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Thread: The 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry "Crazy Delawares"

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    Mar 2019
    Maryland Capital

    The 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry "Crazy Delawares"

    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.

    ‘The Crazy Delawares’ didn’t know when to Retreat. 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 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’.

    “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.

  2. #2

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    Dec 2015
    Lets go blue hens!

    what books would you recommend to read up on their history?

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