With its modern weaponry, including guns that could effectively fire seven to eight miles, this fort was key to the defense of the Delaware River at the turn of the 20th century.
Fort Mott was designed after the American Civil War as part of a three-fort coastal defense system for the Delaware River. The fortifications seen today were constructed in the late 1890s. By the end of World War due to advances in military technology, the fort was considered obsolete. Visitors can wander through the old gun batteries, following interpretive signs with detailed descriptions of the fort. The park museum houses displays on Fort Mott’s place in history and technology used in defending the river. The Delaware River is just beyond the fortifications, with a shoreline that offers good spots for walking and picnicking.
Fort Mott State Park is located on the Delaware River in Pennsville, Salem County, New Jersey. Originally built as part of the federal government’s late 19th-century plan to defend the Delaware River, today Fort Mott State Park offers a unique blend of historical, cultural and recreational activities for visitors.
The land where Fort Mott State Park now stands was purchased in the 1830s by the United States government as the future site of a fortification. 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. Construction began in 1872 but was halted in 1876 due to a lack of funding. Only two-gun emplacements and several magazines were completed.
With advancements in military technology made during and after the American Civil War (1862-1865), 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 Secretary of War William Endicott, to study the existing coastal defenses and develop a coastal defense plan for the United States. The main defensive concept for the Delaware River was the dispersion of armaments into three separate fortifications: a new fortification in New Jersey, a new fortification in Delaware (Fort DuPont) and upgrades to the existing fortification (Fort Delaware) on Pea Patch Island located between New Jersey and Delaware in the middle of the Delaware River.
In New Jersey, the original plan for the Battery at Finn’s Point was abandoned and construction of new fortifications began in 1896. Large caliber weapons, three 10-inch and three 12-inch guns, were installed on disappearing carriages. These guns had an effective range of seven to eight miles and shot projectiles that weighed 600 and 1,000 pounds, respectively. 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. When completed, Fort Mott contained cutting-edge military technology.
This fortification was officially renamed Fort Mott on December 16, 1897 to honor Major General Gershom Mott, a decorated veteran of the Mexican–American and Civil Wars.
Fort Mott was a 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, a YMCA, and a school for the soldiers’ children. The Delaware River served as the main transportation infrastructure for Fort Mott with munitions, supplies and construction materials arriving at the fort by barge.
Sports activities were an important part of life for a soldier stationed at Fort Mott. Over the years, Fort Mott hosted baseball teams, a football team, and a basketball team; for officers there was a clay tennis court. While off duty, the soldiers would hunt in the local marshes for waterfowl and muskrats.
For married soldiers and officers, limited housing was available on post with additional options located just off post on Fort Mott Road. Some of these houses still exist on the northern side of the Parade Ground and on private property nearby. Most families of army personnel stationed at Fort Mott led a quiet and secluded life. Many of the families tended gardens and kept livestock to pass the time. The nearby towns of Salem and Delaware City also provided an escape from life on the army post.
End of an Era
Troops were regularly stationed at Fort Mott from 1897 to 1922. With the construction of Fort Saulsbury near Milford, Delaware shortly before World War I, the technology at Fort Mott was deemed obsolete. From 1922 to 1943 the federal government only maintained a caretaking detachment at the Fort. Towards the end of that period, Fort Mott’s guns were dismantled and moved to other locations or cut up for scrap. Fort Mott was declared “surplus property” in 1943. In 1947, the State of New Jersey purchased Fort Mott as a historic site and opened it to the public on June 24, 1951.
This facility offers ample areas for visitors wishing to go biking.
The open terrain is excellent for cross-country skiing in the winter.
A nature interpretive trail can be found within the park, which is easy and excellent for beginners. The trail is accessible for persons with disabilities.
This facility offers ample areas for visitors wishing to mountain bike.
Seasonal ferry service to Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and to Delaware City, Delaware is available from May until September. When the ferry is operating, tickets can be purchased on the Fort Delaware State Park website.
Fort Mott State Park provides family-oriented educational and entertaining events.
Visitors may take a self-guided tour of the Fort Mott fortification with help from the interpretive signs.
This facility features an interpretive center for visitors.
Fort Mott offers picnic areas, picnic tables and open fields. For larger groups, we also offer two Group Picnic Pavilions, each accommodating up to 100 people, providing shelter and access to playfields and playground equipment. Pavilions may be reserved for a fee. Groups of 20 or more people must reserve picnic facilities at least five days in advance. Such group use is not permitted on Holidays except as authorized by the superintendent. Reservations for picnic areas are handled by the individual park area offices. Reservations can be made over the telephone using a credit card, or by mail using the Group Picnic Reservation form. Payment in full of the appropriate group picnicking fee must accompany this application.
Fishing is permitted in designated areas of the park and is subject to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife regulations (link is external).
The Fort Mott State Park recreational and historic facilities are partially accessible for persons with disabilities. Please contact the park office at 856-935-3218 for further information regarding disability access needs. Text telephone (TTY) users, call the NJ Relay & CapTel Service at 711 or 1-800-852-7897 for English or 1-866-658-7714 for Spanish.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Recreational use of ATVs is not permitted on NJ State Park Service property. This includes state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. Thank you for your help in protecting New Jersey’s natural and historic resources. [N.J.A.C. 7:2-3.4(d)]
State law prohibits the smoking of tobacco and use of electronic smoking (vaping) devices in all state parks, forests, historic sites, recreation areas, golf courses and marinas. [N.J.P.L.2005, c.383 (C.26:3D-56)]
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. [ N.J.A.C. 7:2-2.6 ]
Keep Your Park Clean and Green
Protect plants and animals and care for your parks by taking your trash with you. Whatever you carry into the park, plan on carrying it out too. It’s like crowdsourcing trash management! Bring a bag or two for trash, recycling and cleaning up after your pet. There are no trash receptacles in this park. Thank you!
Metal Detecting is strictly prohibited at Fort Mott State Park.
Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of the owner. Please clean up after your pets.
Use insect repellent, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into socks, stay on trails, check yourself when you get home, shower and wash clothes immediately.
Be Bear Aware
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Do not approach or attract bears by making food available. Feeding bears is dangerous and illegal. Never run from a bear! To report an aggressive bear, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) immediately. Please report any damage or nuisance behavior to the park office. Visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information on bear safety.
454 Fort Mott Road,
Pennsville, NJ 08070
Gate 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Park Office Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrance Fee None