"Union City:  Philadelphia and the Battle of Gettysburg"
John Reid Seitter. 
Reprinted from Gettysburg Magazine
    As the American Civil War entered its third year in the spring of 1863, the people of Philadelphia witnessed a series of setbacks on the battlfields and election polls. The elections of 1862 had decided several governorships as well as numerous state and federal legislative seats. This vote was seen as a referendum, as to how successful the Lincoln administration had been in its conduct of the war. In the end, these elections were a major setback for the Republican party and its policies. In the nation's capitol, Republicans lost 35 congressional seats. The governors of New York and New Jersey were now Democrats. In Pennsylvania, the lower house of the state legislature was also in Democratic hands as well as several key state offices formerly held by Republicans. 1

It was in Philadelphia where the Democracy suffered one of its few setbacks of the election. 2Mayor Alexander Henry was reelected by a comfortable margin and of the city's five congressional seats, four were occupied by Republicans. In general, however, the Democratic party, on state and national levels had shown that the Lincoln administration had lost the confidence of the majority of the nation's electorate. The national resurgence of the Democratic party in the elections of 1862 gave a promise of new life to Philadelphia's pro-Southern Democrats. 3

Military defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville placed the national and Philadelphia Republican party in jeopardy of not only losing upcoming elections but also the will of the people to continue the war. Unpopular political decisions, such as the Conscription Act of 1862, as well as numerous military defeats and mounting casualties had caused "The War" to lose the popular support of the electorate. The armies of the Confederate States of America, especially the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee, seemed invincible in the face of the ineptitude of various Northern commanders. Further military failures would doom the Republicans in the gubernatorial elections of October 1863 and possibly the presidential race the following year. 4

Soon after the Battle of Chancellorsville, in May of 1863, it was expected by some Philadelphian's that General Joseph Hooker would soon embark on a new campaign into Virginia. Just two days after the retreat of the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock River, businessman George Fahnestock wrote, "I presume that offensive operations will soon be resumed." 5  What Mr. Fahnestock did not realize was that a summer campaign was indeed about to begin. It would not, however, be the Army of the Potomac on the offensive.

By May 26th, the groundwork had been laid, in Richmond, by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee for a second invasion of the North. This time the goals were more far reaching then the recruiting of loyalist Marylanders, as was the case in September of 1862. At Chancellorsville, Lee had defeated Hooker with an army only half as large as his opponent's. The Army of the Northern Virginia had gained psychologically with this success and the army's confidence in its military prowess had "soared to new heights" under the command of R. E. Lee. Due to a deteriorating strategic situation in the West (Grant's siege of Vicksburg) it was felt that it would be best to put Lee's superb army on the offensive into Pennsylvania, in an attempt to relieve pressure on The Confederacy's western forces. 6

Whatever else he might accomplish, he wanted above all to spend the summer in lower Pennsylvania maneuvering his forces so as to pose threats to the vital centers of Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. 7 This was not the first time that Philadelphia had been considered a strategic objective of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the winter of 1862-63, Lee and Stonewall Jackson had an engineer draw up a map for a military operation which had included Harrisburg and Philadelphia. It was Lee's desire to catch the Army of the Potomac in a disadvantageous position and defeat it soundly. The sincere wish of Confederate officials was that an overwhelming military defeat of the Union forces would cause pro-Southern Democrats to intensify their protests and force the North into a negotiated peace settlement. In October there would be a gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania. Lee's 75,000 man army foraging on the fertile plains of the Cumberland Valley or summering in Philadelphia would surely cost Governor Andrew Curtin his reelection. In all probability this event would also have doomed the administration of Abraham Lincoln to defeat in 1864.

A critical moment in the conflict had been reached. An armed force of well trained, expertly led rebel troops was on the verge of invading the state of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, the resurgent Democratic party was about to see how successful their recent campaign against the continuation of the war and the Republican party had been. The state government would be forced to call for militia in the event of an invasion. How would Philadelphians answer this call to arms? Would they sit back while their commonwealth was overrun by the Army of Northern Virginia? Would the legacy of being a "border town" steeped in the Jeffersonian democratic tradition inspire their actions? Or would the men and women of the city draw their determination from the knowledge that their hometown was the birthplace of the nation and its federal government?

During the last week of May 1863, Mr. Fahnestock wrote of the increased activities of the city's Democratic party.

