Finn’s Point National Cemetery is located about six miles northwest of Salem, N.J., at the north end of what was Fort Mott Military Reservation. Today, the picturesque cemetery is entirely surrounded by the Killchohook National Wildlife Refuge and is adjacent to Fort Mott State Park. Originally, the United States purchased the land for the construction of the Finn’s Point Battery to protect the Port of Philadelphia. By 1863, however, the grounds increasingly served as a burial site for Confederate prisoners of war who died while imprisoned at Fort Delaware.
Fort Delaware was on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, one mile east of Delaware City. The island was named after a colonial-era tale that a boat loaded with peas ran aground on a river shoal, and the peas sprouted in the sandy loam. In 1847, Congress appropriated $1 million to construct the largest modern coastal defense fort in the nation here, surpassing Fort Sumter in size, to protect the ports of Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia. In April 1862, Fort Delaware received its first POWs—358 Confederate soldiers from the Battle of Kernstown, Va. By January 1866 when the prison closed, approximately 22,773 men occupied the fort, including soldiers, officers and other prisoners.
An estimated 2,502 men died while imprisoned at Fort Delaware. Even prior to its designation as a national cemetery, the remains of POWs were transported to Finn’s Point across the river for burial. When weather or ice made trips to the mainland hazardous, it was necessary to bury the bodies on Pea Patch Island. On May 12, 1875, Virginia Gov. James L. Kemper wrote to the secretary of war concerning the neglected Confederate graves on Pea Patch Island. In response, Gen. E.D. Townsend advised the governor that Finn’s Point would be made a national cemetery and the remains of soldiers—both Union and Confederate—would be reinterred there. Finn’s Point was official declared a national cemetery Oct. 3, 1875.
Today, the small cemetery is nearly surrounded by tidal marshes and tall grass that encroach the stone enclosure walls. The Meigs lodge is a particularly elegant construction of stone with contrasting quoins and other architectural details. Finn’s Point National Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
For more details about Finn’s Point visit the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.