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A State Divided: Delaware During the Civil War

an Exhibition

January 24, 2012 – December 20, 2012

curated by Maureen Cech

Delaware Joins the Fray

In 1861, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the Confederate rebellion, and Delaware was among the first states to raise infantries. Delaware raised nine regiments of Union infantries during the war, as well as several companies of cavalry and artillery, and numerous Delawareans played prominent military roles during the Civil War.

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Captain Thomas M. Reynolds.

Letter to Louisa J. Seward, September 13, 1862.

Captain Thomas M. Reynolds was a native of Camden, Delaware, and served in the 4th Regiment of the Delaware Volunteers from 1862 until his death during the Battle of the Wilderness near Richmond in 1864. Sent from Camp du Pont, Reynolds’s letter to his fiancée Louisa Seward imparts his patriotic fervor, claiming it his duty as an American citizen to fight to restore peace to his country. Reynolds encourages Louisa not to be concerned that the Confederacy already occupies a portion of her home state of Maryland but to be confident in the Union army: “…I think that we will not only send the Rebel hordes howling back to their dens, but when there we will teach them that they yet owe their allegiance to the U-States [sic] government.”

David N. Lilley.

Letter to Annie Lilley, September 28, 1863.

Newark, Delaware, resident David N. Lilley (1842–1887) enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and joined Company C, 2nd Regiment, Delaware Volunteers. After training, he was assigned to the Blue and Elk Rangers, a local unit that was involved in many significant military engagements in both Maryland and Virginia. Lilley’s letters to his older sister Annie Lilley recount his wartime experiences and indicate the pride he took in his service. After his discharge in 1864, Lilley rejoined his family in Newark; he passed away from complications due to injury suffered in a railroad accident in 1887. Lilley sent this letter to his sister from the 2nd Regiment Delaware Volunteers Headquarters camp near Rappidan Station, Virginia. Lilley also sent her a piece of the regiment’s flag: “I inclose [sic] a bit of our dear old flag. Keep it to remember the 2nd Delaware.”

Draft notice, 1st District, State of Delaware, to Edmund A. Lewis and substitution certificate, 1863.

Edward A. Lewis of White Clay Creek Hundred was drafted into the service of the United States in accordance with an act of Congress passed in 1863. Lewis secured a substitute and was exempted from service. The handwritten note attached to the draft notice describes Lewis’s substitute, William Curtis, who was hired for $275.

H. A. (Henry Algernon) Du Pont

Rear–Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, United States Navy, A Biography. New York: National Americana Society, 1926.

Several members of the du Pont family held high ranking positions in the Union army and navy. Major General Henry du Pont (1812–1889) was appointed in 1861 by Governor William Burton commander of the Delaware Home Guard and his cousin, Samuel F. Du Pont, a naval officer who employed a variant spelling of the family name. This biography of Rear–Admiral Du Pont, written by his nephew Henry Algernon Du Pont (1838–1926), documents his successful military career, support of naval reform, and his service in the Mexican–American and Civil Wars. During the Civil War, Du Pont played an important role in devising the decisive naval strategy of the war, the Southern blockade. On April 7, 1863, however, his failure to take Fort Sumter resulted in the worst naval defeat of the Civil War. Du Pont’s service was recognized with a statue of his likeness dedicated in 1884 in Washington, D.C.’s newly renamed DuPont circle. The statue was relocated to Wilmington by the family in 1920.

Max Rosenthal.

Color lithographic print depicting 4th Delaware Infantry at Camp Vermont, Virginia, 1863.

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