Pennsylvania contributed extensively to the Union cause in the Civil War. Over 425.000 Pennsylvanians served in the Union Army and Navy, in well over 200 regiments of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Although a few units served with the western armies, the vast majority served in the Army of the Potomac.
There were numerous distinguished and famous Pennsylvania units in the Army of the Potomac. Here are just a few:
The Philadelphia Brigade, which consisted of the 69th, 71st, 72nd and 106th Pennsylvania Infantry regiments in the Second Corps, helped repulse Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. The 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry of the Fifth Corps had 282 officers and men killed in action or mortally wounded; only one other infantry regiment suffered more battle deaths. The 48th Pennsylvania of the Ninth Corps included many men who were coal miners in civilian life; they applied their skills in digging a tunnel under Confederate lines during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia. The mine was packed with black powder and detonated; the resulting Battle of the Crater was one of the more horrible battles of the war.
Several notable figures in the war had Pennsylvania ties. These included Major General George Meade, Major General Winfield S. Hancock and Major General John F. Reynolds, who was killed at Gettysburg. The Navy also had its share of Pennsylvanians. Admiral John A. Dahlgren assumed command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in July of 1863. He also invented the Dahlgren Gun, a type of rifled cannon. Admiral David D. Porter commanded several naval operations on the western rivers; later in the war he served in the Atlantic.
The largest battle of the war was fought on Pennsylvania soil on July 1st-3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg, but there were a few other actions as well. The most famous occurred at Chambersburg on July 30th, 1864. Confederate cavalry of General Jubal Early’s command entered the town and demanded $500,000 in currency or $100,000 in gold as reparations for Union Army depredations in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The people of Chambersburg were unable to raise that much money, and much of the town was burned by the raiders.
Pennsylvania Civil War 150 is the organization coordinating the state’s Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration.