Pea Patch Island
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Pea Patch Island is a small island, approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) long, in the U.S. state of Delaware, located in the mid channel of the Delaware River near its entrance into Delaware Bay. It is a low, marshy island, located in New Castle County, facing Delaware City on the Delaware shore, and Finns Point on the New Jersey shore. Once the location of strategic military defenses, the island is currently owned by the State of Delaware as Fort Delaware State Park.
The island emerged as a mud bank in the river in the 18th century. According to folklore, the island received its name after a ship full of peas ran aground on it, spilling its contents and leading to a growth of the plant on the island. In the 1790s, Pierre L'Enfant suggested the use of the island as part of the defenses of New Castle, Delaware and Philadelphia. By 1814, the island had grown sufficiently large for the construction of Fort Delaware. The original wood structure was replaced by the current brick and concrete one in 1859. During the American Civil War, Fort Delaware was used by the Union as a camp for Confederate prisoners, in particular ones captured at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Many of the prisoners who died at the fort are buried at nearby Finns Point National Cemetery in New Jersey. In the early 20th century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged a channel around the island, using the infill to double the island's size on its northern end.
The island is publicly accessible by ferry from both the Delaware and New Jersey banks. In addition to the historic features of the state park, the island provides a significant wetlands stop for migratory birds. It is the location of the largest colony of herons in the U.S. north of Florida.
- Fort Delaware State Park (official website)
- Online tour of Fort Delaware emphasizing Civil War history
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