Fort Mott State Park
454 Fort Mott Road
Pennsville, NJ 08070
Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-7:30pm/Please see their website for seasonal hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
After touring Finns Point Lighthouse in the front of the park, I drove to the back of Fort Mott State Park to tour the rest of the park and explore the old fort. Talk about a real surprise and a a real treat. Talk about views of the Delaware River. On a sunny afternoon, the sun really reflects off the water and makes the most amazing light show.
I walked up the Parapet, the massive concrete wall that used conceal the guns that protected the bay and the river. It was a impressive piece of construction and you could see where the guns had been mounted. You could climb up and down the stairs to get from one part to the other and enjoy the views.
I passed the old Western Fire Control tower that was closed for the day and open by appointment only. That must have offered some spectacular views.
The Western Fire Control Tower
I then toured the Visitors Center and saw all the artifacts from the war, a timeline of the Fort and the history of the fort. Take time to look at each case and you will see how the fort developed, the types of things used at the fort and the people who were stationed here and their stories. It also offers bathrooms.
The best part of the Fort Mott State Park is just walking around the lawn and enjoying the sunshine and river breezes on a hot day. The blue skies with the sunshine gives you a sense that it was not just a place of protection but Mother Nature lending her hand to offer a spectacular location to just stop and wonder what would it been like if something happened here during the war. Would it withstood the assault?
The best part of the park is just to walk around the lawns and enjoy the river views.
Map of Fort Mott State Park (NJ State Parks.org)
The History of Fort Mott:
(From the Fort Mott State Park Pamphlet-New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry State Park Division)
Fort Mott, an Endicott-era fortification was built as part of the federal government’s late 19th century plan to defend the Delaware River. Today it serves as a state park where visitors can tour the remains of the historic fort. The cultural and historic features of this park and its recreational facilities provide a unique blend of activities for the park visitors.
The views from Fort Mott of the Delaware River
Fort Mott State Park is included as a point of interest on the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. A Welcome Center for the trail accommodates displays defining Fort Mott’s place in history and the maritime environment. Fort Mott State Park is on the Delaware River at Finn’s Point in Salem County, New Jersey. This 104-acre park is six miles south of the Delaware River Memorial Bridge, off New Jersey Route 49.
The Finn’s Point Reservation was purchased by the United States Government in the late 1830’s. Originally called “The Battery At Finn’s Point”, the proposed fortification was one of a three-fort plan to protect growing industries and shipping along the Delaware River. Plans for Finn’s Pint specified eleven-gun emplacements with twenty guns and a mortar battery with six complacements. With Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in operation since the early 1820’s and the nation involved in the Civil War, the construction of the Battery at Finn’s Point was delayed until 1872. At that time, only two-gun emplacements and five magazines in the mortar battery were completed before construction was halted due to budgetary constraints.
The headquarters buildings
With advancements in military technology made during and after the Civil War, the United States defenses were dangerously inadequate. In 1885, President Grover Cleveland, at the request of Congress, appointed the Endicott Board, named after its Chairman William Endicott, the Secretary of War. The board, which consisted of both military men and private citizens, studied the existing coastal defenses and developed a coastal defense plan for the United States. This plan determined where defenses and developed a coastal defense plan for the United States. This plan determined where defenses should be built or improved, the order in which the work would proceed, the quantity and type of guns that would be placed at each fort and other considerations.
The main defense concept of the Delaware River was dispersion of armaments into three separate fortifications. The original plan for the Battery at Finn’s Point was abandoned and construction of new fortifications began in 1896 in anticipation of war with Spain, the Spanish-American War. This fortification was officially renamed Fort Mott on December 16th, 1897, to honor Major General Gershom Mott. Mott, a native of Bordentown, NJ was a decorated veteran of the Mexican American and Civil Wars. Fort Delaware was upgraded, and construction of Fort DuPont began during this same time period.
At Fort Mott, large caliber weapons, three 10 inch and three 12-inch guns were installed on disappearing carriages. The gun emplacements were located behind a 750 foot long and 35-foot-thick concrete and earthen embankment, which was sloped to form the ‘parapet’ wall. These guns had an effective range of seven to eight miles and shot projectiles that weighed 617 and 1000 pounds respectively. Beneath the six-gun platforms were powder and shell magazines, ammunition hoists, a telecommunications system and an electric generating station. Two batteries each with 5-inch rapid fire guns and one battery with two 3-inch rapid fire guns were also part of the defenses, designed to counter fast moving smaller warships which might evade the large caliber guns. They also protected the fort from potential land attack. Fort Mott was a completely modern installation for its time period.
The Fort Mott headquarters
Two steel control towers were later built to improve aiming of the guns. Observers stationed in the towers, in conjunction with plotting room personnel, directed the gunfire of the 10 inch and 12 inch guns. The tower near the river on the northern end of the emplacement was built in 1902 and was used to aim the 12 inch guns of Battery Arnold. The tower near the park office was built in 1903 to help aim the 10 inch guns of Battery Harker.
Behind the main emplacement are the parados and the moat. ‘Parados’ is Spanish for rear door. These provided the rear defenses for the fort. The parados was constructed using the fill from the moat. Landscaping around the military reservation helped camouflage Fort Mott from attack by potential enemy ships.
Fort Mott was self-contained military community. The post had over 30 buildings, including two large barracks, non-commissioned and officer’s housing, a hospital, a post exchange, a library, a guard house, a stable, YMCA and a school for the soldier’s children. The Delaware River was the main transporation infrastructure for Fort Mott; munitions, supplies and construction materials arrived at the fort by barge.
WIth the construction of Fort Salisbury near Milford, Delaware shortly before WWI, Fort Mott, Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont became obsolete. The three forts remained active defense installations until after WWII, when they were phased out. Troops were regularly stationed at Fort Mott from 1897 to 1922. The federal government maintained a caretaking detrachment at the fort from 1922 to 1943. During this time, Fort Mott’s guns were dismantled and sent to various locations.
Fort Mott was declared “surplus property” in 1943. Finn’s Point National Cemetery (dedicated a National Cemetery on October 3rd, 1873 because of the Confederate prisoners of war buried there) was separated from Fort Mott at that time. In 1947, the State of New Jersey purchased Fort Mott, as a historic site from the federal government. On June 24th, 1951, it was opened to the public as Fort Mott State Park.