Fort Mott: A Vital Piece of Salem County and Our Nation's History

In honor of this weekend’s two day event honoring the “Historic Soldiers” at Pennsville’s Fort Mott, we at The News of Salem County thought it would be fitting to share a brief overview on the treasured historic site. We believe that our communities need to be reminded of the vital role Salem County has played in shaping this great nation and the way of life for this country’s residents today. Take pride in knowing that Salem County is truly unique. Past generations have taken great pleasure in sharing Salem County’s history, and if this tradition is not continued, our community will lose the wisdom and pride that it rightfully should have!

The long lost memories of a once U.S. military stronghold were revisited this weekend during the historic soldier event at Fort Mott in Pennsville. Flags will be flown, banners will be waved, and songs will be sung, but the true memorials to these great soldiers no longer remain.

Originally acquired by the United States Government in 1837 from John Mason, Fort Mott consisted of 104.35 acres of land located at Finns Point, formally known as Lampans Houck, and Efins Point. However, it was chosen to be an important military site by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers long before that. In 1794, it was decided that three forts would be erected along the Delaware River in strategic spots in order to defend Philadelphia, our country’s capital at the time and location of a key U.S. naval yard, which held a majority of our military ships and personnel. These three fortifications would be known as the Artillery District of the Delaware, and would eventually be named Fort Delaware, Fort DuPont, and Fort Mott.

Fort Mott (named so in honor of Major General Gersham Mott who served with distinction as a second lieutenant in the Mexican War as well as a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Brigadier General, and eventually as a Major General in the Civil War) was placed at Finns Point because it was the westernmost point of land in New Jersey. This have the fort an advantage in that its artillery could cover a larger portion of the Delaware River in case of a naval military strike.

In 1872, the government began to equip the fort with what would become known as “The Battery,” a plethora of long range high caliber rifles specifically designed for the defense of the coast. Six emplacements for Rodman Smoothbore guns and two eight inch converted rifles were mounted but were left unused and unmanned for a number of years.

1896 marked the year when much more hard-work and effort began to put the fort into action. The Quartermaster General appointed 1st Lieutenant Wilson (4th artillery) in control of the repair and reconstruction of Fort Delaware and Finns Point. December of 1897, a general war department order (#72) was issued and this designated the fort, Fort Mott. Upon designation, a whirlwind of troops, guns, housing, and military structures were designed and appropriately placed.

The first of these guns, “Battery Harker” (a ten inch rifle named after Charles C. Harker who was killed at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, June 29, 1864) was completed in 1897. June 16th, 1897, “Battery Arnold” (named in honor of Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis G. Arnold, 2nd C.T.S. Artillery, Brigadier General of the U.S. Volunteers; served in the Florida War, the Mexican War, and the Civil War) a 12-inch, smooth bore, long range rifle was finished and put into action. Two 5-inch rapid fire guns named “Battery Krayenbuhl” were the next to be added to the arsenal. They were named in honor of Captain Maurice G. Krayenbuhl, who was killed in action during a battle on the Philippine Islands in 1899. The final pieces added to the puzzle were two 15 lbs. Driggs-Seabury 3-inch rapid fire guns (on pedestals) located on the right and left flanks of Battery Krayenbuhl. They were named “Battery Edwards” in honor of Captain Robert Edwards, who was killed in action near Frenchtown, Michigan on June 22, 1813.

In order to maintain and operate the artillery and fort, the need for more troops grew larger. On October 6th 1899, in order to accommodate these troops, the Quartermaster General recommended that a condemnation proceeding be commenced against Dr. Edward S. Sharpe. This was done to acquire the 41.75 additional acres adjoining the property, to make room for barracks. After five long years of intense court proceedings, the land was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1904 for $12,000.

The fort was fully functional During WWI with full communication services to Philadelphia and all of the surrounding metropolitan areas. Fort Mott was also stocked with Officers’ quarters, a fully staffed military hospital, and a recreational area for the troops as well as local resident usage. After WWI had ended, its role greatly declined. Company A and Company B of the First Army Engineers were stationed at the fort in order to put the fort on a partial activity basis. The last troops finally left For Mott in September of 1924.

When WWII started, military leaders decided that anti-aircraft protection was sufficient for our coastal defense and the guns were removed from the property. Since then the fort has officially been made into a New Jersey State Park in 1951.

No longer do the thunderous sounds of gunfire echo across the Delaware River. No longer do the rhythmic steps of troops marching in formation snap in our ears like a beating drum. But, the men who built this once busy bodied fortification and the men remembered this weekend for their service to our great nation would be proud to say that they were a part of Salem County and its rich history!

Recent Photos taken by The News of Salem County’s Ryan Buckwheat and Old Photos shared from the book “Stories of Lower Penns Neck”

Source: “Stories of Lower Penns Neck”

Published by: Lower Penns Neck Board of Education in 1965

Copyrights by: Mrs. Mary S. Sanderlin

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