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Remembering Pennsylvania's Civil War Past

Published: Aug 8, 2012
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By Merle Rosenstein

With over 600,000 casualties, the American Civil War was the largest conflict fought on American soil. Pennsylvania aided the War effort in three ways: participation of citizens in the army; production and transport of supplies and artillery; and fundraising. A number of prominent Pennsylvanians played key roles such as Thomas Scott, Assistant Secretary of War and engineer Herman Haupt who designed, built and maintained the railway lines carrying supplies and soldiers. Simon Cameron was President Lincoln’s first Secretary of War and was followed by Edwin M. Stanton of Pittsburgh.

Battlefields, Underground Railroad stops, monuments and historic homes remain as a testament to the heroism of the people of Pennsylvania. Each region in the state has an important Civil War story to tell.

Dutch Country Roads
Sitting north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the dividing line between North and South, Dutch Country Roads brings the sights and sounds of the Civil War to tourists. Buildings, battlefields, Civil War re-enactments and museums with Civil War collections are reminiscent of the men who fought to keep America united.

Gettysburg, the most famous battle of the Civil War, lasted three days with heavy fighting at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Peach Orchard, Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill. The battle ended with the defeat of the Confederate army. An estimated 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing. Here are some key Civil War sites in the Dutch Country Roads region:  

•Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center: History buffs can visit the site of the Battle of Gettysburg and see Civil War relics.
The National Civil War Museum: The Museum houses more than 24,000 artifacts including manuscripts, documents and photographs from the Confederate and Union sides.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania: Located in Harrisburg next to the State Capitol building, the State Museum of Pennsylvania preserves weapons, uniforms and military equipment from the Civil War.
• John Brown House: John Brown, an abolitionist, stayed in this house in Chambersburg while he planned a raid on an arsenal to arm slaves to fight for the end of slavery.  
• The John Harris and Simon Cameron Mansion: Simon Cameron, US Secretary of War under President Lincoln lived in this house in Harrisburg.
• U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center: This Center is the home of the Military History Institute, Visitor & Education Center and Army Heritage Museum.

Pittsburgh and Its Countryside
Western Pennsylvania provided the raw materials, transportation and supplies needed for battle such as steamboats, locomotives, freight cars, iron and weapons and held the most successful fundraising event collecting $300,000 in 18 days. Western Pennsylvania was also the home of prominent Civil War heroes and political figures. Civil War sites of importance in Pittsburgh and Its Countryside are:
• Senator John Heinz History Center: Senator John Heinz History Center, the largest history museum in the state, maintains Civil War displays.
• Plaque Honouring Jane Grey Swisshelm: Editor of several abolitionist newspapers, Jane Grey Swisshelm was often the victim of threats. A plaque in her honour stands at the Heinz headquarters.
• LeMoyne House: Part of the Underground Railroad, the house of Francis Julius LeMoyne housed slaves escaping to freedom.  
• Blairsville Area Underground Railroad Project: In the town of Blairsville, a stop on the Underground Railroad route, visitors can explore the Underground Railroad museum.
• Allegheny Cemetery: Soldiers who served on the Union and Confederate sides during the Civil War are buried in Allegheny Cemetery.
 
The Alleghenies & Valleys of the Susquehanna
Although the Alleghenies and Valleys of the Susquehanna didn’t see battle, many men went off to war, while women tended to farms and made military supplies. The region hosted the Loyal War Governors’ Conference in 1862 at the Logan House Hotel in Altoona. The Conference was meant to muster support for President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. Sites of interest in the Alleghenies & Valleys of the Susquehanna are:
• Baker Mansion: Built in 1849 in the Greek Revival style, the Baker Mansion was the home of iron mogul Elias Baker and his family. Baker and his cousin owned the Alleghany Furnace.
• Old Bedford Village: Old Bedford Village is a living history museum modeled after towns from Pennsylvania’s past and offers Civil War reenactments.
• Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum: Railroads were important in the transfer of soldiers, goods and military equipment and Pennsylvania railroad lines and production of supplies helped the Union army to succeed. The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum recognizes the significant contributions of railroaders and their families.

Philadelphia & the Countryside
At the beginning of the Civil War, Philadelphia was divided on the issue of slavery with strong family ties to the South. By the end of the war Philadelphia, strongly aligned with the Union side, supplied soldiers and materials for the war effort and cared for men who were injured while fighting. Featured sites in Philadelphia and the surrounding countryside show evidence of the struggle for freedom and tell the story of the men and women who fought for equality.
• Independence National Park and National Constitution Center: Independence National Park is a complex of preserved sites from the American Revolution and the Nation’s founding history comprising four blocks in the downtown historic district of Philadelphia. Independence Hall, the focal point of the Park, is the place where the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution were adopted. The National Constitution Center brings the words of the Constitution to life in multimedia exhibitions, live performances, public programs and educational resources.
• African American Museum of Philadelphia: A permanent exhibition that tells the history of Philadelphia’s African American community, the largest Black urban population north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
• The Philadelphia Museum of History at the Atwater Kent: This museum contains more than 1,500 Civil War artifacts.
• Laurel Hill Cemetery: A total of 42 Union generals and one Confederate general are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery.  
• Belmont Mansion and Johnson House: Two historic homes that were used as stops on the Underground Railroad.

For more information on Civil War sites in Pennsylvania visit The National Civil War Museum www.pacivilwar150.com or www.visitpa.com

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