The Delaware National Guard, Post Civil War Brig. Gen. Kennard R. Wiggins Jr. (DE ANG Ret.) Kennard.email@example.com
Although there were many recent military veterans in Delaware, the war-weary populace had little want, nor need for a militia following the Civil War. Divided as always as a border state, in Delaware, particularly downstate, there was little support for the federal occupation of the former confederacy. As a consequence, it was hard to find much enthusiasm for another military organization immediately after the war among the populace as a whole. Nevertheless a certain longing remained among the veterans and young men too young to have served, for the days in camp among the “band of brothers.” This romantic thread certainly existed almost from the beginnings of the nation, and survives even today as a recruiting element. Witness the surge in recruiting immediately after Pearl Harbor, or 9/11 as a patriotic gesture.
A military revival began in this period resulting from fading memories of the Civil War among veterans. Manliness, fitness, duty and discipline were the values the National Guard promised to serve. These idealized notions dovetailed nicely with the formalized desire to extend the militia tradition based upon Constitutional law and the original Militia Act of 1792.
Service in the National Guard was also an opportunity to “network” in a social and fraternal organization. It provided a route for the politically ambitious to demonstrate their leadership qualities and make a show of their patriotic virtues. Company grade officers were elected by the men. Field Grade officers were usually elected by company grade officers. It behooved officers to win their support, although this system often led to political opportunism and personality clashes. Guard units were composed of “the best young men in the city, socially and professionally” according to William Riker in his history, “Soldiers of the States”. They were also drawn to the marksmanship programs offered by the Guard. In that day, marksmanship was definitely a military virtue, but it had an appeal to sportsmen as well. There was a close relationship between the National Guard and the National Rifle Association (founded in 1871 by New York Guardsmen) sponsoring matches and competitions. As a social institution, the militia was characterized by interesting uniforms as well.
First Zouve Regiment
The first recorded post Civil War militia organization in Delaware was the company of volunteers organized as Company “A”, First Zouave Regiment in Wilmington, formed in 1869. It was probably an organization based upon romantic nostalgia and fancy uniforms than military efficiency. Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War. The chief distinguishing characteristics of such units were the zouave uniform, which included short open-fronted jackets, baggy trousers and often sashes and oriental headgear. The Delaware First Zouave’s were renamed Smyth’s Zouave in honor of Wilmingtonian Major General Thomas Alford Smyth, the last Union general killed during the Civil War, shortly before Appomattox. More ceremonial and fraternal than military utility, this unit received almost no support from the state, and by 1875 was moribund.
In 1874, local members of the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America, a quasi-Masonic fraternal society, initiated a militia in Wilmington. They sought legislative support for their organization through the Delaware General Assembly. A committee of men including Jack Edwards, George McKee and Thomas Appleby were appointed to lead this initiative. Thomas Appleby, in particular, must have been influential, as his writings on the topic led to the formation of a military company called the “American Rifles”, arousing interest in other companies and bringing the topic of Militia law before the legislature. The American Rifles began regular drills as other companies began to form. A second Wilmington Company was established, as well as one in Milford led by Theodore Townsend, and one in Georgetown commanded by Judge William H. Boyce.
A “Military Revival”
Enthusiasm for a militia was also fueled by the great Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Samuel M. Wood, the First Sergeant of the unit made efforts to reorganize it by soliciting private funds to finance a uniformed military company to represent Delaware at the Philadelphia Exposition. He was elected captain of the unit known as the “American Rifles” in the autumn of 1875. This organization still exists today as a ceremonial unit known officially as the 1st Delaware Regiment (American Rifles) Headquarters, 198th Signal Battalion, Delaware National Guard. It is a member of The Centennial Legion of Historical Military Commands, comprised of units representing the original thirteen colonies, which was originally organized on July 4th, 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Fair.
This wave of patriotic enthusiasm spawned other units to form. The Wilmington German-American community organized a German Military Company “B” and the citizens of Dover founded Company C, the State Capital Guard. Another Wilmington Company was formed as Company “D”, the “National Rifles”. However, by the summer of 1877 the patriotic fever had passed, and only Company “A” and a paper company “B” remained active.
