Sunday, October 15, 2006
Civil War - First Year
In the Lehigh Valley the general response was patriotic bombast. The South was in rebellion, a traitorous act which must not be allowed to destroy the "Grand Union." The general belief was that the rebellion would be put down in less than ninety days.
Within two weeks of the firing on Fort Sumter, Captain Thomas Yeager, of the Allentown Militia Company known as the Allen Infantry, went to Harrisburg to offer his units services to Governor Curtin. With the governor's approval, he returned to Allentown and began recruiting for additional members to being the unit to full strength.
On April 18, 1861, the Allen Infantry was on a train headed toward Baltimore and the defense of the capital, with four other companies from other Pennsylvania counties. These five companies were the first volunteer units to respond and would be, from that point forward, known as the "First Defenders." This unit, the Allen Infantry, is the only company from the Lehigh Valley area that earned the right to be called "First Defenders." Other militia companies that responded later have also been referred to in the ensuing years by the name "First Defenders", but this would be an incorrect reference. The Allen Infantry, like the militia units that followed signed on for ninety-days service, bolstering the belief in the North that the war would last no more than ninety-days.
Other militia units from the area, the Jordan Artillerists and the Allen Rifles were mustered into service as Company I of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Upon joining ranks, they took the new name; Union Rifles. The Catasauqua Rifles were sworn in as Company D of the 9th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Captain Yeaghers' Allentown Infantry, on May 1, 1861 became Company G of the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Allen Infantry unit after garrison duty along the Potomac River south of Washington D.C., returned home on July 24, 1861, to a tumultuous greeting with much fanfare, paraded, serenaded and dined by the local populace. The other Allentown units returned a few days later and the "First Defenders" were on hand to welcome them.
After the return and discharge from service of these initial 3-month units, subsequent volunteer units were only authorized if they signed on to serve for three years.
Company C of the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (PVI) was organized by Arnold C. Lewis, editor and publisher of the Catasauqua Herald. This company of men, mostly from Catasauqua, was mustered into service on August 17, 1861.
Lt. Colonel Tilghman Good of the 1st Regiment, upon completion of his ninety-day commitment immediately raised a Regiment. Four of the companies were raised in Allentown and one in Catasauqua. This Regiment, raised in early August, 1861, became the 47th PVI.
A third regiment, the 54th PVI had a company raised in Allentown. Company K was raised by Edward R. Newhard and was mustered into service in September,1861.
The 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry of the 92nd Regiment had a few Allentonians serving in the ranks in Company A. Samuel H. Schneck, a "First Defender" and a popular Allentonian served with this company in the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry which drew attention to this unit. The cavalry was a special branch to be admired and Lehigh County needed its own cavalry unit to identify with, so it adopted the 9th Calvary.
The 104th PVI was raised in Berks County but contained men from Lehigh County in its ranks. However, there were not sufficient Lehigh County men to make up a company, so they were generally disbursed throughout the various companies.
By the end of April 1862, one year after the outset of hostilities, Lehigh County had provided about 800 men to the war effort. Some were men who had also served with 3-month companies and had reenlisted in new companies.
As yet, the county had not been touched by the cold hand of death and suffering. The only major battle fought during the first year of the war was Bull Run and no Pennsylvania regiments were engaged in that battle.
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