University of Delaware Library
Abraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial Celebration University of Delaware Library Special Collections Abraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial CelebrationAbraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial Celebration

Bookmark and Share


A Young Delaware Soldier

Ashland B. Swiggett was born about 1845 and served in the Union Army as a teenaged private in the First Delaware Infantry. He suffered permanent disabilities after sustaining six wounds at the Battle of Antietam. In the spring of 1863, the veteran appealed to Delaware politicians William Cannon and John W. Houston to help him obtain a government job. The men wrote letters on his behalf, which Swiggett personally presented to President Lincoln. Lincoln provided him with a letter of introduction, recommending that he receive a post as a messenger ("messengership") at a federal bureau or department. The letter proved to be useful as Swiggett secured a position at the Pension Office.

John W. Houston (1814-1896), United States Representative from Delaware, 1845-1851.

Autograph letter signed, Georgetown, Del., 14 April 1863. To Abraham Lincoln, requesting a messengership for Ashland B. Swiggett.

William Cannon (1809-1865), Governor of Delaware, 1863-1865.

Autograph letter signed, Bridgeville, Del., 10 April 1863. To Abraham Lincoln, requesting a messengership for Ashland B. Swiggett.

Ashland B. Swiggett, 17 yrs.
Ashland B. Swiggett.
Published by William H. Curry,
Wilmington, Del., February 1864.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).

Autograph letter signed, 20 April 1863. To an unknown recipient recommending the appointment of Ashland B. Swiggett to a messengership.

Ashland B. Swiggett.

Cartes-de-visite. Published by William H. Curry, Wilmington, Del., February 1864.

Autograph note on back reads, "[I] was just 17 [years] 6 mos old when this was taken, Received Feb 1863."

Ashland B. Swiggett.

Cartes-de-visite. Published by Henry Ulke & Bro., Washington D.C., 1870.

Signature on back reads, "Yours, as long as you like. A.B. Swiggett."

Top of Page

Delaware and Abraham Lincoln

Most Delawareans had never heard of Abraham Lincoln on June 10, 1848, when he made his only known appearance in Delaware as a young congressman from Illinois speaking in Wilmington in support of Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate for President. During the Civil War, Delaware was one of five border states, along with Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia, which were slave states which remained in the Union, but which bordered states that joined the Confederacy. Although both houses of Delaware's General Assembly rejected secession overwhelmingly, within the state there was widespread division, with strong support from the citizenry for the Union and the Confederacy. Delaware raised nine regiments of Union infantry during the war, as well as several companies of cavalry and artillery, and numerous Delawareans played prominent military roles during the Civil War. However, the War tore apart towns, old friendships, and even families, and partisan feelings ran so high in Delaware that no major election could be held in the state without the supervision of federal troops at polling places. Feelings toward Abraham Lincoln and his policies were divided as well, and he lost both Presidential elections in Delaware. A significant number of Delaware’s most prominent politicians also opposed Lincoln, including Governor William Burton, Secretary of State Edward Ridgely, and the entire congressional delegation: Senators James A. Bayard and Willard Saulsbury, and Congressman William Whiteley.

Letter from William Cannon
William Cannon. Autograph letter signed to
Abraham Lincoln. 10 April 1863. (detail)

William Cannon, 1809-1865.

Inaugural address of William Cannon, delivered at Dover, upon taking the oath of office as Governor of the state of Delaware, January 20, 1863. Wilmington: Printed by H. Eckel, 1863.

William Cannon served as the Governor of Delaware from January 20, 1863 until his death while in office on March 1, 1865. During this period Cannon was a strong supporter of Lincoln and the Union, in spite of the opposition he faced from Delaware Democrats. In this inaugural speech, he affirms his support of the Union and President Lincoln’s war policies.

Alfred Lee, 1807-1887.

God to be glorified in the fires: Thanksgiving discourse delivered in St. Andrew's Church, Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, November 27th, 1862. Wilmington: Henry Eckel, 1862.

The great national deliverance: Ps. LXVI, 10-12: a sermon preached on the day of Thanksgiving, December 7, 1865, in St. Andrew's Church, Wilmington, Del. Wilmington: Henry Eckel, 1865.

Abraham Lincoln issued his first Thanksgiving Proclamation in the Spring of 1862 to celebrate recent Union Army victories. On October 20, 1864, Lincoln issued a proclamation decreeing that a National Day of Thanksgiving be celebrated annually each November. In these two Thanksgiving sermons, Alfred Lee, the Protestant Episcopal bishop of Delaware who was elected the first bishop of Delaware in 1841, addresses his congregation first at the height of the Civil War, when the Nation was at its most divided, and then in December 1865, a year in which the joy of the Union victory was tempered by the assassination of President Lincoln.

Delaware. General assembly. Joint committee on military interference with the state election of November 4, 1862.

Report of the committee of the General assembly of the state of Delaware: together with the journal of the committee, and the testimony taken before them, in regard to the interference by United States troops with the general election held in the state on the fourth day of November, 1862. Dover, Del.: Printed by James Kirk, 1863.

Nathaniel Barratt Smithers, 1818-1896.

Speech of Hon. Nathaniel B. Smithers: delivered at the Wilmington Institute, Wilmington, Del. before an immense meeting of the citizens of Wilmington and vicinity on the evening of October 1st, 1864. Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1864.

Speech of Hon. N.B. Smithers, of Delaware, on the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, delivered in the House of Representatives, January 11th, 1865. Washington: Printed by L. Towers, 1865.

Nathaniel Smithers was elected as U. S. Representative from Delaware to fill the vacancy left by the death of the incumbent Congressman William Temple. Smithers served from December 7, 1863 to March 3, 1865 . He was a staunch supporter of the Union and abolition and he states these views forcefully in these two speeches. Smithers was defeated in the 1864 election by the Democrat John Nicholson.

Charles Cooke.

A sermon on the life and death of Abraham Lincoln: late president of the United States. Delivered in Smyrna, Delaware, June 1, 1865, by Rev. C. Cooke, D.D. Philadelphia: Richards, 1865.

This sermon delivered on the National day of mourning by a prominent Delaware clergyman bears an autograph note on the cover written by the original owner, Annie Roberts, who appears to have attended the sermon.

Willard Saulsbury, 1820-1897.

Release of state prisoners: speech of Hon. Willard Saulsbury of Delaware, in the Senate of the United States, January 8, 1863. [S.l.: s.n., 1863].

In December, 1860, Willard Saulsbury declared ""My state having been the first to adopt the Constitution, will be the last to countenance any act calculated to lead to a separation of the state and of the glorious Union." But as the War progressed, Saulsbury increasingly spoke up in opposition to it. In this speech the Democratic Senator from Delaware rails against President Abraham Lincoln and his policies.

James A. Bayard, 1799-1880.

Speech of the Hon. James A. Bayard, of Delaware: delivered in the Senate of the United States, January 19th, 1864, against the validity of the test-oath, prescribed by the "Act" of July 2, 1862, with the subsequent proceedings in the Senate, and his final remarks before the resignation of his seat. Philadelphia: [s.n.], 1864.

James Bayard, United States Senator from Delaware, was a staunch supporter of States’ rights and opponent of the Civil War and most of Lincoln’s policies. In this speech he argues against the validity of the loyalty oath that was now required for members of the Senate. Bayard resigned rather than take the oath, though he later returned to the Senate and took the oath.

This page is maintained by Special Collections.

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014