The Delaware National Guard in the Spanish American War

Brig Gen. Kennard R. Wiggins, Jr. (DE ANG Ret)

To learn more about the Delaware National Guard, please see Delaware National Guard, Post Civil War.

In 1898 the Delaware National Guard was governed by the amended Militia Act of 1792 and almost
completely funded, organized, and administered by the state government. The amount of funding and
attention state governments gave to their militia varied tremendously. The organization, the
equipment, and the training of units varied from state to state and were not always compatible with
those of the Regular Army.

The mobilization of state military forces for the Spanish-American War in 1898, while much more
effective than the mobilizations of 1846 and 1861, did clearly demonstrate that the Guard was not a
reserve force fit for modern conditions. Under the amended Militia Act of 1792, the President could only
issue a call for troops, with the War Department setting a quota for each state. Delaware’s governor
organized the units with which he answered the President's call, by requesting that National Guard
units volunteer. Individual Guardsmen, however, were under no legal obligation to volunteer, and a
significant number refused either because of fears over how their unit would be treated by the Regular
Army or from concern over hardships that volunteering would impose on their families. Many
Delaware Guardsmen who did volunteer failed their physical examination. To fill units to full strength,
the state recruited enlisted men direct from civil life. As a result, most of the units organized for the war
had a cadre of Guard officers and noncommissioned officers and large numbers of enlisted men with no
prior military training. Federal service revealed that the training of Delaware Guardsmen in all aspects
of military operations was, for the most part, grossly inadequate to the demands of active duty and
extended field operations despite the hurried preparation funded by the General Assembly.

When the Spanish American War broke out in April 1898, all ten companies of the First Delaware
Infantry volunteered for federal service and assembled near Middletown, Delaware. Their
camp was
named for Governor Ebe W. Tunnell.   The Delaware General assembly appropriated $30,000 for
mobilizing, arming and equipping the organization, as well as giving the members the necessary field
training that had been neglected for several years.  The unit mustered into state active service on April
26, 1898 under the command of Colonel I. Pusey Wickersham.  

A field inspection conducted the following day by Lt. Col. Evan G. Boyd, Assistant Inspector General
showed attendance as follows:

                                                                             Officers        Men
Field Staff and non-commissioned Staff                           11                6
Drum Corps, First Regiment Infantry                                                22
Company A, Wilmington, Capt. Harry B. Carter            3                64
Company B, Milford, Capt. Wm. E. Lank                        3                45
Company C, Wilmington, Capt. Albert F. Matlack          3                59
Company E, Wyoming, Capt. Charles A. Garton            3                41
Company F, Wilmington, Capt. John F. Brennan           3                42
Company G, Harrington, Capt. Wm. H. Franklin          3                52
Company H, New Castle, Capt. Edmund E. Rogers        2                55
Company I, Laurel, Capt. J. T. Osborne                          3                52
Company K, Wilmington, Capt. Edwin E. Rutan           3                57
                                           Total                               37                495

Field Officers
Brigadier General Garrett J. Hart,        Adjutant General
Colonel I. Pusey Wickersham, Commander
Lt. Col. Charles M. Stevenson, Executive Officer
Major Theodore Townsend
1 Lt. John M. Dunn, Adjutant
Major James L. France, Surgeon
1 Lt. R.T. J. Barber, Asst. Surgeon
Capt. Robert Pennington, Judge Advocate
1 Lt. Harry V. Bootes, Quartermaster
1 Lt. Charles G. Otwell, Inspector of Rifle Practice
1 Lt. Clarence D. Sypherd, Paymaster
Capt. Francis M. Munson, Chaplain

The First Delaware Infantry Volunteers were mustered into federal service:  9-19 May 1898 at
Middletown, Delaware, and had grown to 47 officers and 969 enlisted men by that date.
After three months wait, the unit was finally ordered early in August to join General Wade's division
in Puerto Rico, but two days later their sail¬ing orders were cancelled and they were sent instead to
Second Army Corps, General William M. Graham commanding, at Camp Meade, near Middletown, Pa.
They were among the first to arrive at this new camp. The unit was then assigned to the Third
Brigade, Second Division, Brigadier General Nelson A. Cole commanding.  Here they remained until
the armistice was declared on August 13.

General Graham was so impressed by the soldierly bearing, good marching, and discipline of the men
that they were chosen by him as the presidential escort of President McKinley on the occasion of his
visit to the camp. The regiment lined the road leading to the camp. As the President passed, the
regiment presented arms and the band played "The President's March."

