Fort Delaware Society

Heritage Research

Coast Defense

The site last updated February 11, 2012

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More than 40,000 Confederate POWs, plus hundreds of civilian detainees, and hundreds of Union army prisoners under sentence of military courts-martial were held prisoner at Fort Delaware during the American Civil War. The Fort Delaware Society maintains the most complete index of these men available. Our data base includes information gleaned from microfilmed records pertaining to Fort Delaware purchased from the National Archives, plus information gathered from correspondents and other published sources.

Our Society publication entitled "They Died at Fort Delaware: Union, Confederate, and Civilian" (Fort Delaware Society, June 1997) contains the names of 2,926 Confederate prisoners of war, 39 civilian detainees, and 109 names of Union soldiers who died at Fort Delaware during the war. This represents some 500 more Confederate dead than are named on the Confederate monument at Finns Point National Cemetery, and identifies 4 of the 30 unknown Union dead. It should be noted that these 500 additional Confederate names have yet to be confirmed by obtaining Compiled Military Services Records.

You are invited to e-mail us with requests for information on individual prisoners, both civilian and military, or members of the garrison. To respond effectively, we need as much of the following information on your prisoner, or garrison member, as you have:

  • Ancestor's Full Name, Regiment, Company, and State

  • Your name, postal address, and e-mail address.  

Our data base files, correspondence files, and photo acquisition records are organized by the surname of the soldier or civilian who was here in the 1860's. If you have encountered any common misspellings of the surname you are researching, let us know what those might be. This could prove helpful. The NARA microfilmed records are faded and hard to read, and hard-to-spell surnames were frequently entered into the original records using phonetic spellings.

Much of our daily work load (staffing the Sutler's Shop, query correspondence, research, etc.) is done by Society volunteers, so please allow up a week to hear back from us. If you have made a request, and have not heard from us within two weeks, please send us a reminder. Queries requiring special information, or analysis and interpretation, are often handed off to a Society member with the expertise to help, and this can take a little time.

We are interested in learning as much as we can about the men (and women) who were present on Pea Patch Island during the war (and before and after the Civil War as well). Once we have confirmed that your ancestor was here, we would like to receive a brief biographical sketch of the individual to complete our files, as well as a copy of his Compiled Military Service Records. A contemporary photo, or a photo showing him at a post-war event in later years, will be greatly appreciated and put to a good use.


If we do not find your soldier, that does not necessarily mean that he was not here. Records are sketchy and most of the 1861 & 1862 records are missing. If you have personal letters, a diary, or official documentation that places him at Fort Delaware, we would sincerely appreciate copies so we may update our files. Family stories, pension application records, and other hearsay evidence contain elements of truth, but post-war memories and family traditions can be garbled over the years and many times are at variance with surviving military records.

The efficient starting point for any Civil War genealogy search should be the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) available from the National Archives Records Administration. State archives frequently have copies of the CMSR obtained from NARA. Records from secondary sources currently available to genealogy researchers are helpful, but often do not include some of the details (footnotes, etc) needed for a proper interpretation of an individual soldier's service records. And they are subject to transcription errors. The CMSR were created around the turn of the last century (circa 1900) by War Department clerks assigned to extract names and information from the actual military muster rolls, POW records, hospital records, pay records, etc., which survived the war. These extractions (each card in the CMSR represents a single document on which the soldier's name was found) were then collected and sorted or compiled by surname. Used to respond to queries from state pension boards for Civil War veterans, these were microfilmed and made available to the general public in the 1930's.

Many years ago, the Society purchased microfilmed copies of all Civil War records pertaining to Fort Delaware. These are limited to records of transfers and deliveries to and from Fort Delaware, admissions to the Fort Delaware hospital, etc. We do not have copies of any Compiled Military Service Records, except to the extent that family members and other researchers have sent us copies to supplement our data base. Here are two useful links for learning about these Compiled Military Service Records:

National Park Service:

This resource is just an index to the Compiled Military Service Records and gives you only the man's name, rank, and unit plus state to which his service was credited. But you will at least know that the National Archives has a CMSR under this surname.

National Archives:

NARA has updated this site and it gives a pretty clear explanation of what records are available and how to obtain them. Most State archives have also tapped into this resource. Union pension application records are at the National Archives. Confederate pension applications are housed in the state archives (the state of residence when the application was filed, not the state to which Confederate military service was credited).

Photographs And Letters of Prisoners & Garrison Members

The Society is trying to collect as many photographs and letters of prisoners and garrison members as possible. If you have a contemporary photograph, or war time letters and diaries that relate to Fort Delaware, we would sincerely appreciate a copy. Photographic reproductions, or digital images, 5 x 7 inches in size are perfect. High-quality COLOR photocopies are acceptable. From time to time photos of the prisoners and garrison members are displayed at the Fort and we would like to see as many of these represented there as possible. We also publish selected profiles and photos of individual POWs and garrison members in the annual issue of the Fort Delaware Notes.

Click links here to see examples of how we format these images:

Confederate POW - Nathan Boone Lusk, Jr., 2nd Lieutenant, Co. G, 12th South Carolina Infantry

Civilian Detainee - Dr. Edward S. Sharpe, a medical doctor from nearby Salem, New Jersey

Union Garrison - Dr. Washington G. Nugent, Contract Surgeon, Fort Delaware Post Hospital

Mail to

Fort Delaware Society
P.O. Box 553
Delaware City, DE 19706


All text and photographs presented on this website are the property of the Fort Delaware Society unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the Fort Delaware Society.

For further information, contact the Webmaster Hugh Simmons.