They came from Allentown, Lewistown, Reading, and Pottsville. 475 men, composing the ranks of five volunteer militia companies, who answered their country’s call. They were the first Northern volunteers to arrive in Washington following the outbreak of civil war; they were the First Defenders.
April 18, 2021, marks the 160th Anniversary of the First Defenders’ journey to the beleaguered nation’s capital. To commemorate the occasion, historians Jake Wynn and John Hoptak will be livestreaming a series of videos from Pottsville, in their native Schuylkill County.
Tune in to discover more about the First Defenders, their experiences in Washington and protecting the Capitol, and more about the soldiers who composed the ranks of two of these five companies–the National Light Infantry and Washington Artillerists, both of Pottsville.
Virtually visit the graves of Nick Biddle–an elderly African American man who marched along with the First Defenders and who was among the first men to shed blood in what proved to be America’s bloodiest war–and several others who had the proud distinction of earning the title of First Defender.
The videos will be streamed live throughout the day. We will be adding more information about the day’s specifics as we approach the anniversary.
Featured Image: Union soldiers at the US Capitol in the spring of 1861 (Library of Congress)