They were mustered out of service after six months. The two battalions of the regiment were
furloughed officially on September 22, returning to Middletown, Delaware on October 3. After the
thirty day furlough, these battalions were mustered out on November 16 at Wilmington, Delaware.
At the time of muster out, the regiment consisted of forty-three officers and 836 enlisted men. During
its term of service, the regiment lost eight enlisted men to disease (Including one man with the
interesting name of Delaware Richards, of Company I) and had eight more men discharged on
disability. In addition, forty-six men deserted and three were court-martialed.  Including discharges,
141 enlisted men were lost to all causes.

Their disappointment at not seeing action was only partially overcome by their selection as the
outstanding regiment at Camp Meade.  The 1898 biennial report of General Hart, the Adjutant General,
expresses the disappointment: “While the First Delaware was not able to go to the front for service,
they, nevertheless, filled many positions of trust and honor, and it is much to be regretted that this
excellent regiment should have been mustered out of the service in its entirety and largely through the
efforts of parties outside the military arm of the State and against the expressed desire of it s valuable
officers and men.”


Following the release of the regiment from active duty in December 1898, the Sussex County units were
not reorganized, and they remained inactive until World War 1.  The enlisted corps in 1899 was “fully
eighty percent desirous of discharge from the National Guard or unavailable for service.” Company E,
the Wyoming unit was characterized as “fallen into dry rot, caused by apathy of officers in command”
according to Colonel Townsend.  The Infantry Band was mustered out of military service on May 31,
1901 by Governor John Hunn citing “lack of interest and neglect of the men to attend rehearsals.” The
other eight companies, however, were quickly brought up to strength. But they endured a great deal of
turnover as young volunteers discovered that there was little training in the offing due to budget
restraints. All Guardsmen served voluntarily without compensation. In many cases, soldiers paid unit
dues and provided their own uniforms. There was little incentive for men to re-enlist as a result.
The Delaware Regiment was to renew its acquaintance with President McKinley on the occasion of his
second inaugural in 1901. The Delaware Infantry Band and seven companies of infantry composed of
28 officers and 322 men marched in the inaugural parade of March 4, 1901 under the command of
Colonel Theodore Townsend.  The regiment occupied a conspicuous place in the line and was highly
complimented for its soldierly appearance and conduct.

Major General Garrett J. Hart, Adjutant General Delaware.

The eight company regiment at that time was adequate for State purposes. The Federal government
however, repeatedly urged the expansion of the regiment to twelve companies, like regiments of the
Regular Army, but not until 1949 was any extra aid given to the States to help maintain forces larger
than were needed for State purposes. In the 1898 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General, General Hart
requests expansion to twelve companies to conform to the regular army needs, and he asks for an
additional $5000 to fund field practice at least once in every two years.  He mentions a decaying roof at
the State Arsenal (12th and Orange Streets, Wilmington) and invites inspection by the legislature. The
General Assembly, understand¬ably, was unwilling to build new armories to meet purely Federal needs
without some help from the Federal Government.  General Hart’s requests were declined by the

The following report in 1900 cites the “decay” of the Delaware Guard. General Hart asks for an
increased appropriation and an encampment of at least once per year and writes,”the necessity of such
action cannot longer be questioned, if it is the desire of the State to have an efficient military force.  The
neglect of thus schooling the soldier was quickly realized in 1898.  Steps were at once taken to put them
into the field for that training of which they had so long been robbed. Had our troops been ordered at
once to the front, the results no doubt would have been appalling; from the fact they were not
permitted to have any field practice.” Hart goes on to once again request an increased appropriation of
$5000 to fund a field encampment.  As he is retiring from office, he also asks for a $1000 annual salary
for his successor as well as expenses.  He cites the “very humiliating position of representing the State
at his own expense… is not right, and not just.” Hart suggests the formation of a State Committee on
Military Affairs to advise the legislature on the needs of the National Guard. This recommendation was
subsequently acted upon, forming a Board of experienced Officers. This Board recommended an
increase of two companies of Infantry, making a twelve company regiment along with an increased
appropriation sufficient for an annual field training encampment. This goal proved to be impossible to
implement on their limited resources.

Echoing Hart’s dismay, Colonel Grantley Postles, Inspector of Rifle Practice reports, “I regret to again
have to report that owing to lack of State support, and I might add general apathy in the Regiment,
owing in large measure to the State failing to make adequate appropriation for the Guard, the work of
this Department has been practically void.”

Of interest to historians – In his 1900 report, General Hart repeats his plea for historical records. In the
1898 Biennial Report of the Adjutant General he notes the “lack of a complete record of the military
history this State”.  For the Civil war, the records are incomplete, and for the Revolution, War of 1812,
and the Mexican War there are no records at all.  He persistently asked for these records, and once
again requested them for their extreme usefulness.

