Delaware, especially considering its small size, provided a large number of fighting men to the Union cause during the American Civil War. The best sources within the State archives indicate that there were 11,236 white soldiers, 94 sailors and marine and a total of 954 black soldiers from the First State. That makes a grand total of 12,284 Delawareans who fought for the Union out of total state population (male and female) of about 110,000 total according to the 1860 census. This number includes all branches of service...artillery infantry, cavalry along with the marines and sailors.
Second Regiment, Delaware Volunteers - Shortly after that first call to arms, when the more serious nature of the war began to show itself, there was a second call, this time for 300,000 three year men. The Second Regiment Delaware Volunteers - The Crazy Delawares - was the state's response to this call. They were mustered in on May 21, 1861 under Colonel W. H. Wharton and Lt. Col. William P. Bailey. In order to respond as rapidly as they did (and thus filling the state's second quota) four companies were recruited from nearby counties in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Companies B, D and G were from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Company C was from Elkton, Maryland. The Second Delaware mustered in with 33 officers and 805 men. The Crazy Delawares fought in all the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. The mustering out took place between July 1st and October 1st of 1864. This was due to the late addition of the last four companies to the regiment in October of 1861 . In the fall of 1864, most of the surviving members of the First and Second Delaware Regiments reenlisted for "...the duration of the war." The men from these two well-blooded regiments were mustered in as the First Delaware Veteran Volunteer Infantry. (above courtesy of) John E. Pickett,III. 'FIRST STATE REGIMENTS' / Delaware's Manpower Contribution to the Union in the Civil War.
Organized at Wilmington, Del., June 12 to October 7, 1861. Moved to Baltimore, Md., October, 1861. Attached to Dix's Command until June, 1862. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to April, 1863. 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Army Corps, to June, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, to July, 1864.
SERVICE.--Duty at Baltimore, Md., until June, 1862. Expedition through Accomac County November 14-22, 1861. Ordered to Join Army of the Potomac, on the Peninsula, Va., June, 1862. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Savage Station June 27. Battle of Gaines Mill June 27. Peach Orchard and Savage Station June 29. White Oak Swamp and Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing to August 16. Movement to Fortress Monroe, thence Centreville, August 16-30. Cover Pope's retreat from Bull Run August 31-September 2. Maryland Campaign September 6-22. Sharpsburg September 15. Battle of Antietam September 16-17. Moved to Harper's Ferry September 22, and duty there until October 30. Reconnaissance to Charlestown October 16-17. Advance up Loudon Valley and movement to Falmouth Va., October 30-November 17. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15. At Falmouth, Va., until April 27, 1863. "Mud March" January 20-24. Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5. Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 11-July 24. Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3. Pursuit of Lee to Manassas Gap, Va., July 5-24. Duty on line of the Rappahannock and Rapidan until October. Advance from line of the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17. Bristoe Campaign October 9-22. Auburn and Bristoe October 14. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. New Hope Church November 29. Mine Run November 28-30. At and near Stevensburg until May, 1864. Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7. Campaign from the Rapidan to the James May 3-June 15. Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7. Spotsylvania May 8-12. Po River May 10. Spotsylvania Court House May 12-21. Assault on the Salient "Bloody Angle" May 12. North Anna River May 23-26. On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28. Totopotomoy May 28-31. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Before Petersburg June 16-July 1. Jerusalem Plank Road, Weldon R. R., June 22-23. Mustered out July I, 1864, expiration of term. Veterans and Recruits transferred to 1st Delaware Infantry.
Demonstration North of the James July 27-29. Deep Bottom July 27-28. Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30 (Reserve). Demonstration North of the James August 13-20. Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, August 14-18. Ream's Station August 25. Yellow House October 1-5. Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28, Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865. Watkins' House March 25. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Boydton Road and White Oak Ridge March 29-31. Crow's House March 31. Fall of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Sailor's Creek April 6. High Bridge, Farmville, April 7. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. At Burkesville until May 2. March to Washington, D.C., May 2-12. Grand review May 23. At Washington, D.C., until July. Mustered out July 12, 1865.
Regiment lost during service 6 Officers and 93 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 101 Enlisted men by disease. Total 201.
‘The Crazy Delawares’ didn’t know when to Retreat
Famous Fighting Units
THEIR reckless bravery at the battle of Antietam gained the 2nd Delaware Regiment the sobriquet, “The Crazy Delawares”. The men of the New York regiments, with which they were brigaded, christened the 2nd Delaware thus. Some have been so unkind as to say there were other reasons for this nickname for this highly unusual regiment. Regardless of the reason, by Jan. 13, 1863, the New York Times reported that all veterans of the Army of the Potomac knew it by that name.
At Antietam the 2nd Delaware was part of Brooke’s Brigade of Richardson’s division of Sumter’s corps. When Richardson charged the Confederate positions on the Sunken Road, it was one of the Union regiments that broke the Rebel front and advanced to the Piper house.
There it changed front and with the 52nd New York flanked the Confederates until only Miller’s Battery of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, defended by about 150 infantry, stood between them. The 2nd Delaware, with a roaring cheer, prepared to charge this last force that could keep Lee’s army from being cut in two. Then, as they started to take off, Adjutant Charles P. Hatch appeared on the field with orders for them to retire. They objected strenuously, but Hatch said Richardson, the divisional commander, had been killed and the withdrawal orders came directly from McClellan. So with a victory in their grasp the men retreated slowly, taking with them the colors of the 16th Mississippi which they had captured in their dash on the Piper house.
