MG 312 - Pennsylvania First Defenders Collection

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Scope and Content

The collection contains the program for the Centennial Commemorative Ceremonies for the Pennsylvania First Defenders held on the State Capitol Grounds, Harrisburg, April 16, 1961 (3 copies), and the newspaper article from the Sunday Patriot-News concerning the ceremony and parade. Both items include a historical account of the event.


On April 15, 1861 President Lincoln issued a call to arms. The first to respond to his appeal were five companies of Pennsylvania militia: Allen Infantry of Allentown, Capt. Thomas Yeager; Logan Guards of Lewistown, Capt. John B. Selheimer; National Light Infantry of Pottsville, Capt. Edmund McDonald; Washington Artillerists of Pottsville, Capt. James Wren; and Ringgold Light Artillery of Reading, Capt. James McKnight. This force of 481 men were the "First Defenders." They were ordered by Governor Curtin to assemble at Harrisburg where they were sworn into the service of the United State by Captain Seneca Simmons of the 7th U. S. Infantry. They traveled to Washington and were the sole defenders of the Capitol until the 19th of April when the Sixth Massachusetts arrived. Together, the two forces "held the fort" until the 25th when other troops arrived and ended the emergency.

Date(s): 1961

Extent: 1 folder, 2 enclosures