By Thurman W. Adams
Seaford, Delaware was a hotbed of Southern sympathizers and abolitionists. Seaford in the 1860s was the terminus of the railroad from Wilmington, Delaware, stopping here as the Nanticoke River prevented it going any further unless a bridge was built.
Escaping men, loyal to the Confederacy, would take the train to Seaford and then be smuggled by boat down the Nanticoke River, into the Chesapeake Bay and on to Virginia. Also medicines, supplies, rifles, cannons, DuPont gunpowder from Wilmington was also smuggled to Seaford and sent South. But the opposite thing happened going North.
Escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad would take boats across the Chesapeake Bay and then follow the Nanticoke River to Seaford, where they would they follow along side of the railroad to Wilmington, and on to Pennsylvania, a free state. Governor Cannon, even though a Republican and supposedly a Union supporter, was found to be secretly hiding Union munitions in his barn, destined for shipment South to the Confederacy. He committed suicide before being arrested and impeached.
Governor Ross, no longer Governor of Delaware, was in the middle of the attempt to ship supplies South and was a close friend of Gov. Cannon. Governor Ross had a 1,400 acre plantation and didn't want his slaves freed. He was actively urging the Governor of Maryland and Governor Cannon of Delaware to get both Maryland and Delaware to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. Governor Ross went as far as to loan the State of Virginia $85,000.00 to support their cause. President Lincoln, sent General Wool and troops to arrest Governor Ross, as President Lincoln found Governor Ross a threat to keep Delaware and Maryland in the Union. Ross was tipped off that Union troops were on the way to his plantation to arrest him. Ross had his slaves enclose him in a wooden barrel, with air holes, put him on the train to Wilmington, Del. where friends rescued him from the barrel, then took him on to Philadelphia, where he withdrew $100,000.00 from the banks and sailed to England. There he stayed at a royal estate, a guest of Queen Victoria.
While in England he lobbied on behalf of the Southern States for England to enter the War on the side of the Confederacy. An interesting side note is that while Governor Ross was in England, his wife stayed behind running the plantation with the slaves.
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves from the states that had seceded. Since Delaware and Maryland were placed under martial law and the writ of habeas corpus suspended, the slaves in these two states we not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation and were not free. The slaves in Maryland and Delaware did not achieve freedom until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
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