There had been little doubt that Delaware would remain with the North. Delaware was technically a state where slavery was legal, but the institution was not widespread. In 1861, there were some 20,000 Black people living in the state. About 1,800 of them were enslaved. Most of the enslaved people were concentrated in Sussex, the southernmost of the state’s three counties.
After South Carolina ratified the ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860, other states considered similar proposals. Although there were some Southern sympathizers, Delaware had a Unionist governor and the legislature was dominated by Unionists. On January 3, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to remain with the United States. For the Union, Delaware’s decision was only a temporary respite from the parade of seceding states. Over the next several weeks, six states joined South Carolina in seceding; four more left after the South captured South Carolina’s Fort Sumter in April 1861.