In 1902 the Delaware National Guard stood at one regiment of infantry composed of seven companies
and a band, numbering 28 officers and 322 enlisted men.  Its kit had improved in the previous two
years, reporting a full complement of equipment for 500 men, with extra equipment and arms for an
additional 150 men stored at the State Arsenal, all supplied by the federal government.  The regiment
had exchanged their Springfield rifles for Thirty caliber magazine rifles by 1904.

New Leadership

The organization was led by Brigadier General I. Pusey Wickersham, Adjutant General, who would
remain at the helm for nearly twenty years (1901-1920).  Wickersham had been the commander of the
federalized First Delaware Infantry, during the Spanish-American War in 1898.  Under Wickersham’s
leadership the Delaware National Guard would transform itself to a truly professional trained
expeditionary force. The modern National Guard that emerged from his watch still contributes today.  
In September 1902, he had managed to cobble together an abbreviated field encampment on a
shoestring, improving readiness and morale among the troops.  It was led by Colonel Townsend and
held in Newark for six days as a limited camp of instruction, omitting “some features which would
have been of great benefit to officers and men”.

The annual appropriation given to the Guard was barely adequate to cover routine maintenance and a
bit of target practice.  In light of the equipment provided by the federal government at no cost,
Wickersham questioned if the State also had a duty to “provide the means for maintenance, instruction
and discipline.”

He had been authorized to undertake the necessary repairs to the State Arsenal and make modest
improvements including a new roof, wire screens and plastering, but was not given a corresponding
provision of funds ($973.60) and had to take it “out of hide” from his annual budget.  He asked for
reimbursement for this expense.

By 1904, the organization had added a hospital corps to its seven companies and band aggregating to
350 officers and men. It also added Company E in Newark while disbanding Company G in Bridgeville
which had failed to comply with the provisions of law, and mustered out on December 31st, 1903. The
General Assembly passed an amendment to the Militia Law providing for an annual camp of
instruction the following year. Wickersham credited this amendment with material improvement in the
corps.  This act was in concert with the Dick Act of 1903, a federal reform of far-reaching consequence.

The Dick Act

The Militia Act of 1903 (32 Stat. 775), also known as the Dick Act, was initiated by United States
Secretary of War Elihu Root following the Spanish–American War of 1898, after the war demonstrated
weaknesses in the militia, and in the entire U.S. military. The act formulated the concept of the
National Guard and also ensured that all state military forces were simultaneously dual reservists
under the authority of the Army Reserve. This last measure was to prevent state governors from using
National Guard forces as "private armies", in many ways as had been done in the American Civil War
and to ensure that the President could, at any time, mobilize state military forces into the federal armed

U.S. Senator Charles W. F. Dick, a Major General in the Ohio National Guard and the chair of the
Committee on the Militia sponsored the 1903 Act towards the end of the 57th U.S. Congress. Under
this legislation, passed January 21, 1903, the organized militia of the States were given federal status to
the militia, and required to conform to Regular Army organization within five years. The act also
required National Guard units to attend 24 drills and five days annual training a year, and, for the first
time, provided for pay for annual training. In return for the increased Federal funding which the act
made available, militia units were subject to inspection by Regular Army officers, and had to meet
certain standards.

The increase in Federal funding was an important development. In 1808 Congress had allocated
$200,000 a year to arm the militia; by 1887, the figure had risen to only $400,000. But in 1906, three
years after the passage of the Dick Act, there was a one-time grant of $2 million to modernize
equipment, and states could now use federal funds to pay for summer training camps. The War
Department would now fund the attendance of Guard officers at Army schools, and Regular officers
would be detailed to serve as inspector-instructors with Guard units. There would be joint Regular-
Guard maneuvers and training camps.

The Dick Act had a widespread and immediate impact on the National Guard. Soldiers gladly accepted
federal aid while assuming responsibility for improvements in training and organization. The first,
federally funded maneuvers by Guardsmen and Regulars occurred in 1904. The War Department
(which would eventually become the Department of Defense) issued nearly 90,000 magazine rifles to
Guardsmen and new field pieces went to Guard artillery batteries.

In return for all this, the act gave the President the power to call the Organized Militia--that is, the
National Guard--into federal service for up to nine months' service to repel invasion, suppress
rebellion, or enforce federal laws, but not for service outside the United States. Guardsmen had to
answer a presidential call or face court-martial, and states had to organize, equip, and train their units
in accordance with the organization, standards, and procedures of the Regular Army. Finally, if Guard
units failed to meet certain standards of training and administration as set by the War Department,
they would lose their federal support.

