The First Delaware Regiment arrives back in Wilmington on January 1, 1864 for a thirty day furlough and some much-needed rest. Originally organized as a three month regiment at the start of the Civil War, the First Delaware was later reorganized and went on to participate in some of the war’s most noteworthy battles. The Delaware Gazette of January 5, 1864 announced the regiment’s arrival back in town, proclaiming that “the men looked hearty but much fatigued. They conducted themselves with modesty and manly bearing. Their battle flags were with them torn almost to tatters with the shot and shell of the enemy. The reception they received was hearty and freely bestowed. […] They were met at the foot of Fourth Street by vast crowds of citizens, and escorted to the City Hall.” After a march through the city, the men were treated to a “welcome home” banquet at the City Hall on Market Street before being formally dismissed to begin their leave.
While in town, several members of the regiment were photographed along with their battle flags at Garrett’s studio in Wilmington. We are uniquely privileged to have both the flags and photo as part of our collections here at the Society. The First Delaware received these colors in August 1862, just before the Battle of Antietam, and went on to fight under them at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg before returning to Wilmington. Although the regiment replaced its colors before heading back to the front, the battle-worn condition of their original ones was clearly a source of great pride for the men portrayed here.
After being afforded a place of honor in this photo, the original battle flags were later consigned to the care of a veteran’s organization, the Association of the Survivors of the First Delaware Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and then, in a rather wonderful closing of the circle, were presented to the Delaware Historical Society for preservation and safekeeping on January 29, 1884. We continue to afford them a place of honor here as an important part of our state’s history. As part of our bid to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, both flags have recently been professionally conserved (see “Precious Relics Returned” post for July 18, 2016) and are now on display in the museum.