The traitor Vallandingham from Dayton O., from accounts this afternoon has been sent South, and will be handed over to General Bragg. It is a pity that they do not send Wm. B. Reed, J. W. Wall, and a few score such from this city and New York. These rebel sympathizers are growing so bold as to talk openly of a military dictatorship, seizing the reins of government and assassinating the president. Forbearance should be short with such traitors. 8 Ten days later, on June 1st, members of the Democracy staged a huge rally in Independence Square. Its purpose was to protest the arrest and subsequent exile of the North's most virulent Copperhead, Ohio ex-congressman Clement Vallandingham. The end results of this gathering were a group of resolutions condemning the administration's laws restricting personal liberties. 9  This very well may have been the "high water mark" of Philadelphia's Democratic party. At this point in the conflict even the staunchest supporters of the War and its motives were questioning the abilities of their president and his administration. 10

There was, however, a growing suspicion by some Philadelphians of the methods and motives of the local Democratic party. Their calls for violent overthrow of the government and mob violence ran counter to the population’s perception of law and public order. 11  There was also growing concern that public opposition to the War effort was in and of itself disloyal. Philadelphia's Democracy was treading a fine line between its role as the opposition party to the Republicans and an organization of traitors.  12 During this time of Democratic resurgence the most outspoken opponents of the war were members of Philadelphia's social elite. The majority of anti-administration editorials printed in the Age, the city’s only Democratic newspaper, were authored by names such as Biddle, Reed and Ingersoll. It was becoming apparent to an increasing number of citizens that the frantic appeals of the Democratic party to end the war were attempts to maintain both their social and economic status, both of which were threatened by the military defeat of the South and the electoral victories of the Republicans. 13

One of the reasons that the Democracy was unable to persuade a majority of the electorate during the American Civil War was the sheer hypocrisy of their writings and public speeches.

These same Democrats are now making an outcry about liberty of speech, of which, under the protection of that same Mayor, they are in the full enjoyment, and which they are using to destroy that very same government by which they do enjoy this and other rights. 14 They claimed that President Lincoln had violated the Constitution by pursuing an aggressive policy against the South, while Democratic leaders were threatening to overthrow a duly elected government. George Fahnestock was one Philadelphian appalled at the actions of his fellow citizens. The "Peace" Democracy are holding meetings to encourage their brethren in the South. These traitors are growing bolder every day; denouncing our government in the most unmeasured terms. A civil war in the North may not be far off. 15 The people of Philadelphia were in no mood to support a political organization that courted mob violence as a means of carrying out its agenda. 16 Sidney George Fisher wrote about the Democratic rally held on June 1st. . . .People who have sons & brothers & friends in the army are indignant at the abominable clique who persistently denounce the war, abuse the soldiers & government, attempt to create discord among the people, & to divide opinion & thus encourage the enemy. . . .17 It is hard to visualize the citizenry of Philadelphia, many of whom had family and friends in the Union Armies, being sympathetic to or encouraged by military defeats at the hands of secessionist forces. The point here is simple, the leadership of Philadelphia's Democratic party, while claiming a role as spokesman for the common good, actually spoke for no one but themselves and their own agenda.

Sometime during the day, on Tuesday June 9th 1863, 2,400 Confederate prisoners from Vicksburg arrived in the city of Philadelphia, subsequent to their removal to Fort Delaware. It was said that the train bearing these men was the longest train of passenger cars ever to enter the city. 18  Had the people been aware, they would have been far more interested and alarmed at another event that was transpiring on that warm June day. Early that same morning, as most of the citizens of Philadelphia lay asleep in their beds, 10,000 Union cavalry troopers splashed across Virginia’s Rappahannock River to give battle to Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's horsemen. The battle of Brandy Station marked the opening of the Gettysburg Campaign and the subsequent invasion of Pennsylvania. 18

On the evening of June 14th General Darius Couch, commanding officer of the Department of the Susquehanna, received a telegram from Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War. 20

. . .the enemy has appeared at Winchester, [Virginia] and also at Martinsburg. [near the Virginia-Maryland border] There is no doubt that a general movement is being made toward Pennsylvania, and no efforts should be spared to resist him. Hooker is being moved up. 21

The next day, President Lincoln made a proclamation calling for 100,000 militia for the defense of states threatened by the invasion including: Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Keystone state's quota for this emergency was 50,000 men. Governor Curtin soon amplified the President's call for men by making his own personal plea to the citizens of Pennsylvania. 22

