prison for Confederates, originally designed as a fort to protect
Northern cities, was completed at a cost of $2 million two years before
the war, when it was converted to a prison.
A 12-foot-deep, 30-foot-wide moat surrounds the prisons granite
walls, which range in thickness from seven to 30 feet.
Thirteen Southern generals were held there, but Confederate troops
never attempted a raid, perhaps because Union troops had a mechanism
for flooding the cells with river water in the event of an attack.
Stories about the sufferingfrom scurvy, smallpox, pneumonia,
malnutritionhave been passed down through the generations, making
Pea Patch Island difficult to erase from the minds of descendants.
Many visit to look for the signatures of their ancestors on the brick
walls of cell blocks.
Relatives searching for clues start with a roster of the dead in a
book titled To Those Who Wore the Gray. The prison held
up to 12,595 inmates at a time, and a total of 33,565 passed through
it during the war. In all 2,436 inmates died at the prison.
One prisoners diary on display at the forts museum reads:
We get hardly enough food to keep us alive, three slices of
bread a day, a cup of unsweetened coffee, a cup of very thin soup
and a cup of gruel. Soldiers are dying like flies all around us.
When prisoners died at the fort, their bodies were transported by
boat to the New Jersey side of the Delaware River and buried in trenches
at a place called Inns Point. A towering granite obelisk marks the
spot, and at its base are plaques with the names of soldiers in the