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 legislature.
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.
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 forces.
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 organization.
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 year.”
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: http://www.militaryheritage.org/DARNGMexicanBorder.html
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.