March 23, 2014

The Grand Welcome Home

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
On the evening of March 5, 1864, any soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania who reenlisted as veterans were relieved of picket duty near Tyner's Station, about ten miles east of Chattanooga.  Early the next morning, they left camp and marched to Chattanooga, where they waited for a day before boarding a train for Loiusville.  The journey to Louisville took three days, and the 79th Pennsylvania passed many regiments that had just completed their furlough and were heading in the opposite direction.

The regiment arrived in Pittsburgh on the night of March 13, and were treated to splendid supper before boarding another train for an overnight journey east.  March 14 was spent completing to journey to Harrisburg, where the regiment spent a day preparing for their return to Lancaster by tending to some long overdue personal grooming.  Although the food in Harrisburg was worse than what they got on the front lines, the state legislature acknowledged the regiment's presence by unanimously passing resolutions offered by State Senator Benjamin Champneys of Lancaster.

At 7am on Wednesday, March 16, the 200 or so returning veterans of the 79th Pennsylvania boarded a train bound for Lancaster.  They arrived at the Dillerville Yard, where a procession formed led by the 79th Pa's former Lieut. Colonel, John H. Duchman, and marched through town to take part in a grand collation at Fulton Hall.  The citizens of Lancaster were certainly prepared for the 79th Pa's return.  The Daily Evening Express reported:
Upon their arrival [at Dillerville], the veterans were met and welcomed by an immense crowd of their fellow citizens, and the streets through which they passed were thronged with men, women, and children.  The display of bunting was magnificent, and reminded us of the patriotic uprising in 1861, when the demand for flags could not be supplied.  The Reception was altogether a magnificent affair, and the veterans after what they witnessed that day can have no doubt of how deeply the People sympathizes with the gallant defenders of the flag of the free.
The officers and men of the 79th looked like veterans as they are.  Their soldierly deportment in marching was noticed by every spectator.  There was not as much noisy enthusiasm as many expected to witness.  the regiment is under strict military discipline, and of course the men received all greetings with the dignity of military silence.  The general joy at welcoming home the gallant survivors was mingled with sadness at the memory of the lamented dead.  Many once familiar faces were missed from the veteran ranks; and as the torn colors of the regiment passed along, riddled by the deadly missiles of many a battle, we saw the tear start to eyes unused to weep.
At Fulton Hall, five long tables that stretched the hall greeted the veterans.  Dr. Henry Carpenter gave a greeting and Rev. F. W. Conrad of Trinity Lutheran Church gave a prayer before Mayor George Sanderson gave a lengthy welcome speech.  Private Edwin K. Martin of Company E, 79th Pennsylvania gave a response on behalf of the regiment, and collation concluded with music by the Fencibles Band and the Glee Club.

The joyous occasion was not without controversy, as could be expected given the deep divisions that existed between Lancaster's borderline peace Democrats and its pro-Lincoln Republicans.  Rather than describe it in detail, I'll defer to William T. Clark's diary entry for the day:
Took train at apptd. time, met committee on reception at Dillersville (one mile north of Lancaster). We disembarked, marched, halted, Artillery firing as salute to us. Procession formed at 10½ A.M. lead by (our former Lieut. Col.) John H. Duchman. Copperheads following their Copperhead leader. Marched through the different streets of town. Saw many friends. Stacked arms in front of Fulton Hall. Were marched in where a fine collation was spread. This has been done by deception on the part of Copperheads, only a few Patriot Daughters being among them. The Hon. Copperhead Mayor of Lancaster made a speech of welcome which greatly belies his former actions toward all soldiers. Col. H. A. Hambright made a few remarks excusing himself by saying he never made a speech. Ed Martin responded in behalf of the 79th P.V.V. in a splendid speech cutting Copperheads & all others leagued with Treason right & left. It gave many of them the short coughs & made them generally uneasy. We then ate heartily of the dinner prepared. An hour afterwards we fell in & drilled in Centre Square more than an hour, when we returned to the Hall, marched to the upper story, stacked arms & are given leaves of absence untill the 20th when we must answer to our names & receive our furloughs. 
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