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The 72nd Pennsylvania---the fighting firemen

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Posted about 8 years ago


Many Firefighters served in the War Between the States, including several regiments made up of solely Firefighters. The 72 PA was one.They were known as the "Philadelphia Fire Zouaves." The following is their history


Taken from: Philadelphia in the Civil War, 1861-1865, by Frank H. Taylor, published by the City of Philadelphia in 1913.



The volunteer firemen of Philadelphia were patriotic, intelligent and brave, and were prompt in their response to the call of President Lincoln in April 1861, enlisting in large numbers in the three months' regiments soon afterward in the field.  At the end of this term of service they were equally ready to volunteer "for three years or the war."  The regiment of Fire Zouaves, which Colonel De Witt Clinton Baxter formed, was composed of this fine hardy material, nearly every fire company in the city being represented in its ranks.  Camp was established at Haddington, near the old Bull's Head Tavern.  The regiment was mustered in August 10th, 1861, and left for Washington on September 16th.  The command was assigned to Baker's Brigade, Sedgwick's Division, Sumner's Corps.

The brigade, having its origin as the "California Brigade" under direct authority of the President, was rated, at that time as a body of regular troops.  It was only after the death of Col. E. D. Baker that the several Philadelphia regiments were claimed by the state of Pennsylvania and given numbers and designations accordingly.

While at Camp Observation, Maryland, the Fire Zouaves were increased to fifteen companies, having a muster roll of almost 1,600 officers and men.  The uniform then worn, of the showy French Zouave pattern, and the picturesque drill of the regiment, attracted great popular admiration.

Colonel Baker fell at Ball's Bluff, Va., October 22nd, 1861, He was succeeded in command of the brigade by General W. W. Burns.  The four regiments were rechristened as the "Philadelphia Brigade," and as such became part, throughout their entire term of service, of the Second Corps.

After six months of comparative peaceful guard duty and marches along the upper Potomac River and in the Shenandoah Valley, the brigade entered upon the Peninsular Campaign, covering the interval from April 4th when the march began from Fortress Monroe, to the return to that point on August 22nd. . . .

The 72nd reached Alexandria, Va., on August 28th, hastening thence with the Corps to the support of Pope's force, arriving near Manassas in time to assist in covering his retreat.  At Antietam the 72nd met with severe and prolonged fighting and heavy loss, The campaign ended with further losses in the occupation of Fredericksburg and operations at Chancellorsville.  The regiment was encamped at Falmouth, Va., to the opening of the Gettysburg Campaign.  The command reached the field [Gettysburg] on the evening of July 1st and went into position near the center of the battle line, and there, at the "bloody angle," stands today the Zouave, in bronze, typifying, with clubbed musket, the heroic hand-to-hand battle the regiment made on July 3rd, 1863.  When the advance of the Confederate column across the valley began, the 72nd as posted in support and to the rear of the batteries upon Hancock's front.  As the enemy drove in the brigade pickets from the Emmitsburg Road, the regiment was rushed to the front line, striking the assailants at the famous stone wall and the "clump of trees."  Upon the morning of that eventful day the Fire Zouaves numbered four hundred fifty-eight officers and men.  After the fury of the conflict there were but two hundred and sixty-six of the 72nd left for further duty.  Soon afterward Colonel Baxter succeeded Gen. Webb in command of the brigade.  Lieut. Col. Theodore Hesser now commanded the Fire Zouaves, only to fall, a few months later, at Mine Run.  In the campaign of 1864 the regiment fought at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, and again with heavy loss, at Cold harbor.  At Petersburg the Philadelphia Brigade, all four regiments in line, stormed the Confederate defenses [sic


] and held them.  This was the 72nd's last battle.  A few days later the survivors were sent home and were mustered out.











Notes on the Regiment's Origins as the 3rd California Volunteer Infantry

The 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was originally raised in Philadelphia by Colonel Edward D. Baker, as an effort to have the state of California represented by regiments in the Union Army.  There were four regiments in the California Brigade.  The 72nd was originally named the 3rd California Volunteer Infantry Regiment from August 1861 to October 1861.  At that time, with the death of the brigade commander, Colonel Baker, the state of Pennsylvania reclaimed the brigade and renumbered the regiments as the 69th, 71st, 72nd and 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiments.  Since all four regiments were predominantly raised in Philadelphia, they were brigaded together as the Philadelphia Brigade.  This was the only brigade, throughout the Civil War, in the Union Army to bear its city's name.   












Killed /mortally wounded:    officers, 12;  men 198

Died fm disease/other :           "         1;     "   119

Wounded, not mortal:             "        25;     "   533

Captured or missing:               "         2;     "   163










Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Chantilly, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomoy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg.







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Rate This | Posted about 8 years ago


Wow you really invested alot of time into these facts .kudos :)


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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago


I love the history of the 72nd.  I am actually a Civil War Reenactor in a unit representing the 72nd.


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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago


Reenactor here also have been out if it for about six years.  I want to pick it back up had many good times and it gave me a better understanding of the war better than any book could ever do.   I have been on many of the battlefields across the country.  I'm now in the Sons of Union Veterans trying to start up a veterans reserve unit in central Missouri. 


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Rate This | Posted about 5 years ago


I never knew that.  Very interesting.

Sgt. Greg Lugn, CPO
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