. . .I now appeal to all the citizens of Pennsylvania who love liberty and are mindful of the history and traditions of their revolutionary fathers, and who feel that it is a sacred duty to guard and maintain the free institutions of our country, who hate treason and its abettors, and who are willing to defend their homes and their firesides. . . .It is now to be determined by deeds not words alone, who are for us and who are against us. . . .Our only dependence rests upon the determined action of the citizens of our free Commonwealth. 23 The reaction of the city of Philadelphia to the news of invasion was swift and decisive. Within hours of newspapers being published and the posting of proclamations, recruiting booths sprung up all over the city. Independence Square which a few short days earlier had been a haven for the Democratic party now took on the attributes of an armed camp. The response of Philadelphians to this crisis was not, however, as universal as it had been in the spring of 1861. Unhappily, so strong has grown the feeling of opposition to the present administration, that many men are pleased with the prospect of invasion, carnage, blood and smoking ruins! They walk our streets today, radiant with joy, led on by W. B. Reed, Charles Ingersoll, Wharton and a horde of worn out old Peace Democrats. Nothing would rejoice them more than our whole government laid to ashes! 24 Nevertheless, Philadelphians began to organize and send troops to Harrisburg. The Susquehanna River was the only large natural obstacle between the state's capital and Philadelphia. It had been decided by General Couch that the east bank of the river was a logical place to rendezvous his command and a location with the attributes of a strong defensive position for his untrained militia forces. By the evening of June 18th, only three days after the President's proclamation, Philadelphia had sent one regiment of infantry and three independent militia companies, including the famed First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, to aid in the defense of the state, 1,269 men in all.  25

By Tuesday June 16th, as Lee's forces prepared to cross the Potomac River into Maryland, the citizens of Philadelphia began to realize the threat posed by the Rebel invasion. The newspapers and diary accounts present a rare picture in our nation's history, an American city threatened with occupation by an enemy army. George Fahnestock wrote on the night of the 16th.

. . . Harrisburg is threatened Philadelphia is not considered safe, and a thousand excited rumors are filling the air! Unexcitable as I am I certainly see grounds for alarm. . .Unless a vigorous and well directed resistance is offered, there is nothing to hinder their marching along the fertile plains of Lancaster and Chester Counties and regaling themselves in

Philadelphia . . . As I write in the silence of the night, with nearly all the family abed, I hear the recruiting drums, and bells of locomotives, or their hoarse whistle as trains arrive and depart. Doubtless many thousand troops will be in Harrisburg by tomorrow. 26

The Philadelphia Inquirer, after reporting the latest intelligence of the invasion and remarking on the proclamations of the President and Governor went on to comment that, It is hard to discriminate in the conflict and confusion of the news which is the true view of the case. One statement speaks of the enemy being "ten thousand strong," and another of a force "advancing in six columns," which conveys an idea of even larger numbers. To-day will probably clear up some of the causes of doubt and apprehension. Let us all, however, rally promptly to the aid of the State and for the good of the great cause. And above all things, let us avoid panic. 27 Henry Benners took a less sublime view of events, when he wrote, Memorable for a great Panic, Curtin calls for troops in squads to go to Harrisburg. State archives moved, Rebels burning and destroying property in Chambersburg. 28 The Age, after printing the latest news, went on to editorialize that the coming invasion was caused by the inadequacy of both the state and federal administrations. The paper's feeble, half-hearted call for defense of the city and state was overshadowed by articles concerning the Democratic party's state convention convening the next day in Harrisburg. It is worthwhile noting that while Pennsylvania prepared to repel invaders from her borders that an article in the Age remarked. From letter received from Harrisburg, we learn that the intense interest manifested in the deliberations of the Democratic State Convention has already crowded that city with an enthusiastic Democrats. The convention will undoubtedly be the largest ever met in Pennsylvania. . . Individual preference must all give way to the common good . . .We believe that the fate of the nation hangs in a great degree, upon the result of the next election in this Commonwealth. Imbued with this belief, we have not permitted ourselves to be led away by any personal preferences, the attainment of which might, in any manner, place in jeopardy the success of our party. 29 The seeming indifference of the Democratic party to the invasion of Pennsylvania was commented on by a rival newspaper. It was recommended, by the editors of the Public Ledger, that immediately upon gathering for their state convention Democrats should, en mass, offer their services in defense of Pennsylvania. Needless to say, there was no reply to this proposal. 30

On the 17th of the month, the Inquirer ran 30 ads in its classified section advertising militia organizations seeking members. 31  The Union League of Philadelphia, formed in the winter of 1862 to combat the growing influence of the Democratic party, began to drill with other raw militia, in case they were needed to defend their homes. 32 Businesses were closed after a half day to allow their employees to drill. 33  A company made up of police officers was formed and sent to the front. The city's district attorney turned a courtroom into a recruiting station and had 130 men enrolled before lunchtime. A cash bounty and promise of employment upon return were promised to employees of the Philadelphia Gas Works who volunteered. Members of the Corn Exchange and Coal Traders Association went about the business of raising infantry regiments. The two federal arsenals, in the city, while satisfying the needs of local military organizations, were ordered to supply equipment to Couch's command and state militia being raised in Pittsburgh. 34  By Thursday the 18th, it appeared that the city would have no problem raising its 7, 718 man quota.  35

