Civil War Profiles: ‘Dead heroes’ of the 2nd Delaware

Date Published: 
July 25, 2014

After the outbreak of hostilities between the states in 1861, authorities in Washington soon acknowledged that the war would last longer than originally believed. Consequently, they called for men to join the Union army for a three-year enlistment.

Cyrus H. Forwood of Brandywine Hundred mustered in at age 25, with the 2nd Delaware Regiment, on June 12, 1861. The Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware Government Information Center collaborated in a Civil War Sesquicentennial project that began in May 2011, documenting Forwood’s service (http://cyrusforwood.blogs.delaware.gov/).

These organizations selected Forwood because he kept a diary for part of the war and was a letter-writer — some of which have survived. The diary and letters “provide insight into the life of a Delaware soldier in the Civil War” and were notable because “relatively few contemporary records survived from other Delaware soldiers.”

Forwood’s writings “capture the tedium of the daily life of a soldier ... the frequency with which illnesses struck the troops, his frustrations with obtaining medical care, and the excitement and trepidation that came with a battle.” He fought with the 2nd Delaware during the “Seven Days” battles near Richmond in June and July 1862.

Falling victim to typhus, Forwood missed the fighting at Antietam in September and, returning to duty, survived the slaughter of Union soldiers that took place at Fredericksburg in December. He was among the 45,000 casualties, however, in July 1863 at Gettysburg, where he suffered a leg wound.

Cyrus had served two years and 11 months of his three-year enlistment in May 1864, when he was killed in action during the fighting at Spotsylvania Courthouse’s “Bloody Angle.” A bullet struck him in the bowels, and he died a few days later in a nearby hospital tent.

In his history of the 2nd Delaware, John E. Pickett states that, at Spotsylvania, the 2nd Delaware had two officers and four men killed, one officer and 23 enlisted men wounded, and 11 enlisted men were captured or missing. The two officers killed were Lt. Col. David L. Stricker, a resident of Dover, and the well-respected Capt. John Evans from New Castle.

Stricker commanded the 2nd Delaware at Gettysburg “with great courage and address, beating back the enemy” as the brigade was withdrawing from a difficult situation. At the time of his death at Spotsylvania, he had moved on to command of the 53rd Pennsylvania Regiment.

On May 25 of this year, in recognition of Stricker, a memorial service featuring the laying of wreaths and a three-volley salute was held at the Old Methodist Cemetery in Dover. The Col. David L. Stricker Camp #64, the Sons of Union Veterans, the 2nd Delaware re-enactment group, the Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware Heritage Commission jointly organized this event.

According to Sean Protas, writing in the online TOCWOC Civil War blog (http://www.brettschulte.net/
CWBlog/2011/09/16/biography-of-capt-john-evans-co-a-2nd-delaware-infantry/), Forwood commented in a letter home that Evans “is one of our best officers. … I predict for him a brilliant future if he remains in the Army.” He described Evans “as near like a rock as man can be, no matter how near him a shell may burst he will scarce look around toward it.” Two months before his death on the battlefield, Evans took leave to marry Maggie Stroup of New Castle County.

Pickett relates that brigade commander Brig. Gen. John Brooke cited the 2nd Delaware for “marked services and courage” at Spotsylvania during fighting along the Po River. This included an attack on the Confederate entrenchments “using clubbed muskets and the bayonet to quickly subdue the defenders.”

The DPA/DGIC project quotes the Delaware State Journal and Statesman the day following the battle at Spotsylvania in which these brave men of the 2nd Delaware succumbed:

“In the pending battles Delaware’s brave sons are and have been in the forefront of danger, and where the conflict rages most fearfully, there may be found the wounded, the dying and the dead heroes of our loyal and patriotic little Commonwealth.”

Bethany Beach resident Thomas J. Ryan is the author of “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War” (available at Bethany Beach Books or from www.tomryan-civilwar.com). Contact him at pennmardel@mchsi.com.