State archives pay tribute to Civil War soldiers


In keeping with the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration underway since April 2011, the Delaware Public Archives has chosen to honor five men who served in Delaware units with a display that features artifacts and personal narratives. According to Curator of Archeology Charles H. Fithian, information about these men came from their compiled military service records and other documentary sources, and represents a sample of those who served the state and nation for four sanguinary years, 1861-1865.

William T. Day enlisted in Georgetown in the 3rd Delaware Infantry Regiment, and mustered in at Camp Fisher in the Camden-Wyoming area. A photo shows him as a First Sergeant, but he advanced to officer rank in October 1864. Ironically, William’s father Leven B. Day enlisted in the Union army at age 47 a week prior to his son.

Dr. David Maull, a graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, left Georgetown where he was in practice with his father to join the 1st Delaware Infantry Regiment as a surgeon in 1861. Assigned in the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, as a brigade surgeon, he later received a promotion to the rank of major at the division level. It was Doctor Maull who attended the Irish-born Delawarean Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smyth when he was mortally wounded at Farmville, Va., in April 1865.

Surgeon Maull later published “The Life and Military Service of the Late Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smyth” in which he described the fatal wound, “A Confederate sniper downed General Smyth with a shot to his face which…continued into his neck…driving the fragment into the spinal cord…causing instant and entire paralysis.” The general died two days later.

After the war, David Maull and his father moved to Wilmington and resumed their medical practice. Along with other doctors, these men founded the Delaware Hospital.

Cpl. William Oliver, 32nd U.S. Colored Troops, was an African-American Delawarean from Frankford, Sussex County, who joined the Union army after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. Although permitted to serve in the military, black men from Delaware mainly enlisted in Pennsylvania, since the political dynamics barred the formation of “Colored Troops” units in this state.

William Hunter served in Company H of the 4th Delaware Infantry Regiment. The men in this company were from Kent and New Castle Counties. Hunter was born in Scotland, and eventually migrated to the Dover area. After sustaining a wound from a shell on June 2, 1864, at Bethesda Church, Hanover County, Va., Hunter received a medical discharge.

1st Lt. Samuel A. McAllister rose through the ranks of the 1st Delaware Infantry Regiment as a private and sergeant before achieving officer status. Lt. McAllister survived the war, and married Sarah A. Conner of New Castle in 1872. He made his living as an attorney.

In addition to the displays honoring these five men from Delaware who served during the Civil War, a number of artifacts are included in the exhibit. For example, there is a campaign chest that Lt. Col. William P. Baily, Commander 2nd Regiment Delaware Volunteers. used to store his uniforms and other personal military equipment. Baily led his unit until a debilitating wound at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., in December 1862 put him out of action. Inscribed on the inside lid is the cryptic message, “Look We could not take our baggage. All is well.W.P. Baily.” There is also a photo of the colonel, and a metal I.D. tag stamped with his name, unit designation, and Wilmington, Del., where he entered service.

Other items of interest are a Model 1855 .58 caliber rifle manufactured at the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal; a cartridge box found in a house in Cashtown, Pennsylvania at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 that belonged to Armour Douglas, Company D, 1st Delaware; a Model 1858 forage cap once owned by Pvt. Townsend H. Walters of Nield’s Independent Artillery Battery; plus two infantry officer’s swords and a sword that belonged to Lt. W.P. Offley, Company B, 1st Delaware Cavalry Regiment. Lt. Offley was arrested in Baltimore for unspecified behavior in 1863, and later discharged from the army for drunkenness by order of President Lincoln.

Two artifacts of particular note are a decanter presented to Capt. George Ahl, a Union officer at Fort Delaware that had been converted into a prison during the Civil War for Confederates, and an English ceramic Queensware mug that belonged to Sgt. William Downes of the 1st Delaware Cavalry. Ahl had formed a heavy artillery battery made up of “galvanized” Yankees, the name given to Confederate prisoners who took the oath of allegiance and joined the Union army. Downes was with his regiment that fought against the Confederate cavalry of “Jeb” Stuart at Westminster, Maryland in June 1863.

In addition, men of the 4th United States Colored Troops are featured in an enlarged period photograph. This unit was raised in Maryland, and included African-Americans from Delaware. The 4th USCT lost 102 men killed in battle, and 186 men to disease. Four Medals of Honor were awarded to members of the regiment.

This exhibit can be seen at the Delaware Public Archives located on Court Street in Dover, directly across from Legislative Hall. Hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 4:15 pm, and the second Saturday of the month 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. Closed Sundays and state holidays. For information, call (302) 744-5000.

Thomas J. Ryan is a Civil War author and speaker and former president of the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table in Dover. He lives in Bethany Beach. Contact him at pennmardel@mchsi.com.