In every quarter of the city, during yesterday, the greatest activity in military matters prevailed. Drums and fifes could be heard in almost every direction . . . Large companies of men could be seen marching in every direction, at the tap of the drum, and there appeared to be the greatest enthusiasm pervading the entire community. The recruiting was lively, and large accessions were made to the ranks of the various regiments. 36 This initial outburst of enthusiasm, on the part of Philadelphia's residents would, however, wane as the month of June wore on and Lee's forces moved deeper into the state. The blame for this sudden reversal of popular support rests squarely upon the shoulders of one man, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. It was a fairly simple thing, really. Stanton had informed the governors of the states and the effected military commanders in the region that no militia could be mustered into the service of the United States unless it was for a period of 6 months or until the end of the present emergency. 37  The problem was, that federal officials were to decide when the emergency was over. Any troops that did not muster in under these circumstances would not be accepted into Federal service and the state would not be compensated for their pay or equipage. By the 25th of June enlistments had dwindled to a trickle. One Regiment of Philadelphia volunteers had been left cooling their heels in Harrisburg from the 18th to the 26th of June because they had refused to sign-up under those terms. 38  Large groups of men just went home rather then being forced to serve after the Rebels had been driven from the state. 39 Newspapers were inundated with letters from men perfectly willing to see the invaders driven from their home state but unwilling to serve at the whim of the Federal Government. A member of Philadelphia's militia wrote to the Inquirer. We are not mustered into the service of the United States but still remain outside of Harrisburg in our original position. The determination of the authorities not to accept us as State militia for thirty, sixty or ninety days, has placed a large number of gentlemen in a situation at once humiliating and embarrassing . . . leaving on twenty-four hours notice, little could be done before starting, but their loyalty and patriotism, and love of state, were stronger than any selfish considerations . . .others left situations, responsible and important ones whose employers gave leave of absence for a short time, with positive instructions not to be mustered in . . . Six month, the emergency, or go home are the only terms. 40 By Friday the 26th, the situation had become desperate and an embarrassment to the city. Both George Fahnestock and S. G. Fisher were amazed at the number of men idling in the streets while the threat of invasion was imminent.41   The fact that most of the city's businesses had closed along with government's inability to properly utilize its manpower seems to have been lost to these two gentlemen.

The loyalty of Philadelphia to the cause of the preservation of the Union cannot be questioned. By the summer of 1863 over 30,000 men had volunteered for military duty, by the end of the war that number had reached almost 100,000.42   On June 30th 1863, just two days before the battle of Gettysburg, there were 54 regiments and artillery batteries, in the Army of the Potomac, with a respectable percentage of their men from the city. 43  Many of the males still residing in Philadelphia in 1863 were supporting their own household's as well as those of family's and friends then in the service. What also seems to have been ignored was that many of the men not in the service were employed either shipping or manufacturing material and their loss for up to six months would have been a serious blow to the war effort.44

The bulk of R. E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia entered Chambersburg on the 27th of June, 1863. At the same time a force of Rebels under the command of General Richard Ewell was threatening Harrisburg. Governor Andrew Curtin, seeing the absurdity and the desperation of the situation, proclaimed on the 26th that Pennsylvania would, from that point on, accept volunteers for 90 days, "but will be required to serve only so much of the period of muster as the safety of our people and the honor of our State may require." 45  It has been estimated that from the first notification of the invasion until Curtin's second call for militia that only 3,500 Philadelphians had volunteered for duty under federal guidelines. 46  Dating from June 26th until July 13th almost 7000 men were organized and sent to the defense of Harrisburg.

Curtin's call for state militia coincided with a growing fear, throughout the city and government, that Philadelphia was in imminent peril of attack. While the Army of Northern Virginia was marching north through Hagerstown Maryland, several confederate officers were overheard claiming they were going to Philadelphia.47   In his diary, Philadelphian Lewis Ashurst wrote.

