here they were, within an hour of my home.
Back we went to the car. As we slowly slowly along the exit drive I noticed a sign: "Finn's Point Cemetery." The road it indicated was barely paved. Construction vehicles entered and exited. The road was intriguing. Bouncing along the potholes and bumps we suddenly came upon a solemn and pristine graveyard. At the far end of the yard two classical monuments graced the lawn of stone marks. Here, I left the dogs in the car with the windows opened. The taller of the two is a great obelisk of irregular stone dedicated to the Confederate soldiers who died at Fort Delaware and who were separated here. The second monument is something of a marble pergola in memory of Union soldiers who died at the fort. From what I have been able to find, this is the only Confederate burial ground in the North. Why did we never hear of it?
The day trip to Fort Mott opens not only our view of monumental bridges and rolling rivers but of our perception and understanding of history. Fort Mott is a good run around place for the little ones. They'll have a great time running up the mound and rolling back down. There may be no great eating places along the way. But you can always stop at a local pizza place or hot dog stand for the kids.