Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fort Delaware, August 1863

149 years ago this month, my third-great-grandfather Joseph Thomas Jones and his brother-in-law William Gilbert Daniel were prisoners of war, held with 8,000-12,000 other men at Fort Delaware following their capture at the Battle of Big Black River on 17 May 1863. They were at this camp between 15 June and 20 September 1863.

Fort Delaware is located on Pea Patch Island, between New Jersey and Delaware in the middle of the Delaware River. The prisoners referred to this as "Devil's Half Acre".
Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/de0498/
Source: Fort Delaware by Seth Eastman, US Senate (see link)
The painting above comes from the US Senate page, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Painting_33_00012.htm. This dates between 1870-1875.

Joseph and William both survived the ordeal and returned to their families in Tennessee. Joseph migrated with them to Indiana before returning to farm in Jefferson County, Tennessee. 

Prison Conditions

In Brian Temple's The Union Prison at Fort Delaware: A Perfect Hell on Earth, he describes the conditions at Pea Patch Island in July and August 1863 as "the heat could be so intense that there were days where 'men by the hundreds are seen sweltering on their backs, fairly gasping for breath, like fish dying on a sand beach.'" The men there faced poor water and food conditions, often resorting to eating rats.

The following correspondence comes from War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (see Google Books):


Joseph and William were in the group of prisoners transferred from Fort Delaware to Point Lookout in September 1863. Detail on Point Lookout will be provided in a future post.

Update - I've corrected this post to note that Joseph was not alone as a prisoner of war, he was with his brother-in-law, William. This may be one of the reasons that they both survived through 3 months at Fort Delaware and almost 5 months at Point Lookout before they were set free.

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