DEDICATION OF MEMORIAL TO GEORGE LEISENRING
The First Volunteer From Pennsylvania And Philadelphia Who Perished In The Civil War!
A ceremony was held on April 23rd, 2011 to dedicate a memorial marker to the memory of George
Leisenring, the first Pennsylvanian and Philadelphian to die as a result of wounds recieved during the Civil War. George Leisenring was
a German immigrant soldier of the Washington Brigade of Philadelphia, who lived in the Fishtown neighborhood. He was one of
the first to volunteer to defend the country at the outbreak of the Civil War.
The memorial is located just inside the gate at the corner of Palmer & Memphis Streets.
THE UNEXPECTED FIRST BATTLE OF THE WASHINGTON BRIGADE
They Knew They Were Going To The Front; The Didn't Expect "The Front" To Be Baltimore!
In April 1861, Philadelphia's first volunteers for the front found themselves in combat
unexpectedly and on supposedly friendly soil. Here's their story:
months following Abraham Lincoln's election to the Presidency were perilous to the Union -- as state after state in the South
seceded and the capital, the President and the government itself came close to being surrounded and captured by Confederate
Most of the United States' small standing army was in the west.
The largely defenseless capital city was surrounded by a Confederate state and an unreliable border state filled with slave-holding
Secessionists. President Lincoln sounded a call to arms for loyal Union soldiers to secure and defend the nation's capital
against a possible attack and capture.
In Philadelphia, the 'Washington
Brigade' was the first body of troops to heed this call. This brigade of native born Americans and German immigrants under
the command of General William F. Small had been organizing and drilling for months in response to the nation's growing turmoil,
and the potential urgent need for volunteer troops.
So urgent was the
need for soldiers to defend Washington that Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered the 'Washington Brigade' to make its way
to the capital immediately -- even though the Brigade had few uniforms and almost no weapons. They would be supplied with
all they needed when they arrived, Small was assured.
So General Small
and his volunteers left from the passenger station at Broad Street & Washington Avenue on April 18th, 1861. But first,
they had to pass through Baltimore. There the Secessionists set upon the Union volunteers from Massachusetts and the unarmed
Philadelphians. A riot erupted in which four soldiers from Massachusetts were killed, many Philadelphians seriously injured
and citizens killed. This is known as the 'Baltimore Riot' of April 19th, 1861 -- the first combat action of the Civil War.
One of the wounded Philadelphians, German immigrant George Leisenring, died of his wounds,
becoming the first fatality of a soldier from Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in the Rebellion. He would be the first of many
thousands to follow until peace, freedom and equality were assured.
from Anthony Waskie, Philadelphia and the Civil War: Arsenal of the Union. Dr. Waskie, in his persona of George Gordon Meade,
is the marshal for the Civil War History Consortium's April 16th parade through Center City Philadelphia.