In 1906, the Delaware National Guard listed 36 officers and 378 enlisted men in its regiment. Company
G in Dover was mustered into service in 1906. General Wickersham cited more discriminating
recruiting, and exacting drill and discipline for the improvement of personnel, and instruction of the

To align with the requirements of the Dick Act, Wickersham recommended the formation of a general
staff consisting of an Assistant Adjutant General, Inspector General, Chief Quartermaster, Chief of
Ordnance, Inspector of Small Arms Practice, Judge Advocate General, and Chief Surgeon.
The level of military proficiency of the Delaware Regiment began to steadily improve.
Annual camps of
instruction were held in 1903 at Rehoboth Beach and in 1904 at Cooch’s Bridge.  The latter, was under
the instruction of First Lieutenant A. La Rue Christie, Eighth United States Infantry.  Camps were also
conducted in 1905 and 1906 (Camp Lea) at the Morrow Farm at Lumbrook near Newark.  A
noteworthy new portable water system was installed at Camp Haslett (1905).  

Delaware volunteers were invited to attend joint field exercises with troops of the regular army at
Manassas Virginia in 1904 and at Camp Roosevelt at Mt. Gretna Pennsylvania in 1906, which they
proceeded to do with along with units of some other states. The DuPont powder Company granted its
participating employees an extra week of vacation to allow its men to participate in both the state
encampment as well as the joint field exercises.

Rifle practice was held despite the lack of adequate facilities.  The Regiment competed at Saunders Range
in Maryland in 1906 and at Sea Girt New Jersey in 1905 and 1906 at the National Rifle Championships.
The Delaware Regiment participated in the gubernatorial parade in Dover in 1905 as well as the
inauguration of President Roosevelt in Washington DC the same year.

In his 1906 report, General Wickersham recommended the closure and sale of the State Arsenal at 12th
and Orange Streets in Wilmington.  It had not kept pace with the growth and modernization of the
Delaware National Guard and was unsuitable as a storehouse for arms and to house four companies of
infantry, headquarters, a band and hospital. The River Road Rifle Range was acquired by the United
States and developed around 1908 as well.  This facility would provide a site for rifle practice and
marksmanship training as well as a field encampment site. A second site was established on Delaware
Bay near Kitts Hummock for Company B in Milford. The ranges were put at the use of the Delaware
College cadets as well as rifle clubs of the National Rifle Association of America.

The organized militia was concentrated at Wilmington on October 31, 1907 upon the occasion of a
homecoming celebration (Old Home Week) and participated in a parade and ceremony before
thousands of citizens. A similar celebration was held the following year in Georgetown on October 2nd
attended by Companies B and G, Major J. Warner Reed commanding.

Dick Act Amended

In 1908 the Militia (Dick) Act was amended. The nine-month limit on federal service was deleted; the
President would now set the length of federal service. The ban on Guard units serving outside the
United States was dropped. Clearly establishing the Guard's role as the Army's reserve force, the
amended act stated that during a mobilization the Guard had to be called before the Army could
organize a federal volunteer force. Also in 1908, Congress agreed to increase the annual federal subsidy
of the Guard to $4 million, and the War Department established the Division of Militia Affairs. The
division served as the link between the department and the state adjutants general, supervised the
distribution of equipment and supplies to the states, evaluated Guard training and administration, and
acted as the militia's representative to the General Staff.

One result of the increased federal funding was the exchange of the earlier Krag-Jorgensen rifles for the
latest .30 calibre U.S. Magazine rifle in Delaware.
Annual camps were held in 1907 and 1908 in
Rehoboth. They demonstrated a marked improvement over previous years in extended order drills,
practice marches, and general field work.

By 1908 the organization consisted of a general staff, of four officers and three non-commissioned
officers, one regiment of Infantry, composed of two battalions, of four companies each, band and
hospital detachment, numbering 35 officers and 369 enlisted men. A provisional battalion was formed
of four companies with 16 officers and 206 enlisted men for participation in coastal defense exercises at
Fort Dupont with the regular army August 1-8 in 1908.

In his 1908 report to the Governor, General Wickersham once again pressed his desire to acquire
upgraded armories for the Guard.  He recommended a State Military Board be constituted to acquire
sites and erect a modern armory each year for the companies throughout the state beginning with
Company G in Dover, until they had all been provided.  He cited the increased efficiencies in other
states as examples.  

