Delaware history: Confederate generals celebrated in Sussex
By J.L. MILLER • The News Journal • January 17, 2010
GEORGETOWN -- Confederate flags fluttered in the breeze Saturday as a small group of people came together to celebrate the memory of two Southern generals and a chapter of Delaware history that slowly is being rediscovered.
Members of the Delaware Grays Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 2068 and the United Daughters of the Confederacy Caleb Ross Chapter 2635 gathered at the Delaware Confederate Monument in Georgetown to remember Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
"We are gathered here to pay tribute to two very honorable men," Robert B. Eldreth Jr., commander of the Delaware Grays, told the crowd.
The event celebrated the 203rd birthday of Lee, who was born Jan. 19, 1807, and the 186th birthday of Jackson, born Jan. 21, 1824.
But it also celebrated the memory of those Delawareans who chose to wear Confederate gray instead of Union blue, men whose numbers are estimated anywhere from the hundreds to 2,000.
"The monument you see here was erected to pay tribute to the citizens of Delaware, our beloved state," Eldreth said. "The preservation of our history for future generations is something we can't let get out of our hands."
On the monument are the names of everyday men, farmers, fishermen, even a onetime News Journal reporter, John W. Dunning of Dover. Dunning was a private in the famed Mosby's Rangers.
Tracking down the names of Delawareans who fought against the Union can be difficult, as they had to go out of state to join Confederate units. Although a border state with divided loyalties, Delaware stayed in the Union.
But as research continues, more names are being unearthed, and each qualifies for a spot on the monument -- which is now full.
Dover resident Anne Happoldt is researching academic rosters, including those of Delaware College, the forerunner to the University of Delaware, for Delaware Confederates.
She found a group of Choctaw Indians who attended Delaware College before the school closed in 1859 amid financial difficulties. Because the Choctaw tribe backed the Confederacy and the students had lived in Delaware, some might qualify as Delaware Confederates.
But there are about 200 names already awaiting a spot on the monument, something the Delaware Grays hopes to rectify.
"We're working feverishly to raise money to purchase two more stones," Eldreth said. That will cost about $4,000, he said.
Confederate soldiers who returned to their native state sometimes faced hostility, and today there are many who see Confederate flags as a symbol of slavery and racism.
But members of the Delaware Grays say they're only honoring their ancestors, men who fought for a cause in which they believed.
"We're not here representing hatred," Eldreth said. "That flag is a symbol of our heritage