In town yesterday [the 29th] and today, returning in the afternoon. Dreadful excitement in the community and fear of the advance of Lees army on Philadelphia. The banks and other institutions preparing to send off their valuables.48 The day before this entry his wife Mary commented. We find that Lee's army is within 4 miles of Harrisburg with every prospect of advancing on Phila. The call for troops is most urgent. The only hope for us is that there will be a resolved stand made at Harrisburg . . . Great is the alarm in Phila: people are trying to get away . . .49 It seems that even the Secretary of War was worried about the safety of the city. On June 29th, he sent this telegram to the officer in Charge of Philadelphia, General Dana. It is very important that machinery for manufacturing arms should not fall into the hands of the enemy . . . In case of imminent danger to the works of Alfred Jenks & Son, of Philadelphia, who are manufacturing arms for the Government, you are authorized and directed to impress steam tugs, barges, or any description of vessel to remove the gun-manufacturing machines from beyond the reach of the enemy.50 Unbeknownst to many, the Army of the Potomac, now under the command of Philadelphia native George Gordon Meade, had collided with Lee's forces just west of Gettysburg Pa., on the morning of July 1st. Governor Curtin, still unsatisfied with the city's response to the crisis took the initiative early that same afternoon and proceeded by special train to Philadelphia. That evening, from a balcony of the Continental Hotel, he made what some considered the most stirring speech of the War.51   Perhaps it was just a fortunate coincidence but within twenty four hours of Curtin's impromptu address the quota for the city' militia had been raised, by the following week it had been surpassed as the state's forces aided in the pursuit of the defeated Confederate army. 52

It would be hard to underestimate the vital role played by Philadelphia's Union League during the spring and summer of 1863. Upon receiving the Governor's call for state militia, the League went about the business of forming not one regiment but three, two of which were mustered into service on July 1st. It was also in this time period that the League was the lynch pin in the recruiting of and organizing of Black troops for the federal service. 53  George Fahnestock summed the attitude of the city in his diary entry dated July 1st 1863.

Nothing but drum and fife is heard, and companies are forming and marching in every direction. The Union League expects to raise an entire battalion of three regiments, and provide handsomely for their families. The people are aroused at last, and I hope it may not be too late. Their seems to be no end to the number of military organizations in progress in the city.54 And what of Philadelphia's Democratic party during this time of turmoil? Henry Benners, summed up how the majority of people felt about the Democracy after Curtin's speech of July 1st. "Curtin addresses the people at the Continental Hotel. Only one party now." 55  In the days and weeks leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, the Democratic party contributed little to the city's efforts at self defense. The Daily Age, spent the better part of two weeks focusing on the Democratic state convention which had convened on the 16th of June. The invasion of the state by Rebel forces seemed to be a minor concern. The Democratic State Convention assembled in the State Capitol at Harrisburg, yesterday morning at 10 o'clock. The proceedings, as far as they have been received, will be found in our columns today; and it will be seen that the greatest harmony and good feeling prevailed among the delegates. The Convention was full; and the presence of so large a number of delegates in the midst of the excitement existing on account of the threatened invasion of our State, is an indication of the intense interest manifested by the Democratic masses. 56 The paper printed calls for volunteers on two occasions then proceeded to ignore the subject for the remainder of the invasion. Most of the Age's editorials repeatedly blamed Republican officials for the current state of affairs.57   Party leader William Reed was said to have publicly expressed his hopes for a Confederate victory. 58  The nomination of George Woodward as gubernatorial candidate was a move of questionable political value. His hard line stance towards the South, its institution of chattel slavery and against the Federal administration was sure to alienate moderate Democrats who were supporting the war.59   Charles Ingersoll made his party's position clear, "the people should vote Democratic if they wanted the war ended." 60  Ingersoll and his associates failed to realize that the invasion of their home state had alienated the majority of Philadelphian's towards the ideals of the Democracy. They would now support the war effort until the South was defeated and forced to return to the Union. The lack of enthusiasm displayed by Philadelphia's Democratic party during the invasion of 1863 would come back to haunt them in the elections of 1863, 1864 and beyond.

One of the first military organizations to respond to the governments plea for men was a company of Negro men raised in the city of Philadelphia. Octavious Catto, a spokesman and activist in Philadelphia's Black community, organized a company of 100 men soon after Governor Curtin's first call for volunteers. After electing white officers and receiving arms from one of the city arsenals, the men marched to a waiting train and set off with one of the first groups of militia raised in Philadelphia. Once in Harrisburg, General Couch, who was proving to be a stickler for details, refused to accept the detachment on the grounds that he was unable to muster in Black troops for any less than the federally mandated 3-years. Considering his refusal to accept white militia on anything other than government terms, his actions are not surprising and should not be taken out of context. 61

Since the onset of hostilities there had been a reluctance on the part of Philadelphians to accept the idea of Negro troops. Frederick Douglas had remarked on the city's inhospitable attitude towards Blacks in 1862, "There is not perhaps anywhere to be found a city in which prejudice against color is more rampant than in Philadelphia."62   The strong bias apparently exhibited by the white population of the city was, no doubt, fostered by the racist attitudes of Philadelphia's social and economic leaders, many of whom, coincidentally were members of the Democratic party.