LONGSTREET in his ‘From Manassas to Appomattox’ says that only Miller’s Battery prevented two of Brooke’s regiments from cutting his line at this point and that Miller’s gunners were so badly cut up by the fire of these regiments that his own staff officers jumped to their assistance. Miller himself is reported to have said that he could not understand why the charge on his battery was checked at the last moment as it seemed certain of success.
Anyway, the 2nd Delaware was so reluctant and so slow in following the orders to retreat that the men were loudly cheered by the other Union troops.
“You were crazy not to get out of there as soon as you could,” some of the New Yorkers who had retreated earlier are said to have shouted to them.
The regimental commander, Col. H.W. Wharton, had resigned only a short time before and Maj. Robert Andrews was not with the regiment, so the 2nd Delaware had fought without field officers. Capt. Daniel L. Stricker of Co A filed the report for the regiment and was so modest that he drew considerable heckling from the men.
The men of the 2nd Delaware never felt they got full credit for what they did even though later they rated a special feature story in the New York Times. But the men of Company K were especially publicity conscious, for many of them were newspapermen from Wilmington.
The 2nd Delaware was one of the few regiments which had its own newspaper. Called the’ Regimental Flag’ , it was published by Capt. Joseph M. Barr, who had a whole staff of reporters, compositors, and pressmen in his company. They put out their paper whenever they were near enough to a print shop , either Union or Confederate, to commandeer the necessary materials.
“The Crazy Delawares” were perhaps not so representative of their conservative state as the other Delaware regiments for the very good reason that three of the companies came from Philadelphia and one from Elkton, Md.
This was the first regiment of volunteer infantry in the state to sign up for three years service. Its regimental organization dated from May 21, 1861, but Delaware was a border state and, after those first six companies were formed, it looked as if no others would join. Moreover, the Democratic Governor, William H. Burton, had said that regiments could be formed in Delaware to serve in the Federal Army, but the state would not aid in their organization in any way. The men were anxious to get to the front so they agreed to accept companies from other states. The Pennsylvania and Maryland outfits comprised men who were organized and ready to go, but who could not find regiments in their own states to accept them.
The regiment left Camp Brandywine near Wilmington on Sept. 17, 1861, just a year before it was to gain its nickname. During that fall the men helped subjugate the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but this entailed no fighting. In March, 1862, they were transferred to Baltimore for garrison duty.
Their active service began as a part of French’s brigade when they joined the Army of the Potomac just after the battle of Fair Oaks. They went all through the Seven Days battles around Richmond without seeing much action. Their losses were only two men killed and two wounded.
After their great day at Antietam the regiment had a quiet time until Fredericksburg, when it led the charge of Zook’s brigade on the Confederate works. The Crazy Delawares succeeded in getting closer to the Confederate works than any other outfit in the brigade. They are reported to have yelled as loudly as any of the Rebels, which may have been another reason why their nickname became even better known after the battle. In it their new colonel, William P. Bailey, was wounded by a shell fragment, but he recovered in time to lead the regiment again at Chancellorsville.
There the regiment saw some hot fighting, but gained principal mention because of the way in which some of the officers and men carried the wounded from the Chancellor house while it was under heavy artillery fire and already ablaze.
AT GETTYSBURG the Crazy Delawares’ big day came on July 2 when they were in the midst of the fight in The Wheatfield. At one time they led a whooping counterattack on the Confederates which forced them back, but only momentarily. They fought stubbornly during the rest of the afternoon and ended up at the foot of Little Round Top.
On July 3, when the men heard of the defeat of Pickett’s Charge, Capt. John Evans of Company A led a little charge of his own with a part of the line of the 2nd Delaware and succeeded in capturing more Confederates before nightfall than he had men under his command.
That fall, Colonel Bailey being disabled, Maj. D. L. Stricker was promoted to Lt. Colonel and Capt. B. F. Ricketts of Elkton, Md., to Major. They won some mention in reports for good service at Bristoe Station and Mine Run.
The regiment missed the Battle of the Wilderness, but was practically wiped out at Spotsylvania where it took part in Hancock’s early attack on the Mule Shoe salient and then withstood the Confederate counterattacks. Colonel Stricker was killed and Captain Evans of Gettysburg fame was mortally wounded. The regiment was reduced to so few men that those who were left were attached to the 1st Delaware Regiment until July 1, 1864, when their three years enlistment having run out, most of the men were returned to Wilmington to be mustered out. Remnants of Co K remained in service until October.
Major Peter McCullough succeeded Colonel Stricker as Lt. Colonel and continued to fight after the regiment had been split up. He was wounded and left for dead on the field at Petersburg in June, 1864, but was found still living some time later and eventually recovered.
THE CRAZY DELAWARES were an argumentative lot. They resented their designation as the 2d Delaware Regiment when they had been the first to sign for three years. The 1st Delaware was a 90-day outfit. When, at the end of the 90 days, most of them signed up for three years, they were allowed to keep the 1st Delaware name, but the 2d always insisted the 1st should have been designated as the 3d Delaware.
Many of the men from Wilmington were of Irish descent. They engaged in fist fights in camp when there was no fighting to be done on the battlefield. Although the men from the three states got along rather well together the Wilmington Irish occasionally had their differences with the Germans from Philadelphia. None of these misunderstandings was serious enough to deserve severe disciplinary action, but they did provide another reason for calling the men the ‘Crazy Delawares’.
This article was first published in the CWT Illustrated-April, 1962.
This page was last updated: September 28, 2008
(left): Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smyth