OVHS to hold free talk on Civil War, featuring Tom Ryan


The Ocean View Historical Society has been working to preserve the area’s history and educate the community through various outlets, including their preservation of the Tunnell-West House and their history lecture series.

“Our main goal is to educate young people, so they can see where they came from. It gives them a little bit of perspective. The future is based on the past,” said Dr. Richard Nippes, a member of the historical society, adding that preservation cannot fully happen without a good understand of the past. “We want to preserve the past in Ocean View and surrounding areas.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in Ocean View town hall, local Civil War historian and Coastal Point columnist Tom Ryan will be offering a presentation focusing on the war in Delaware. The presentation will be free and open to the public.

“We’re trying to preserve that past and bring in speakers with a knowledge of past,” said Nippes. “A lot of people have an interest in the Civil War. It has piqued a curiosity.”

“I’ve been doing this for many years… since at least 1997, after I retired,” said Ryan of his research. “In conjunction with that, I began to receive invitations to speak about the subject. I find it’s interesting and rewarding to me to do the research and to pass it along. There’s a lot of work that goes into this type of research and, as a result, I like to see other people benefit by me passing along this information.”

His talks last approximately 45 minutes, with enough time for a question and answer session following.

“I cover quite a few subjects,” said Ryan. “I cover the political, military, economic and social aspects. I’m going to talk about the presidential elections of 1860 and how Delaware made its decision to either go with the North or the South. I’ll discuss what military organizations were formed here in Delaware and the fact that a number of Delawareans went south to join Confederate units, as well.”

Ryan noted that all units that were in Delaware were part of the Union and those who wanted to serve the South had to move out of state.

“The Delaware units were all within the Union army. Those who favored the South had to go join other organizations, like those in Virginia or Maryland.”

Ryan will also talk about Fort Delaware, which served as a prison for Confederate soldiers, and the roles of African-Americans during the war.

“I will also discuss the African-American participation, Delaware’s black population and their participation on behalf of the Union army. I’ll also talk about a number of individuals who made a contribution, both military and civilians.”

During his talks, Ryan uses a PowerPoint presentation to help illustrate the information presented to attendees.

“I use many illustrations, using maps, charts, photographs and other media that will provide the audience with a better idea of the topic we’re discussing.”

Ryan’s public speaking events, which have him appearing throughout Delaware and parts of Maryland, range in topics but all are related to the war. He has even gone interactive, having reenactors play the roles of important figures in the war.

“I recently gave a talk down at town hall about the two First Ladies of the Civil War, Mary Lincoln and Verina Davis,” said Ryan, adding they were dressed in period costume and discussed the war in character.

In April, Ryan will give a talk at Bethany Beach town hall, where reenactors will attend as Julia Grant and Mary Lee, the wives of the armies’ two military leaders.

Ryan said he believes the fascination with the Civil War is two-fold.

“I believe it results from the fact that it was, by far, the bloodiest war that this country has ever been involved with. There were more people killed during the Civil War than almost all of our other wars combined… 600,000 to 700,000 people died during those four years,” said Ryan.

“The other thing is the fact that this really made the United States a nation. Before that it was a group of states that worked together. But after the Civil War, it became one nation, and it changed the character of how we look at this country. We did become stronger and more united and saw ourselves as one country and one nation.”

Ryan is currently working on self-publishing his book “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War: A Political Military and Social Perspective,” a collection of 30 articles he has written for the Coastal Point since May of 2011.

“I’ve been really pleased by the response. It has been much more than I could have hoped,” he said.

He said he also hopes his book, “Not By Guns Alone: The Critical Role of Intelligence During the Gettysburg Campaign,” which is being published by Savas Beattie will be released prior to July 2013 — just in time to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

“I’ve been working on this book for about 10 years. Of course, after 10 years, I’ll be very happy to see it get published. It’ll be something special,” he said. “It’ll be nice when I’m giving talks that people can buy the book and take it with them.”

Ryan said he enjoys sharing his research with the public.

“I’m always happy when the word gets out and people come and are interested and anxious to hear the talks.”

Nippes added that he hopes people from all over the community will attend the lecture and learn something new about the Civil War and Delaware.

“We hope many of you will come out and hear Mr. Ryan speak about the Civil War. He has some very interesting stories.”