The Confederate invasion into Pennsylvania seemed to alter the negative attitudes of many to the idea of Negro troops. On June 30th, as Black recruits marched through the streets of Philadelphia on their way to Camp William Penn, George Fahnestock made this observation

I saw several hundred colored men in procession march up sixth to Chestnut, and up Chestnut St. They were not uniformed nor armed, but they were a good looking body of men. 63 Earlier that same month Fahnestock, upon hearing of the bravery exhibited by Black troops in an attack against Confederate forces, commented, Negro regiments are mentioned in the engagement at Port Hudson, as having fought desperately. I only wish we had two hundred thousand in our army to save the valuable lives of our white men.64 With Lee's forces crossing the Pennsylvania border it must have become apparent that the

defeat of the Confederacy could only be accomplished by gathering all the forces that the Union could muster. 65   Except for the incessant grumbling of the Democrats and their mouthpiece the Age, there seems to have been little dispute over the utilization of Black troops in the war against the South. 66

The time has come when the Republic can forego the services of no one able to carry a musket, and willing to fight the good fight against anarchy and barbarism. . .as long as it was considered doubtful, even by dispassionate men, whether the Negro could be trusted to stand fire, there was a natural hesitation . . .of calling upon our colored population to take part in the struggle in which their race is so deeply interested. This hesitation can exist no longer . . . The valor of the colored race has been attested at Port Hudson, at Milliken's Bend, and Pocotaligo. Besides this, we have evidence that Negro soldiers are thoroughly amenable to discipline. . . All the objection are thus removed, and the sooner we put in the field an active force of colored troops the better.67 Just two days after the return of Catto's company of militia, they were notified that a regiment of Blacks would be raised and mustered into the service of the United States. By July 24, 1863 a full regiment had been raised, outside of Philadelphia at Camp William Penn, and recruiting for a second regiment was proceeding. The spark that had initiated the acceptance of Black soldiers was the invasion of Lee's army in 1863.

On July 2nd 1863, citizens of Philadelphia awoke to discover that the Army of the Potomac had finally come to grips with Lee's forces at a little crossroads town in southeastern Pennsylvania. The battle of Gettysburg had begun. As the fighting intensified, news of the struggle began to filter into the city. The death of Pennsylvanian, Major General John Fulton Reynolds, was reported in one of the first dispatches from the field. Ironically, just a few days prior to the battle, the Philadelphia Inquirer had printed a highly complimentary profile of the native of Lancaster.

Possessed of administrative abilities seldom accorded to the many; ever cool, calm and collected upon the battlefield, brave and active, at such times ever at the head of his command, now the First Corps de Armee, with all the intrepidity and dash of KEARNEY, but with more prudence. These with other excellent qualities, have acquired for him a glorious name, second to none in the army. 68 Shot from his saddle while leading his men into the opening phase of the battle his body was taken to Baltimore where it was placed on a train bound for Philadelphia. Upon arriving in the city his aides took the body to his sister's residence located at 1829 Spruce Street, where the general lay in state until transportation could be arranged to his hometown, where John Reynolds was interred on July 4, 1863. Philadelphia had seen its first household in mourning due to the Battle of Gettysburg. It would be far from the last.

On July 2nd and 3rd, the city remained a beehive of activity as droves of men enlisted, under Governor Curtin's terms, to defend their homes. Onlookers jammed the streets to witness the spectacle and perhaps discover the latest news from the front. The population had been aroused to the danger and thanks to their governor, were now able to oppose it in acceptable terms. As quickly as companies and regiments were formed, they were rushed off by train to Harrisburg. General Dana and Mayor Alexander Henry, with a labor force of over 700 men, went about the business of fortifying the city. Veterans from the War of 1812 drilled in the shadow of Independence Hall. Businesses and factories, many of which had been operating for only a half day during the crisis shut down completely. The city stock exchange, obviously effected by the invasion, took on the air of a recruiting center.

The past week has been one of unprecedented excitement among the mercantile community, and business in many departments has been suspended. The counting houses have generally been closed after two o'clock and the merchants are busy enrolling and equipping troops for the defense of the state and city. Today there was a feeling of painful suspense in relation to the battle of Gettysburg, and trade was brought to a stand. 69 For now, all eyes were glued to the Army of the Potomac as it remained in its death grasp with the Army of Northern Virginia amongst the rolling hills of the Pennsylvania countryside.

