Got a wrench? I’m going to need a wrench.

We were just heading out to the hardware store for an early evening errand — I needed a wrench larger than any wrench I own. I own many wrenches, a lifetime of accumulation will do that for you, but I do not own anything that will open 10-and-a-half inches wide. And, today, we had a reason to need one. So I resigned myself to spending a fortune for a tool I needed to use exactly twice, to take off a piece and, moments later, reinstall it. Then of course, I wouldn’t need to use the wrench again for a good quarter of a century or so.

We were at the end of our driveway and had to yield because our neighbors were returning home. So I walked over to see Joe the Elder as he got out of his truck. He’s got a great big smile, an across-the-street “How ya doing!?” and a positively enthusiastic handshake. Lovely people. He gave me two wrenches to try, and so we did not have to go to the store.

Both worked! And we needed both. And it took the both of us to complete the job. But we did! And, this part is important, it seems we got it right the first time. Nothing was broken, no utterances were uttered, and our cost, after the replacement part, were two stiff backs and a bit of sweat. Standard DIY invoicing.

The replacement part is a device that holds filters. Looks like a cup holder. We can hold four drinks in the thing. The previous one was broken, somehow, which is a mystery because the thing lives in a case that requires a metric wrench, a mallet and then some deliberate intentions to even get to it. We replaced it with a similar piece, but supposedly more sturdy, which is good, because if we have to go through the whole process again — after all of that to open it, we had to remove a threaded piece that was not installed in such a way as to grant easy access, then mallet hammer and pry one piece from the other and so on — I think we just might start over.

I took the wrenches back over and as ever, I am wondering what I can offer these nice people as a gesture of thanks. It’s one of those small-to-you, big-to-me things. This wrench was sitting in their garage, and that one was in his truck, and he wasn’t using them, but it saved me a small fortune, and a trip to one or more stores and the frustration that could go along with it. And they say, don’t ever go buy something, just come over here and get it. They really are quite sweet. We’re very lucky with the neighbors we picked.

When I woke up this morning I wondered if I should go for a swim, or a ride, today. I did both yesterday. And that was easy enough. Doing both two days in a row seems like a tiny challenge. And then I got up, and wondered if I would do either. I felt weary. But that’s no reason to stop, it’s just an excuse to slow down.

This afternoon my lovely bride was heading out for a ride and I invited myself to tag along, get dropped, and see her back at home. I predicted she would leave me behind in one of two places, both of which can best be described as “early in the ride.” And she did, in both places.

Somehow, I caught up to her again, which was great because that allowed me to ride in front of her in the one little tricky part of this route, a three-tenths of a mile stretch with a fork and an awkward merge. I sprinted through there with the only bit of energy I had and she stayed right behind me and that made the next turn easy.

This look right here?

This is the look The Yankee gives you before she rides you right off her wheel.

While I’d done the little lead out and made it off the relatively busier road onto some empty county roads, I could not keep up from here.

I lost sight of her a third of the way into the ride, and slowly diminished for the next hour or so. But this was too be expected. I don’t have a lot of miles in my legs right now, but somehow it feels like I do. Anyway, pleasant ride, even if I got in two seconds later than I’d anticipated from half-an-hour away. My riding buddy had no such problem. She pronounced it a strong ride, and, having spent the whole of the thing watching her disappear into the distance, I’d say she was being gracefully humble.

It’s time once more for We Learn Wednesdays, where we discover the county’s historical markers via bike rides. This is the 38th installment, and the 69th and 70th markers in the We Learn Wednesdays series. These are grouped together because they’re directly related anyway as we continue our exploration of Fort Mott.

In the last few weeks we checked out the old gun batteries and had a quick look at the observation towers that helped them in their work of defending the river and Philadelphia, beyond. Most recently, we took a quick glimpse at the parados and the moat that served as the fort’s rearguard. We also saw the signs for the generator, plotting and switchboard rooms. (The signs are good, the rooms were empty.) Last week, we saw another empty room, the battery commander’s station.

The park has a map to orient you to the fort’s layout.

