Community Events

When I was working I would receive notices from historical societies, environmental groups, libraries….alerting me to speakers on a wide range of potentially interesting subjects.  I could never find any time to allocate to any of these, even those that might be of personal interest.  One of the ways I found I can spend some of my newly available retirement hours is to actually go. The other bonus is I often learn about things I would never have thought to study in detail.

Last night the South Coastal Library hosted the South Bethany Historical Society.  The speaker for the evening was Tom Ryan, local historian and author, speaking on Delaware During the Civil War.  Mr. Ryan spoke on the political, economic, and military issues impacting Delaware during the months prior to and during the Civil War. He told the story of the Civil War through local personalities who played important roles during that period.  I initially thought there would be only a small role for such a tiny state.  It was small but very important.

Delaware was one of five border slave states that remained in the Union but bordered states that joined the Confederacy. Delaware produced 40% of the gun powder for the Union Army.  It was a state sharply divided between those who wanted to secede from the union and those who for political and economic reasons supported the union.  By the early 1860s only a small number of slaves existed in Delaware.  Another major role for the State was to house prisoners from the Confederacy, up to 35,000.  There were no battles of record that took place in Delaware.  Tom Ryan has published “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War” and in the summer of 2014 will publish “Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign.”

As I looked around the room, it was clear most of the folks attending were retired.  Many responded that they had travelled to Gettysburg and throughout the historic buildings within Delaware associated with the Civil War period.  The level of engagement of the group was

Other books related to the role of Delaware and its people during the Civil War include:

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

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.


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