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History of the First Regiment, Delaware Volunteers

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History of the First Regiment, Delaware Volunteers
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Author(s): William P. Seville
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 136
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-103-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-104-1

An elite volunteer unit in blue

An independent observer from within another regiment of the Union Army—upon seeing the Delaware Volunteers in action—declared them unreservedly to be the finest volunteer regiment in the army. Although amateurs, this unit attained levels of proficiency in all aspects of the business of soldiering normally the domain of elite regular units. This history charts its progress through the war between the states including the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Rappahannock, Bristoe Station, Mine Run, The Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Petersburg, Deep Bottom and the Fall of Richmond. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket, this book will be a welcome addition to the libraries of those interested in the American Civil War and the men of Delaware who did so much to preserve the union and help form the modern republic.

At this time, among the provisions taken from the wagons was a barrel of beans, upon which one of the men of our regiment took a seat. A few minutes later a shot from the enemy struck the barrel, scattering the beans, as well as the occupant of the barrel. Gathering himself up, he remarked, “If that is the way rations are issued here, I don’t want any. I am not at all hungry, thank you.” While this artillery duel was raging, Lieutenant James Lewis, who was acting as adjutant (Adjutant Seville having been left at Fort Monroe sick with bilious fever), while lying on the hillside a short distance in front of the lines, was struck in the foot by a piece of shell and carried to the rear. Thus Lieutenant Lewis was the first man in the regiment who shed his blood in the war of the Rebellion.<br>
Early on the morning of the 17th of September the troops were under arms, and brigades and regiments were moving to different parts of the field. Our regiment, with its brigade and division, crossed the creek by fording and marched about a mile, when it was halted and faced to the left. Then was heard the command, “Fix bayonets!” and every man knew that at last he was about to meet the enemy in a deadly encounter.<br>
The line of battle pressed forward through a cornfield, under a brisk fire of batteries and small-arms, no skirmishers having been advanced. On emerging from the cornfield the line was thrown into some confusion by scaling a post-and-rail fence on the edge of the field, and being under a galling fire, was hurriedly formed while moving rapidly forward. The enemy’s position was but a few rods away, and his line ran obliquely to ours, so that in the charge the right of our regiment was much nearer the enemy than the left.<br>
One line of rebels was posted in a sunken road, while across the road, on rising ground, was a second line and their batteries. The fire the enemy was thus able to bring to bear on our single line was so destructive that even veteran troops would have been repulsed. As it was, the right of the division, which approached nearest the sunken road, was staggered and recoiled, and the right of our regiment was forced back to the edge of the cornfield, while the remainder could make no farther advance. At this moment the supporting troops behind us, instead of charging through our line upon the enemy, halted in the cornfield and fired on us from the rear, thereby forcing the command to retire a few yards to avoid the fire from our supports.<br>
Here our regiment rallied and returned the enemy’s fire with telling effect. On the ground, a few yards in advance, where the line was first arrested, lay a large number of our men, killed or wounded, and among them lay the colours of the regiment, one of which was held by Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson, who was wounded. Major Smyth, Captain Rickards, Lieutenants Postles, Tanner, and Nicholls, Sergeants Dunn and McAllister, with several other non-commissioned officers, rallied a large number of the men for the purpose of returning to the original line, recovering the colours, and holding the position, if possible.<br>
They sallied gallantly to the front under a terrible tornado of shot, and held the position for a considerable time, in connection with a company of the Fifth Maryland Volunteers, commanded by Captain Faehtz. While holding this front line Captain Rickards was killed. A rebel soldier was seen approaching with a limping gait, and using his musket as a support. Sergeant Dunn raised his musket, saying, “I’ll drop that fellow,” but before he could fire, his piece was struck down by Captain Rickards, who exclaimed, “You wouldn’t shoot a wounded man!” At that instant the advancing rebel levelled his gun and shot Captain Rickards, who died a few minutes afterwards. The dastard rebel fell in his tracks, riddled with bullets.<br>
When the regiment retired from the field both colours were brought with it, one by Lieutenant C. B. Tanner and the other by Sergeant Allen Tatem, one of the colour-guard.<br>
The bravery and self-possession of the officers and men who thus represented the First Delaware on this front line excited the admiration of the regiment, and thenceforth they were held in the highest esteem as soldiers.
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