America suffered the greatest financial panic and depression it had endured up to that time in 1873. This sowed the seeds of social unrest resulting in a great Railroad Strike in 1877, shocking the nation as wages were cut by 10% and all rail traffic was halted on the Pennsylvania and B&O rail lines, particularly impacting the Mid Atlantic states. There were violent civil riots, arson and mob action. South Pittsburgh burned and 40 people perished. Police and militia were called to suppress the strike and restore civil order. In two months, eleven states had used 45,000 militia soldiers for the control of domestic unrest. The volunteer militia of the states became viewed as an important keeper of the peace in industrial America. They became an “industrial constabulary” in the words of Jerry Cooper in “The Rise of the National Guard.”
Delaware renewed public support for their militia as a result of these events. In 1877, Captain Samuel A. Macallister, a Civil War veteran of the First Delaware Regiment revived the third Wilmington unit into Company “C”, known as the “DuPont Guards” in honor of Colonel Henry A. duPont, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient. A case was now made evident for a stronger, more effective militia.
The Wilmington Journal Every Evening editorialized on the spirit of the times: “Recent events have…thoroughly demonstrated the necessity of maintaining in each state an efficient militia…They ought to be equipped , as well as armed, by the state and good drill rooms be furnished them, and for a reasonable length of time each summer they should go into camp at the state’s expense.” The newspaper called on the public to support militia companies with contributions pending the time when the state would uniform and equip units. In addition, the Wilmington newspapers actively promoted marksmanship and military training by offering awards to outstanding units and individuals.
The Northeastern states maintained the largest volunteer militia forces in the antebellum years, and would again raise the highest numbers in the industrialized post – Civil War years with corresponding financial support. Delaware, however, was the exception. It all but abandoned its militia by abolishing obligatory service in 1816 after the War of 1812. New York and Pennsylvania dominated the National Guard in the Northeast, while in 1873 Delaware reported no soldiery at all. Legislative support for empowering legislation and appropriate resources was almost non-existent in Delaware at that time, despite the editorials.
National Guard Association
A group of state military officers met in 1878 in St. Louis, Missouri, to create the National Guard Association (NGA). Their stated purpose was to provide united representation before the Congress with the aim of increasing the value and efficiency of the National Guard. Specifically, their aim was to see that the citizen military force created by the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 16) to repel invasion, suppress insurrection and enforce the laws of the United States was manned, trained, equipped and ready when called upon.
Many of the officers who participated in that historic meeting had served on active service in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Their first efforts were directed at reforming the Militia Act of 1792, the basic law governing the operations of the Guard. Many of the provisions of the act were out of date less than a century after its promulgation. For instance, it required each militia man to provide himself with a musket or firelock. Obviously obsolete, the members of the NGA wanted a law that would more effectively direct and support their efforts.
These officers, through this organization, sought a more professional National Guard which could be relied upon to do more than act as “strikebreakers” and quell civil unrest. The Guard began to get a negative reputation that began to effect recruiting –especially among union members and their families. Guard officers wanted to de-emphasize that unpleasant mission, and to stress their military role in defending the country. They had confidence that proper training, inspections, discipline and equipment would result from providing adequate resources to the Guard. Their first success was in 1887 when they were able to see Congress double the annual appropriation for Guard arms and equipment to $400,000. The Guard at this time was supported by the War Department which was in harmony, seeking a stronger National Guard. However, support was not forthcoming from a congress which at the time was dominated by anti-militarist southern states opposition to anything smacking of national standards applied to the individual states.
James Park Postles
In 1879 James Parke Postles was appointed Adjutant General for Delaware. Postles was also a Medal of Honor recipient and Civil War veteran. When he took office the state militia consisted of 134 men, of these, 51 were honorary colonels and generals on the governor’s staff. There remained 56 privates and 27 officers and non-coms filling out the two remaining active infantry companies (“A” and “C” of Wilmington). Postles reported 240 breech-loading Springfield Rifle Muskets, caliber .50, and 120 breech- loading Springfield rifle muskets caliber.45 with corresponding accoutrements. He cited an unspent balance of $18,430.66 to the credit of the State from the annual appropriation by Congress for the support of the militia for arms, ammunition, and accoutrements.
