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Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Fort Delaware"

[Fort Delaware by Laura M. Lee and Brendan Mackie (Arcadia Publishing, 2010). Softcover, illustrations, bibliography. 128 pages. ISBN:978-0-7385-8590-1 $21.99]

Fort Delaware is known to most Civil War readers as a prisoner of war facility, but it served in a coastal defense capacity from the early republic through the 20th century, obviously going through a sequence of renovations. With the outbreak of Civil War, it was a Third System star-shaped masonry fort with 47 guns, manned by a detachment of the 4th U.S. artillery. When the threat of Confederate naval attack up the Delaware River proved illusory, Fort Delaware's new role became one of POW camp, housing over 30,000 Confederates in total throughout the war years.

Fort Delaware, part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, is co-authored by state park manager and historian Laura M. Lee and Ft. Delaware Society member Brendan Mackie. Their study is not a narrative history, but rather a story told through a variety of captioned images, from sketches, woodcuts, engineer drawings, and maps to the more numerous photographs of persons, buildings, and landscapes. Printed on glossy paper, the quality of the images is good. Most were obtained through the Society, but others are held in other public and private collections. Each chapter has a short introduction and the captions provide enough context to give readers a fine overall understanding of the persons, places, and events surrounding the fort's lengthy existence.

The chapter covering the Civil War years is substantial, with an emphasis on the fort's capacity as a POW camp. Numerous photos of individuals and groups from both sides are included as well as photographic images and artist renderings of the fort itself, the prisoner barracks, and other buildings. This is the second Civil War related title I've read from this series, and both have proved to be worthwhile acquisitions. General readers as well as period photography enthusiasts should find this volume of interest. The aerial photos and detailed engineer sketches and maps should also be of use to students of 19th century brick fortifications.

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