Delaware's Forgotten Fort
Delaware has four forts in its history: Fort Delaware (1817), Fort DuPont (1864), Fort Saulsbury (1918) and Fort Miles (1940). Three are owned by the state and open to the public. The remaining Fort Saulsbury is privately owned and closed to all public visitation. This website will concentrate on information about Fort Saulsbury.
The construction of Fort Saulsbury began in 1917 as a WW1 era fort. The purpose of the fort was for the coastal defense of the Delaware River and Bay against enemy seafaring vessels. There were two gun batteries and each had two twelve inch coast artillery guns. The fort was not completed by 1919 when WW1 ended. For years to follow, the fort remained in a caretaker status. With the concerns of a second World War growing, the fort had improvements made to update capabilities for the defense mission. During WW2, two of the guns were transferred to the new and more strategically located Fort Miles. Later in the war, Fort Saulsbury served as a prisoner of war (P.O.W.) camp for German and Italian soldiers. With the combination of development of awesome weapons and the changing tactics of WW2, the concept of defending harbors with heavy artillery became obsolete. After the war, the fort was deactivated, declared surplus and sold at auction to the highest bidder.
The active life of the Army fort represents a 30 year period from 1918 to 1948 spanning two World Wars. The purpose of this web site is to provide a composite of historical information about the fort gleaned from a variety of sources and presented in a manner that hopefully will be interesting for the reader. With each passing year, details about life at the fort have become more difficult to document. I have personally known some of the people involved with the fort, but many are no longer with us. I am sure that there are individuals with cigar boxes or Whitman Sampler boxes filled with pictures taken while a family member served at the fort. Because the guns were destroyed for scrap iron at the time, there are no remaining known examples of the guns left in the United States to photograph. Pictures taken at Fort Saulsbury before the guns were scrapped seem to be rare. Known pictures are few and far between and perhaps some are packed away in a box somewhere. If discovered, I would love to add the pictures to the website.
The picture of the fireworks display above reminded me of my experiences in doing research for the project. It seems that some of the leads just fizzled out with no success, while others were a bomb burst of important information. Another curiosity that I found was how one source of information was a complete contradiction of another source and it had to be determined which one was more accurate.
The location of the fort is in the northeast corner of Sussex County, on south side of Route 36 about six miles east of Milford. Additionally, it is just west of the Cedar Creek bridge near Slaughter Beach.