|Gaines' Mill Battlefield (vws)|
The Pennsylvania Reserves was a division of thirteen infantry regiments organized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shortly after the war's outbreak. Four of the companies were from Lancaster County:
- Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited in Lancaster City
- Company D, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited in Safe Harbor
- Company E, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited in Lancaster City
- Company K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited in Columbia
- [Joining in July 1862:] Co. G, 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited in Landisville
|Co. B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, in 1863 (Mathew Brady)|
The Pennsylvania Reserves' task, then, was to stop the Confederate momentum and buy time for the Union army to retreat and reform a strong defensive line. They fought in three battles, Beaver Dam Creek on June 26, Gaines' Mill on June 27, and Glendale on June 30. Casualties were severe with the four Lancaster companies accumulating 13 killed, 81 wounded, and 15 missing, based on initial reports.
|Daily Evening Express Front Page|
July 12, 1862
The Lancaster community was shocked. The Patriot Daughters of Lancaster received a surge of donations of hospital stores, and a commission of three men left Lancaster on July 2 to personally deliver the first shipment. Fathers of wounded soldiers set out for Virginia to try to find their sons, including the County Register G. C. Hawthorne whose son Aldus was wounded. A group of Lancaster's prominent citizens petitioned to have military hospital established at the summer resort Wabank (where Rt. 741 crosses the Conestoga), although apparently York was chosen over Lancaster. The editors of the Daily Evening Express even suggested that a monument be built on Centre Square, a proposal that came to fruition twelve years later.
The string of battles and casualties continued through the rest of the year without respite. Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Perryville, Fredericksburg, and Stones River badly cut up the companies that left Lancaster in 1861. As I think through what I've read about the second half of 1862, the whirlwind of campaigns and casualties transformed popular sentiments about the war, increasing determination, decreasing tolerance for anti-war (even anti-Lincoln) protesters, and making emancipation palatable. The 79th Pennsylvania, the Battle of Perryville, and the Lancaster community certainly offers a fascinating case study for this transformation, and I look forward to exploring it here later this year.
For further reading, see:
- Battlefield and Prison Pen, a memoir by John W. Urban of Co. D, 1st Penna Reserves. (Start on page 101 for his experiences in the Seven Days Campaign; much of the memoir is his less remarkable grand history of the war.)
- Browse the Lancaster Examiner and Herald for news reports and soldiers' letters in July 1862
- Browse the Columbia Spy for reaction in Columbia and soldiers' letters in July 1862
- Letter from George McElroy, an artilleryman from Lancaster in Capt. Easton's Battery