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Civil War in Delaware: Part 4

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General A. T. A. Torbert: Wikipedia: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.

Alfred T. A. Torbert was the most significant Civil War hero from Delaware said Dr. Gary Wray, Professor of History at Wilmington College. Born in Georgetown in 1833, Torbert served with and was on a first name basis with legendary Civil War figures such as William Tecumseh Sherman and George Armstrong Custer.

Torbert’s father was a farmer, bank teller and part- time minister in Delaware, which meant that he was a man with both political and financial connections. As such, he had ambitions for his son and used his connections to get him into West Point, where Torbert was “noted for his horsemanship, and not so much for good grades,” said Wray.

In the Nineteenth century, classes at West Point were small, continued Wray. Everyone knew everyone else. When war clouds loomed in 1860-1861, each former student had to take sides. While the Civil War has been described as a confrontation pitting brother against brother, said Wray, military commanders regularly faced former classmates across the battlefields. They knew each others strengths and weaknesses, having studied together at West Point.

This story was first published in the News Journal under the byline of Gail A. Sisolak. All rights reserved.


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Civil War in Delaware: Part 3

Slavery in Delaware

Delaware played a major role in the history of African-American freedom, said Reed. Thomas Garrett organized and operated a branch of the Underground Railroad running from Seaford through Middletown and Odessa.

Harriet Tubman: Wikipedia: woodcut artist not listed; W.J. Moses, printer; stereotyped by Dennis Bro's & Co.

Harriet Tubman: Wikipedia: woodcut artist not listed; W.J. Moses, printer; stereotyped by Dennis Bro’s & Co.

Harriet Tubman conducted slaves through Delaware to freedom during the 1850’s. She was assisted by other free people of color and escaped slaves. “From 1863 to 1865, Delaware furnished 924 men to the Union Army as members of four U.S. Colored Troop Regiments,” said Reed.

The Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware, Inc, the nation’s fourth oldest civil war round table, meets to learn about and discuss these contentious times on the first Wednesday of the month from September through June. Reservations required. For information about featured speakers, visit http://mysite.verizon.net/vze6oji5/index.html .

This story was first published in the News Journal under the byline of Gail A. Sisolak. All rights reserved.


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Delaware and the Civil War: Part 2

Wilmington, home to the state’s manufacturing and trading center at the junction of the Brandywine and Christiana, had woolen mills and other industrial establishments dependent on water power. “Much of the gunpowder fired by the Union military came from the E.I. Dupont & Co.’s Hagley Mills,” said Reed. Harland and Hollingsworth completed three monitors plus several gunboats, while their competitor Pusey & Jones launched an additional half-dozen gunboats.

Sketch of USS Patapsco built by Harlan & Hollingsworth: Wikipedia: Jinian {{PD-USGov-Military-Navy}}

Sketch of USS Patapsco built by Harlan & Hollingsworth: Wikipedia: Jinian {{PD-USGov-Military-Navy}}

Hagley Museum & Library: Restored Roll Mill: Wikipedia: Ukexpat

Hagley Museum & Library: Restored Roll Mill: Wikipedia: Ukexpat

Below the canal and west of the railroad was a rural, agrarian society of farmers and water men, said Reed. Lower Delaware industries consisted of small shipyards at Milford and Milton and local grist mills.

Kent and Sussex, although geographically larger than New Castle County, were definitely rural. Subsistence farms predominated, especially in Sussex, where farmers made enough cash to pay taxes by selling native pine for building timber to be used in Philadelphia, said Reed.  Delaware Bay watermen and fishing vessels home ported at Lewes in Sussex County served as the exception to the rural norm. New Castle, Seaford, Laurel and Milford were hotbeds of Confederate sympathizers.

This story was first published in the News Journal under the byline of Gail A. Sisolak. All rights reserved.


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Delaware and the Civil War: Part 1

The Civil War was the seminal event in American history, said Frank Giamboy, member of The Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Delaware, Inc. Tiny Delaware played a major role in the War Between the States, said Thomas J. Reed, co-author of “Untying the Political Knot,” Broadfoot Publishing Company. “One of four slave states that did not secede from the Union, Delaware furnished a greater percentage of men to the Union Army than any other state, and it is estimated that as many as 2,000 Delawareans may have served in the Confederate Army and Navy,” said Reed.

In many respects, the Delaware of 1860, a tiny slave state with a population of 112,216, exemplified a divided society representative of the entire United States, said Reed. Each of the three counties making up the Delmarva Peninsula was vastly different in both character and political orientation. New Castle County north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was an industrialized urban center. With political and financial ties to Philadelphia and New York, citizens in the northern part of the state tended to side with the Union.

Additionally, New Castle County accounted for a disproportionate share of the state’s agricultural production, said Reed.  It had the most productive agricultural land in the state, including the incredibly rich flat lands near Middletown.  Excellent rail and waterways linked New Castle County to the rest of the nation.

Delaware River, New Castle: Wikipedia: Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant)

Delaware River, New Castle: Wikipedia: Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant)

This story was first published in the News Journal under the byline of Gail A. Sisolak. All rights reserved.