Civil War collections

About this collection

This digital collection includes a small but significant selection of letters, photographs, pictorial envelopes, and other primary sources from the Hagley Library connected to the Civil War. Many of the items relate to du Pont family members, soldiers who served with them, or powdermen who worked in the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company powder yards during the war. Of particular interest is the correspondence of Rear Admiral Samuel Francis du Pont with one of his naval officers, Percival Drayton. The items were digitized in conjunction with Hagley's exhibit, An Oath of Allegiance to the Republic: the du Ponts and the Civil War. Click here to visit Hagley’s companion online exhibit.

    Image: Crew of the USS Wabash, detail. Click to view.

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Percival Drayton to Samuel Francis du Pont
On June 10, Drayton reports that the Union army troops have been transferred to the James river side and have not been successful at penetrating further into the island. He remarks that there is little confidence in the ability of General Benham by his subordinates. The floating battery that attacked the Ellen on its first arrival has made another appearance, and Drayton has been able to gather more information on it and the fort near it. Drayton reports on the state of his ships and their ordnance. On June 11, Drayton reports that the Confederates attacked General Wright last night, which will postpone or render altogether unfeasible the Union's planned attack on them.
Percival Drayton to Samuel Francis du Pont
Drayton reports that everyone is trying to lay the blame on the Union's losses at Secessionville on everyone else. Drayton is confident that Captain Woolsey on the Ellen handled the situation to the best of his judgment, although some are trying to blame him for not going close enough or firing soon enough. He tells du Pont that he is enclosing a copy of his letter to General Benham recollecting the events of the meeting held on the evening previous to the attack. Drayton told General Stevens at that meeting that whatever orders the General chose to give to the gunboats on his flank would be obeyed by their captains.
Percival Drayton to Samuel Francis du Pont
Drayton writes of his uneasiness with the current state of the war, particularly concerning army and political strategy, as well as of his dissatisfaction with iron-clad vessels. He also believes that General Hunter's request to use the Vanderbilt as a ram is a bad idea, as the Vanderbilt 'would only mash herself up and not disable her enemy.' Drayton comments on the 'newspaper wars' being conducted between General Henry Benham and General Isaac Stevens concerning the failed attack at Secessionville.