It somehow seems fitting that the first news of Philadelphian George Meade's victory over the Army of Northern Virginia was received on the 87th birthday of the United States of America, July 4, 1863. That year's July Fourth, unlike the many that had passed before it, was not celebrated with the parties and extravaganzas associated with the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That Saturday morning had dawned warm and humid. The city's streets, which under normal circumstances would have been jammed with residents preparing for a variety of festivities, were the scene of a city going about the grim business of war. Parades and speech making had been replaced by the roll of the recruiter’s drum and haranguing of officers organizing their units. Church bells rang throughout the city calling congregations to prayer for the salvation of their city, state and nation. 70

The public celebrations announced to take place on the Fourth having been dispensed with, the day passed off in a very ordinary manner. Beyond the ringing of the bells of the morning, the firing of salutes and the discharge of firearms and fireworks there was not anything to mark the day . . . At noon, General Meade's official dispatch in relation to the battle on Friday was issued in extras, and occasioned much enthusiasm. Crowds would surround the fortunate possessor of a paper, and the reading aloud of the dispatch was received with cheers. The whole character of the celebration of the day changed and the hillarity was commensurate with the previous anxiety. 71 News of the Army of the Potomac's spectacular victory settled the question once and for all that Philadelphia was indeed a "Union City." There would be no doubt that the War would be supported fully until it had been brought to its proper conclusion, the reunification of the country and the death of chattel slavery. The people grasped the military triumph as if it were their own. Henry Benners, exclaimed in his diary. News glorious, Rebels whipped at all points, Gen'l Armistead, and 8,000 prisoners captured, president announces this, and says it is a decided success. 72 Impromptu celebrations erupted throughout the city. A fireworks display was ignited in front of the St. Louis Hotel on Chestnut Street. Many fire companies paraded up and down the streets. Crowds of people thronged to Independence Square to be a part of the spectacle as well as listen to the latest bulletins. At 9 p.m., an unknown gentleman announced to a cheering crowd, from a balcony of the Continental Hotel, that Governor Curtin had sent a dispatch claiming that a huge number of prisoners had been captured and that Lee's forces were on the run. 73  Later on that evening, the membership of the Union League, along with a crowd of well wishers and a band, marched to Pine Street to serenade the wife of the victorious commanding general, Mrs. George Gordon Meade. The band performed the Star Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia, and other national airs, and just as Yankee Doodle died away, Mayor Henry and Morton McMichael appeared upon the steps of Mrs. Meade's residence, and formally presented her the congratulations and good wishes of the citizens of Philadelphia. They were greeted by loud and enthusiastic cheering. Mrs. Meade then very briefly acknowledged the courtesy and retired amid deafening applause and cheers for herself and her husband the victor of Gettysburg. 74 Even as the citizenry reveled in their salvation, courtesy of the Army of the Potomac, incoming trains began to arrive, filled with wounded. On July 4th, 500 men, including Norristown native Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, were the first of 10,000 casualties from the battle of Gettysburg that would be treated and hospitalized in Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia had responded vigorously when it was called upon by its Governor. It had temporarily put aside its racial bias in the hopes of ultimate victory. Now, it would be called upon to succor and tend to the needs of the men who had defended its people.

The invasion of 1863 had given the citizens of Philadelphia a chance to reaffirm their loyalty to a government that had been born in their city. Their actions during the rest of the War would clearly demonstrate their support of President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to reunite the nation.



1.  Philip Shaw Paludin, A People’s Contest: The Union and the Civil War (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), p. 100.  Erwin Bradley, The Triumph of Militant Republicanism: A Study of Pennsylvanian and Presidential Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964), p. 157-58.

  2.  Members of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party often referred to their organization as the Democracy

  3.  Russell Weigley, “A Peaceful City: Public Order in Philadelphia from Consolidation Through the Civil War,” in The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower Class Life, 1790-1940, ed. Allen F. Davis and Mark Haller (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973), p. 165.

 4.   Stanton Ling Davis, “Pennsylvania Politics, 1860-1863,” (Ph.D. diss, Western Reserve University, 1935), p. 3.
  5.  Fahnstock, George W., Diary, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, May 8, 1863.

  6.  Edwin Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1968), p. 6.
7.  Coddington, Gettysburg Campaign, p.9.

  8.  Fahnestock Diary, May 22, 1863.
9.  Irwin Greenberg,  "Charles Ingersoll: The Aristocrat as a Copperhead,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, p.205.

  10.  William Dusinberre, Civil War Issue in Philadelphia, 1861-1865 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1965), p. 159-160.