By 1912 the organization had grown in strength to 33 officers and 428 enlisted men. The Adjutant
General’s report indicated income of $16,024 and expenses of $15,696.  Annual camps had been held at
the new River Road Rifle Range in the previous two years.  The Dover Armory was completed
(Company G) and the Newark Armory (Company E) was the next proposed building to be completed.  
The citizens of Newark stand ready to furnish a site to the state free of cost if the General Assembly
would authorize the construction. Newark was also the home of Delaware College and the cadets of its
Military Science department who often shared the range at New Castle for their marksmanship
training. The Newark Armory was completed in 1916.

The State Rifle Range at New Castle had seen many improvements as well. It boasted a short range (200-
300 yards) a mid range (200-600 yards) and a long range (800-1000 yards) equipped with Aiken steel
and wooden targets. There was also a pistol range with two wooden targets and a telephone system
between firing points and observation station with wind flags and a clock. The State Range also
included an office, storeroom with lockers.

The Wilmington armory was rated in “good condition” and athletic apparatus costing about $2000
was installed as a gift from General T.C. DuPont, the Quartermaster General. The hospital detachment
had received a new ambulance, and its surgeons attended the annual sessions of the Association of
Military Surgeons to increase their proficiency.

A system of regular field inspections, and evaluations helped to insure that leadership was well
apprised of the condition of the force and its state of readiness. These inspections were made by the
Inspector General (Major C.A. Short) and a regular army inspector officer (1st Lt. Elvid Hunt) to
insure that the federal standards were being met. Major Short reported in 1912, “The corporals are
becoming more efficient, several of them handling squads with ease and accuracy. A number of the non-
commissioned officers, newly appointed, showed special aptitude for their work, thus indicating much
improvement in the instruction of enlisted men. Except in three companies, the marchings, facings,
manual of arms, guard duty and extended order drill were much better this inspection than at the last

Nevertheless, there were also negative comments regarding the laxity of military courtesy, appreciation
of guard duty, and “diffidence” among the corporals in handling extended order drill. The Inspector
General noted improvement in equipment and storage, the great care and ingenuity of the officers in
caring for their gear. Most of the camp equipage was now stored at the State Range in New Castle.
Lt. Hunt, regular army inspector officer, congratulated the organization for “not permitting political
interests to interfere in any way with its efficiency”. He added, ”The officers of our militia are
exceptionally enthusiastic and devote much time to militia affairs with excellent results. The militia of
this State is upon the threshold of a remarkable development, and deserves the support of all the
citizens of the State”.

Special emphasis was placed on marksmanship.  There were regular competitions almost year round.
All the officers qualified as marksmen or better at the Officer’s camp in June at the State Range. At the
Regimental Camp in July 83 men were qualified as marksmen.  The 1912 year yielded five pistol experts,
four pistol sharpshooters and nine pistol marksmen. The year end count for rifle marksmen was 151
along with five rifle sharpshooters, and 19 rifle experts. There were trophy matches for the “Delaware
Trophy” (a silver cup) “Lea” Trophy the “Doherty” Trophy, “First Infantry” trophy, and the “DuPont
Company” trophy. There was a “Morning News” trophy (another silver cup) match and Delaware
faithfully competed in the national matches as well. In 1916 the match was held in Jacksonville Florida
with Captain J. A. Ellison as team captain.  The team scored thirteenth of fifty five teams and First
Sergeant Fred L. Manion of Company F, finished second of 900 competitors in the individual matches.

The officer corps was becoming much more professional. A course of instruction was offered to cover
four years of progressive instruction under the Regimental commander and the Inspector-instructor. It
s exhaustive syllabus included classes in sabre exercise, commands, and signals, administrative duties,
correspondence and papers, principles of infantry combat, militia law development and discipline, rifle
use and care, minor tactics and sketching in just the initial Course ”D”.  Later courses included camp
sanitation, drill regulation, tactial problems and solutions, map problems and maneuvers.

By 1916, the Delaware National Guard had made truly impressive forward progress since the Spanish
American War.  It possessed four armories in Wilmington, Newark, Dover, and Milford along with a
splendid State Range at New Castle.  These facilities, provided by the State were used for social and
community activities as well as the Delaware College and other organizations. The level of proficiency
was far above those soldiers of 1898 thanks to the dedicated leadership of General Wickersham.  Much
of the credit goes to the passage of the Dick Act in 1903. The change from state funding to federal
funding along with the new higher standard of training were a tonic to the volunteer program
resulting in a better trained soldier led by a more professional officer corps.

Despite their improvement, the Delaware Regiment would be taken to an even higher level of readiness
in the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916.  They were destined to spend months in the Desert
Southwest under the tutelage of the regular army.  To learn more about that adventure we suggest
you visit:

Would you like to know more?
We recommend the following book available at local Delaware bookstores and from Arcadia Publishing.

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.
Delaware Military History