Postles found almost no records of the past, no laws governing the militia, and no organization. The lack of records made it nearly impossible for Postles to address the concerns of widows and pensioners of the recent Civil War in making claims, not to mention in compiling a record for posterity of the gallant service given by companies from Delaware. Postles petitioned the Adjutant General U.S.A. on behalf of the state but was unsuccessful due to a lack of adequate clerical force at that agency. Postles was eventually successful in compiling partial to complete records of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Infantry Regiments, the 1st Cavalry Regiment, and Nields Battery Light Artillery. But no records were forthcoming on the other organizations to have served from Delaware during the Civil War.
Seven years later, Postles wrote of his continuing and constant frustration with the lack of proper records. Members of the 5th and 6th Regiments, for whom he had no records, sought back pay and certificates of service, copied from rolls in lieu of lost discharges, for which he was unable to provide. He complained that he was being petitioned by a veteran of the bombardment of Lewes, from the War of 1812 seeking similar documentation. His successor made the same plea for records.
In General Postles December 1880 report to the Governor, he noted a Regimental organization of some four companies of infantry “A”, Wilmington, “B”, Milford, “C”, Wilmington, and “D”, Dover, with a new one “E” being formed in Kent County.
New Delaware Militia Law
His appointment marked a new turn of events. Under his leadership, a new state militia law was enacted that provided the basis towards adequate state support for the Delaware National Guard for the first time since the Civil War. Postles wrote, “Our people have ever been jealous of the maintenance of a large standing army by the General government, deeming such a force a menace to their liberties, and have preferred to depend upon the love and loyalty of the people to come to the defense of the country in time of need. It requires no argument to show how lame a dependence this would be, when the necessity arose, if the people of the States were without military organization training or knowledge. The inadequacy of our present laws to provide such organization, training and maintenance is amply proved by past experience”. He added, “I would earnestly urge the adoption of a militia law which shall provide for the enrollment of all citizens subject to military duty into what shall be known as the Militia reserve, to be called into service only in great public emergencies, and when the Active Militia shall prove insufficient.”
Postles then went on to describe in some detail the features of a Militia law that he deemed important. “It would provide a code of regulations for the government, drill and discipline of such a force, and for regular and systematic reports from same, and for regular inspections of same to determine its condition.” His bill would establish a uniform dress for all troops of the State and should appropriate a moderate sum (say $5) annually to each active member of a volunteer militia company for the said purpose of providing said uniforms, as well as rent for armories and drill halls.
In subsequent reports, Postles also asked for tents and camp equipage and funding for an annual field maneuver, as well as a fire proof building to be used as an arsenal of arms and ammunition.
The First Delaware Regiment had the opportunity to showcase its progress during the Centennial celebration of Cornwallis’s defeat at Yorktown Virginia, when the entire Regiment of eight companies passed in review on October 18, 1881. The commander (Samuel Macallister) averred that it had “attained a degree of efficiency that fully qualified it fro active service in the field had occasion required it.”
A New Name, Corporate Organization
In 1883 the term the “National Guard of Delaware” was officially changed from the “Delaware Volunteer Militia”. This name change also signaled that the organization was no longer a disparate collection of individual volunteer units. Postles leadership led to the formation of a truly statewide system, consolidating all the Delaware units into one cohesive corporate military organization throughout all three counties. General Postles should be regarded as the founder of the modern Delaware National Guard.
More companies were soon formed: Company “F”, at Wilmington known as Postle’s Rifles, in tribute to the Adjutant General, was formed by the Irish American community. This unit was General Smyth’s old original command.