The river is on the left side of this drawing. You can see the pier jutting out into the water. Next to that you’ll see the long row of gun placements. You can see the moat, in blue, behind them.

Today, though, we’re starting off between the moat and the gun batteries, up near the top on the map, at Peace Magazine.

There’s no way to photograph the whole sign without the railing, which is, no doubt, period authentic. If you’ll allow me, then, the generous use of the blockquote …

A Special emphasis was placed on keeping the interiors of the defensive magazines under the various batteries dry. According to an excerpt from, “Reports on 5-inch Guns, Fort Dupont and Fort Mott, December, 1900, Operations” which references Battery Gregg …

“…ceilings of the magazines consist of flat arches of 6-inch hollow tile and the vertical walls are covered with 2-inch hollow tile furring and both ceilings and side walls are plastered with a thin layer of Portland mortar 1 – 3. Two hundred thirty-two linear feet of 3-inch vitrified tile were laid underground from emplacement number 6 to a manhole at the entrance of the west emplacement for carrying cables for electric light and power. Outside walls of the battery were roughly plastered and then waterproofed with paraffin paint #3 and coal tar. A 2-inch porous tile drain was placed around the foundations of each emplacement and covered with a layer of broken stone.”

Despite many efforts, condensation of moisture in the emplacements and magazines continued to be a problem that was never adequately solved. On June 11, 1903, the Chief of Engineers authorized an allotment for the construction of a new storage magazine to be detached from the main installation and located behind the parados. Money was also provided for the creation of a tunnel through the parados, and for extending the railroad tracks through the tunnel to the new magazine. The brick building, called the Peace Magazine, was finished in 1904. The structure was slightly more than eighteen feet by fifty-two feet on the inside, with a copper ventilating roof.

I’d like to think that Peace was named after someone who worked on the fort, or in honor of a soldier who served and died elsewhere, like so many of the parts of Fort Mott, but I don’t see any mention of it anywhere.

Here’s another angle of the magazine.

And one more quick view today from Fort Mott. This marker actually addresses what’s across the way.

At this section of the Delaware estuary, the waterway narrows from a broad bay into a river. Considered a strategic location early in the nineteenth century, military officials selected this area for a coastal defense fortification. Fort Delaware was built on Pea Patch Island during the first half of the nineteenth century. However, the advent of steam-powered naval vessels necessitated a more elaborate defensive scheme to adequately protect the upstream ports. Fort DuPont on the Delaware shore and Fort Mott on the New Jersey side were designed and built during the last half of the nineteenth century to reinforce Fort Delaware. The three fort system remained in force until after World War I.

Fort Delaware is visible on Pea Patch Island. Finished in 1859, it also served as a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Many of the prisoners who died there are buried at Finn’s Point National Cemetery, located adjacent to the north side of Fort Mott.

(The state really should get around to updating some of these markers.)

The three photographs show Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, the view of Pea Patch Island from Fort Mott, and the last is an aerial view of the three forts that protected this section of the river. (All three were closed down when a more powerful and modern installation opened down river.)

And if you’re looking off into the distance, you can see a bit of Pea Patch island, and the fort that stands there.

You have to take a ferry to get over there. And maybe one day I’ll visit. There’s a lot of history over there, as well. When it was built in 1859, that hazy looking fort over there was a state-of-the-art example of American fixed fortifications. It also served as a POW camp during the Civil War. Almost 13,000 Confederate prisoners could be held there at once.

Back on this side of the river, Fort Mott became a state park in 1951, but it was a self-contained military installation in its day. At it’s busiest, Fort Mott had over 30 buildings, including two barracks that each housed 115 soldiers, commissioned and non-commissioned officer housing, a hospital, post exchange, library, a YMCA, a school for the soldier’s children and more. Most of those buildings were constructed between 1897 and 1905. It closed in 1922, when another, more modern, installation opened downstream.

We have just one or two more markers to visit at Fort Mott, and we’ll do that in our next installment. Until then, if you’ve missed any of those historical marker posts, you can see them all right here.

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