Elfsborg, fort (Salem)

The Swedes constructed this short-lived fort, called Elsenburgh by the Dutch, in 1643 on the orders of the newly arrived governor Johan Printz. Its location was chosen in order to neutralize Dutch Fort Nassau. In order to do so, it was constructed further south on the Delaware River, where the Varkens Kill (present-day Salem Creek) enters into Delaware Bay. When David Pietersz de Vries visited the Delaware in 1643, he dropped anchor before the fort and “sailed landward, to the fort, which was not quite completed; it was made in the English fashion, with three points close by the side of the river and there lay six or eight metal pieces on it, of twelve pound iron.” A year later, in 1644, Johan Printz reported that “Elfsborg [was] now (especially on the one side) [..] so secure that there is no need to fear any attack (if it is not entirely too severe).” At this point in time, the fort had a garrison of 16 men, commanded by Sven Sküte. According to the report by Andries Hudde, Fort Nya Elfborg was “ordinarily garrisoned with twelve men and a lieutenant; four twelve-pounders, both iron and brass, and one pots-hooft [an artillery piece fashioned from iron instead of being cast].” It was “constructed of earthworks.” The purpose of the fort was to control access to the river, keeping it closed to all except Swedish ships. As Andries Hudde reports, several of the Company yachts coming from Manhattan were fired upon from the fort. No fatalities ensued, which suggests the fort’s location and the reach of its guns were not sufficient to achieve its intended purpose. The fort was nicknamed Fort Myggenborgh (Fort Mosquito) as the nearby swamp made the insects a veritable pest. Many soldiers on the fort succumbed to malaria. After Fort Casimir was built on the other side of the Delaware in 1651, the Swedes abandoned Fort Nya Elfsborg. By 1655, “the fortress of Elfsborg [..] lay in ruins.” The original site is offshore at Elsinboro Point, four miles southwest of Salem near the Fort Elfsborg-Salem Road (County Highway 625), where two historic markers are located. In 2012 an unsuccessful search was undertaken to locate remains. As Craig Lukezic suggests, changes in the landscape, for instance as the result of storms or floods, have been extensive, making it possible that the site of Fort Elfsborg is now covered by the river.

Sources and literature

Jacobs, J., Dutch Colonial Fortifications in North America 1614-1676 (2015)