Company “G”, at Georgetown was reactivated,
Company “B” at Milford, known as the Torbet Guards, formed just in time to serve in the funeral services of General A.T.A. Torbet, a Milford native who had distinguished himself during the Civil War and later in diplomatic service. It was commanded by Captain George. W. Marshall
Company “D” at Dover, commanded by R..R. Kenney
Company “E” commanded by Captain Percy Fowler, in Wyoming, Kent County although it was short- lived, and disbanded for lack of numbers.
Companies “B”,”D”, and “E” comprised the Second Battalion of the First Regiment Delaware Volunteer Militia
In the later 1880’s the Delaware National Guard added: Company “H”, at New Castle , in June 1887, electing Captain George W. Eckles, First Lt. Frank E. Sharpless, and 2nd Lt James B. Lancaster as Company officers Troop “A”, First Delaware Cavalry at Laurel and Troop “B”, First Delaware Cavalry at Wilmington were formed in June 1887. The two troops of cavalry were later converted to infantry units forming Companies “I”, and “K”.
In his 1885 report to the governor, Postles reported six companies total which had, “perfected themselves in drill and discipline and have uniformed themselves almost entirely at their own expense. I do not know that the general condition of the force can be much improved as to members and efficiency under existing circumstances. I have long felt the importance and necessity of maintaining a force of sufficient numbers, completely organized, drilled and equipped to meet any temporary emergency that might arise. It would seem the logic of recent events in some of our sister states should have made the necessity of such a force apparent to all. ” By the mid -1880s Delaware was apportioning only $197 per year to each of its six companies to cover all unit expenses, lagging far behind its neighbors.
New York Deployment
On April 29-30, 1889 the entire Delaware Regiment was present in New York City for the centennial celebration of the inauguration of George Washington. In observance of the occasion President Benjamin Harrison followed the itinerary of one hundred years before, from the Governor's mansion in New Jersey to the foot of Wall Street, in New York City, to old Saint Paul's Church, on Broadway, and to the site where the first Chief Magistrate first took the oath of office, before one million spectators. There were three days of naval, military, and industrial parades, with music, oratory, pageantry, and festivities. The Regiment took part in the military parade along with 30,000 Guardsmen from all over the country, the largest military force assembled since the Civil War.
Armories, Equipment, Encampments
Company “B” 1st infantry Regiment, Milford was the first to build an armory, purchasing a lot and erecting a structure in 1889. In March 1890, Company “D”, in Dover contracted for a building on the principal business street in town, remodeling the structure for the sum of $500 contributed by Colonel E.T. Cooper for whom the building was named. Troop “B”, First Cavalry of Wilmington secured an armory for $13,000 through the efforts of Capt. E.L. Rice, Jr. at 12th and Orange Streets.
Postles reported adequate arms, but inadequate ammunition stores primarily for want of a safe place to store it and argued for a State arsenal for this purpose. He also reported the arrival of a Gatling gun representing the latest in technology assigned to Company “A” in Wilmington.
General Postles and his successor organized the first state-wide summer encampments held between 1887 and 1890 at Rehoboth and Brandywine Springs. Over 2000 soldiers from across the state were trained at these events. The 1890 camp was attended by a battalion of Delaware College cadets acting as a battalion of artillery adding much to the encampment. Before 1877 only two other states had held summer encampments. Delaware joined a wave of other states that began summer training, maintaining camp grounds and encampments during the following decade.
According to Delaware journalist, William Frank, these first encampments were not without their controversy however. Adjutant General Kenney ordered Colonel J.C.Wod, commander of the First Delaware Regiment to make a survey of possible sites. Colonel Wood recommended Brandywine Springs as large enough, near population, near Wilmington, near supplies and citizens could visit to observe the drills. His recommendation was rejected by General Kenney, who chose Rehoboth Beach. In 1887 Rehoboth was a primitive place, only a religious camp meeting place with mosquitoes, sand flies as thick as "Egypt's ills" but it had the advantage of ocean bathing. Colonel Woods was outraged and made no bones about it. Lt. Col. A.R. Boyle of Dover, second in command favored a downstate location at Rehoboth Beach. Colonel Wood was furious and on the border of insubordination. Governor Benjamin T. Biggs settled the matter when he chose Rehoboth Beach in 1887.