  11.  Greenberg, “Charles Ingersoll,” p. 190.

  12.  Nicholas A. Wainwright, “Loyal Opposition in Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, p. 302.

  13.  Greenberg, “Charles Ingersoll,” p. 215.

  14.  Nicholas B. Wainwright, ed., A Philadelphia Perspecitve: The Diary of Sidney George Fisher Covering the Years 1834-1871, June 1, 1863.  Hereafter cited as Fisher Diary.

  15.  Fahnestock Diary, June 4, 1863.

  16.  Weigley, “Peaceful City,” p. 166-67.

  17.  Fisher Diary, June 1, 1863.

  18.  John Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia: 1609-1884 (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts, 1884) p.807.

  19.  Coddington, Gettysburg Campaign, p.71.

  20.  Patricia L. Faust, ed., Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), p. 737.

  21.  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 parts in 70 Vols and atlas, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Officie, 1880-1901). XXVII, part 3, p. 113.  Hereafter cited as O.R.  All references are to Series I.

  22.  O.R., XXVII, part 3, p. 137.

  23.  O.R., XXVII, part 3, p. 145.

  24.  Fahnestock Diary, June 15, 1863.

  25.  Frank H. Taylor, Philadelphia in the Civil War: 1861-1865 (Philadelphia: The City of Philadelphia, 1913), p. 248-249.

  26.  Fahnestock Diary, June 16, 1863.

  27.  Philadelphia Inquirer, June 16, 1863.

 28.   Henry Benners, Diary. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, June 16, 1863.

  29.  The Daily Age (Philadelphia), June 16, 1863.

  30.  Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 16, 1863.

  31.  Inquirer, June 16, 1863.

  32.  Maxwell Whiteman, Gentlemen in Crisis: The First Century of the Union League of Philadelphia, 1862-1962 (Philadelphia, 1975), p. 43.

  33. Fahnestock Diary, June 17, 1863; Age, June 17, 1863; Public Ledger, June 26, 1863; Gallman, Mastering Wartime, p. 21.

  34. O.R. XXVII, part 3, p. 132-134; Inquirer, June 30, 1863.

   35.    Public Ledger, June 18, 1863.

  36.  Inquirer, June 18, 1863

  37.  O.R. XXVII, part 3, p. 141.

  38.  Taylor, Philadelphia and the Civil War, p. 249.

  39.  Public Ledger, June 19, 1863.

  40.  Inquirer, June 29, 1863

 41.   Fahnestock Diary, June 27, 1863; Fisher Diary, June 29, 1863.

  42.  J. Matthew Gallman, Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia during the Civil War (New York: Cambridge University, 1990), p. 35.

  43.  Edmund J. Raus, A Generation on the March: The Union Army at Gettysburg (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1987), p. 110-146.

  44.  Taylor, Philadelphia and the Civil War, p. 244.

  45.  O.R. XXVII, part 3, p. 347-348.

  46.  Taylor, Philadelphia and the Civil War, p. 242.

  47.  O.R. XXVII, part 1, p. 65.

  48.  Lewis Ashurst, Diary, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, June 30, 1863.

  49.  Mary Ashurst, Diary, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, June 29, 1863.

  50.  O.R. XXVII, part 3, p. 408.

  51.  Whiteman, Gentlemen in Crisis,

  52.  Taylor, Philadelphia and the Civil War, p. 247-51.

  53.  Taylor, Philadelphia and the Civil War, p. 247-51.

  54.  Fahnestock Diary, July 1, 1863.

  55.  Benners, Diary, July 1, 1863.

  56.  Age, June 18, 1863.

  57.  Age, June 16, 17, 18, 20, 25, 27, 1863.

  58.  Arnold Shankman, “William B. Reed and the Civil War,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography  98 (1972), p. 466.

  59.  Dusinberre, Civil War Issues, p. 166.

  60.  Greenberg, “Charles Ingersoll,” p. 197.

  61.  James M. Paradis, “Strike the Blow: Study of the Sixth Regiment of United States Colored Infantry”
(Ph. D. diss., Temple University, 1995), p. 16-17.

  62.  Paradis, “Strike the Blow,” p. 12.

  63.  Fahnestock Diary, June 30, 1863.

  64.  Fahnestock Diary, June 6, 1863.

  65.  Paradis, “Strike the Blow,” p. 16.

  66.  Public Ledger, July 4, 1863.

  67.  Inquirer, June 26, 1863.

  68.  Inquirer, June 29, 1863.

 69.   Inquirer, July 3, 1863

  70.  Public Ledger, July 6, 1863.
  71.  Public Ledger, July 4, 1863.

  72.  Benners, Diary, July 4, 1863.

  73.  Public Ledger, July 6, 1863.

  74.  Inquirer, July 6, 1863