Click to enlarge:
Philadelphia Mayor Alexander Henry calls out the home guard as Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia is expected to invade Pennsylvania. This huge broadside prints a statement by Henry requiring Brigadier General A.J. Pleasonton, Commander of the Home Guard, to order out his units, with a reciprocal statement by Pleasonton. Adorned by a figurative illustration of Philadelphia’s city seal. [GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN].
Broadside, “Defence of the City of Philadelphia,” Philadelphia: King & Baird, June 16, 1863. 1 p., 24” x 37 ¾”.
“I do hereby require Brigadier General A. J. Pleasonton, Commander of the Home Guard, to order out (and into the service of the City of Philadelphia,) The Whole Of The Said Guard, for the preservation of the public peace And The Defence Of The City, And I hereby call upon all persons within the limits of the said City, to yield a Prompt And Ready Obedience to the Orders of the said Commander of the Home Guard, and of those acting under his authority in the execution of his and their said duties.
In witness whereof…this sixteenth day of June A.D., one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three.
Alexander Henry, / Mayor of Philadelphia
Head-Quarters, Home Guard, City of Philadelphia,
June 16th, 1863.
Under the authority of an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, entitled – ‘An Act relating to the Home Guard of the City of Philadelphia,’ approved the sixteenth day of May,…and of the requirement of the Hon. Alexander Henry,…the undersigned assumes the duties…
A. J. Pleasonton / Brigadier General Commanding in Philadelphia
Wm. Bradford, / Assistant Adjutant General.”
Augustus James Pleasonton (1808-1894): appointed Brigadier-General of the Pennsylvania militia in 1861, charged with the organization and command of the “Home Guard” of about 10,000 men, which included cavalry, artillery, and infantry, for the defense of Philadelphia. Not to be confused with his brother, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton.
Just four days earlier…
This broadside proclamation was precipitated by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin’s proclamation of June 12, 1863, confirming rumors that the state was threatened by a “large rebel force.” Curtin issued a call-to-arms, summoning all able-bodied Pennsylvanians to enlist for the defense of their ‘own homes, firesides, and property’” in a new corps of home guards that was being organized by the War Department. (OR, XXVII, pt. 3, pp. 79-80). The ‘home guard’ was the product of a meeting Curtin had in May with President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton:
All agreed that Hooker’s army must be reinforced, but aside from stripping Washington of its defenses the only recourse was to raise a force of emergency troops to be made up largely of Pennsylvanians. Since Stanton had little faith in the efficiency of the traditional state militia system, he decided this time to try something new: raise a force of militia which would be recruited, maintained, and controlled by the national government. It would be composed of volunteers between the ages of eighteen and sixty who would serve during ‘the pleasure of the President or the continuance of the war.’ They would be kept on a standby basis and during an emergency would go on active duty in the military department in which they lived. After it was over they could return home but would remain subject to call at any time. Curtin was struck by the many unique features of Stanton’s plan, and he accepted it reluctantly… (Coddington, 134-5)
By the day this broadside was issued, June 16, Lee’s forces had advanced to Martinsburg, West Virginia, approximately 200 miles from Philadelphia. As they moved into Pennsylvania, his three infantry corps ranged broadly so as to gather provisions from the countryside. Richard Ewell’s II Corps pressed toward the state capital of Harrisburg (107 miles from Philadelphia). On June 28, Confederate General Jubal Early (one of Ewell’s division commanders) seized York, Pa., the largest northern city to fall to the Confederacy during the Civil War. According to Coddington,
the appearance on Pennsylvania soil of the entire Army of Northern Virginia, not just a part of it, convinced even the most skeptical that the Confederates meant business…..In Philadelphia where apathy had been particularly noticeable, the people became thoroughly aroused and eagerly sought to cooperate with the military authorities… Among their various projects was a system of earthworks and trenches for which they paid $51,537.37 for labor and materials. (144-7)
In one of the most controversial actions of the campaign, J.E.B. Stuart, Lee’s chief cavalry officer, decided to attempt a complete circuit around Joseph Hooker’s retreating army. He succeeded, but in so doing, lost contact with Lee, and was unable to provide his commander with critical intelligence of Hooker’s actions. On the night of June 28, a rebel spy brought news that Lincoln had fired Hooker and replaced him with George Meade, whom Lee greatly respected, and that Meade was advancing northward at a swift pace . This news compelled Lee to temporarily abandon any plans to strike eastward towards the major cities, instead ordering a rapid concentration at the small crossroads hamlet of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1-3, 1863. Lee’s army began its retreat from the state on July 5th. His entire army crossed back over the Potomac by 11:00 am on July 14th.
Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984. pp. 134-153.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate
Armies, Series I, Washington, 1880-1901.
MacKay, Philadelphia during the Civil War, PMHB, LXX, 32-33.
Third annual report of Brigadier General A.J. Pleasonton, commanding the Home guard of the
city of Philadelphia, to the Hon. Alexander Henry, mayor for 1863.(1864) Cornell University: Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection at: http://dlxs.library.cornell.edu/m/mayantislavery/browse_P.html