One officer complained, "If we go to Rehoboth we'll get nothing to eat bu tcrabs and fish. We go to Rehoboth so that some investors can get some money out of it." the men were stuck out on a 75 acre tract with all the flies adn mosquitoes. General Kenney had his quarters at the old Henlopen Hotel, and the officers were quartered in the Bright House.
The following three years, (1888-1890) the camp was moved to Brandywine Springs, so a lesson may have been learned. In August 1890 a particularly raucous encampment was held with Troop B, First Delaware Cavalry commanded by Major Edward L. Rice Jr. in attendance. Governor Biggs was also in attendance. After taps on one occasion, general hilarity and confusion prevailed. A large crowd of civilians and soldiers gathered around the field pieces of the artillery unit and began to "caterwaul". One fellow started to shriek, "Waterloo" which was the countersign to a sentry challenge. This angered General Kenney, who revoked the countersign and spread the word that the new countersign would be "Gettysburg". This created much confusion as straggler after straggler came into camp and gave the old countersign that had been revoked. Things didn't settle down until the wee hours of the morning.
A very hot day dawned and Surgeon Marshall informed General Kenney that a dress parade would be a disaster. But somehow orders got mixed up and the drill call sounded at 4 PM. Once the regiment was formed up on the parade ground the recall was sounded. the men stood unsure of what to do. Marshall was on horseback and rode to headquarters to find out what the problem was. He learned of the mix-up and galloped out to the parade ground and told the men there would be no parade. He got all the applause at General Kenney's expense.
In the meantime, two fifers, Barnett and Ross were arrested during the evening for attempting to pass two maidens through the lines. They were taken to headquarters, and after a superfluent flow of tears, they were dismissed with reprimands. The attentive press of the day reported that Company A will have a chicken pot pie tomorrow and clam chowder today, and that Mrs. Irwin Seeds, wife of Private Seeds of Company A is stopping at the hotel. Company I had fun running around the camp and throwing their fellow comrades in a blanket, drawing large crowds and much amusement. Lt. Brown is suffering from a sever cold contracted while in camp.
The shenanigans of camp life produced a backlash among the public and the general assembly. The Farmers Institute opposed further camps and questioned the morals of the young men. A Mr. Eisenbrey said a mother told him that she would rather see her sons in a graveyard than in the military. There were charges of drunkenness and wagons of whiskey carted away. Bishop Leighton Coleman had written about the good character of their youth ruined as a result of these camps. A countercharge surfaced that the liquor originated in adjoining farms by profiteers.
Support falters once again
Postles had retired by 1887 after he had built a strong foundation for the Delaware National Guard. However, the cyclical wavering level of support offered by the State and it s citizens soon had its effects on the Delaware Guard. In 1890, the law authorizing (and funding) these camps was repealed. The legislature balked at the expense of funding an annual encampment, about $7-9 thousand at that time. But the camp experience was not forgotten by the officers and men and would lead to a revival in the next century.
Postle’s successor as Adjutant General, General Richard R. Kenney made an impassioned case for restoration of the funding for encampments. He cited the state’s annual share of the federal monies meant to arm and equip the militia and the unspent balance that had accumulated over the years amounting to $28,696.76 along with the simple interest accumulated. The State claimed these federal funds, but had evidently placed them into the general fund where the monies were expended on school maintenance, building railroads and erecting public structures. Yet the National Guard had been condemned for spending state funds for its encampments. He noted that every single state in the union maintained a National Guard and he compared their annual costs per soldier demonstrating that Delaware ($22.28) was among the bottom tier. Kenney concluded by quoting The Art of War, by Baron Henri de Jomini: ”Misfortune will certainly fall upon the land where the wealth of the tax-gatherer or the greedy gambler in stocks stands, in public estimation, above the uniform of the brave man who sacrifices his life health, or fortune in the defense of his country.”
