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A State Divided: Delaware During the Civil War

an Exhibition

January 24, 2012 – December 20, 2012

curated by Maureen Cech

A State Divided: Delaware During the Civil War

During the Civil War, Delaware was one of five border states—in addition to Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and later West Virginia—slave states that remained in the Union but bordered states that joined the Confederacy. Delaware represented a microcosm of the nation as a whole on matters of states’ rights, slavery, and support for the Union cause. Although Delaware remained firmly in the Union, widespread division of Union and Confederate sympathies within the state caused considerable tension among the State’s population. By 1862, federal troops were ordered to occupy polling stations in Delaware when state and federal elections became sites of unrest and political intimidation for voters.

Politics were generally defined geographically: urban centers like Wilmington in northern New Castle County favored Republicanism, while southern agrarian Kent and Sussex counties were Democratic strongholds, and ideological tensions further raged in the Delaware General Assembly. Feelings toward Abraham Lincoln and his policies were split, and he lost both Presidential elections in Delaware. A significant number of Delaware’s most prominent politicians also opposed the Lincoln administration, 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.

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Norman B. Wilkinson.

The Brandywine Home Front during the Civil War. Wilmington, Delaware: Kaumagraph Company, 1966.

Wilkinson’s volume uses du Pont family correspondence, DuPont Company records, and other primary sources to document the mill villages along the lower reach of Brandywine Creek during the Civil War. An essential part of Delaware’s “uneasy home front,” the creekside mills in Brandywine and Christiana Hundreds provided textiles, machinery, and gunpowder to the Union armies. One–third to one–half of the gunpowder used by the Union was produced by the DuPont mills in Delaware.

George Alfred Townsend.

Campaigns of a Non–Combatant and his Romaunt Abroad during the War. New York: Blelock & Co., 1866.

Native Delawarean George Alfred Townsend (1841–1914) was one of the Union’s youngest correspondents covering the Civil War, and his reports on the Lincoln assassination and battles such as Sheridan’s victory at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, garnered him considerable praise and recognition. Townsend’s reflections on the Civil War and his two year journey in Europe during the war were collected in Campaigns of a Non–Combatant and his Romaunt Abroad during the War (1866). This first edition of the volume bears an owner’s signature.

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. Cooke refers to the divisiveness over Lincoln’s policies in Delaware and his reluctance to discourse on Lincoln’s capabilities as a politician.

James A. Bayard.

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 opposed both the Civil War and most of Lincoln’s policies. In this speech, he argues against the validity of the loyalty oath that was required for members of the Senate, in which they pledged allegiance to the Union, asserting it to be “repugnant to both the letter and spirit of the Constitution…and entirely subversive of a fundamental principle of representative government.“ Bayard resigned rather than take the oath, though he later returned to the Senate and did in fact take the oath.

Willard Saulsbury, Sr.

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].

Senator Willard Saulsbury, Sr. emerged as an anti–war Democrat, vehemently opposed to Lincoln and his policies. In this speech, Saulsbury decries Lincoln’s ability as chief executive to suspend habeas corpus and calls for a peaceful resolution to the reunification of the Union.

William Cannon.

“Gov. Cannon’s Message and Proclamation” reprinted in A Savoury Dish for Loyal Men. Philadelphia, 1863.

Governor Cannon delivered the speeches reprinted in this Unionist pamphlet “printed for gratuitous distribution” in the Philadelphia area to the General Assembly in 1863. He refers to “the existence of widespread disaffection” in the state and confirms Delaware’s allegiance to the Union and Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus to root out disloyalists.

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