In 1891, the organization reported 557 officers and enlisted men in one regiment (eight companies) of infantry and one squadron of cavalry (two troops). By 1895, on paper Delaware maintained one Regiment of eight companies, but attendance at regular drills was far below standards. There were insufficient funds for field exercises or for target practice. Troop B of cavalry and Company G Infantry were disbanded. Companies A and C were also disbanded but reorganized owing to the zeal and energy of General Hart and Lt. Col. Simpson. The State provided annual funds of some $2400 which of necessity, required subsidies from the individual members of the companies to cover expenses.
An arsenal and armory was acquired by the State at Twelfth and Orange Streets in Wilmington, although it had a leaky roof, falling plaster and poor workmanship. It was unsecured, and subject to theft. The State arsenal’s annual maintenance was about $600 shared by three companies in the city.
The Adjutant General in 1895, Samuel A. Macallister recommended that monies be appropriated to support the annual requirement of the State to inspect the organization. Macallister was a veteran of the Civil War and was beside General Thomas A. Smythe, on whose staff he served, when that officer was struck down on April 7, 1865. Macallister had been wounded at Fredericksburg and Bristoe Station.
Macallister further requested funds for field exercises, travel, and target practice. Macallister also addressed the issue of what we now call Employer Support and sought legislation that would make it a penal offense to discharge an officer or soldier from his civilian position for the execution of his military duties. He sought excusal for his men from jury duty. And he called for frequent drills and attendance enforcement powers with monthly inspections. He requested a reasonable wage for the Adjutant General ($1200) and other officers. Without proper recompense, for the serious duties required the officers were in danger of becoming mere “ornaments” of no use in an actual fight, “exciting ridicule and distain for the veteran guardsman.”
It is striking that the things we now take for granted as necessary for an effective and disciplined force were only won after a hard and long fight by the leadership of the Delaware National Guard. Often accused of amateurism and under the influence of petty politics, the institution that is today’s National Guard has had to struggle to gain its own measure of professionalism and proficiency in the face of obstruction by those for whom it is sworn to defend in the government, and occasionally even among the professional warrior class.
As the country began to prepare itself for the hostilities of the Spanish-American War the Delaware National Guard was once again in declining health from lack of support from its citizens and government. General Macallister appealed to the legislature’s sense of honor, and the patriotism of its citizens, to provide a “highly disciplined and efficient military force of such strength as might be necessary in any emergency.” His words were to be prophetic when the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor.
Biennial Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Delaware, 1880 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Delaware, 1883-1884 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Delaware, 1885-1886 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Delaware, 1895 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Delaware, 1898 Bricktop, “Joining the Militia, or the Comic Adventures of a Recruit”, Illustrated by Thomas Worth, J. B. Collin Publisher, 1884, New York Cooper, Jerry, “The Rise of the National Guard” University of Nebraska Press, 1997 Derthick, Martha, “The National Guard in Politics”, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 1965 Devine, Donn, Captain Artillery, Delaware National Guard, “The Delaware National Guard, A Historical Sketch”, Paperbound 48 pp.,The Adjutant Generals Office 1968 Doubler, Michael D. “I am the Guard, A History of the Army National Guard, 1636-2000, Department of the Army, US GPO 2001 Frank, William, Address at dedication of Delaware Army National Guard S.B.I. Duncan Armory, 7 December, 1975 Hill, Jim Dan, “The Minuteman in Peace and War”, Stackpole Books, 1964 Mahon, John K. “History of the Militia and the National Guard”, MacMillan, New York, 1983 Riker, William H. “Soldiers of the States”, Arno Press, New York, 1979
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Delaware Army National Guard The Delaware National Guard traces its roots to 1655, when the Swedish Colonial government formed a militia to defend itself. That tradition carried through Dutch and then English control of the colony. The militia served in all five French and Indian Wars and then distinguished itself during the Revolutionary War as the First Delaware Regiment of the Continental Army, earning its "Blue Hen" nickname. The Delaware militia continued to serve in every major war, and currently it remains in the forefront. Images of America: Delaware Army National Guard presents images of this fabled organization that survived from the Spanish-American War to the present. The people, places, equipment, and facilities of the Delaware National Guard are illustrated in this compilation of historic photographs from the collection of the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation.