Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Pennsylvania faced a dire predicament in mid-June 1863. It needed to raise troops quickly to help protect the Commonwealth from invasion by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin issued a call for emergency troops on June 15, 1863. His proclamation raised the specter of the impending invasion, “I now appeal to all the citizens of Pennsylvania, who love liberty and … who feel that it is a sacred duty to guard and maintain the free institutions of our country, who hate treason and its abettors, and who are willing to defend their homes and their firesides, and do invoke them to rise their might and rush to the rescue in this hour of imminent peril. The issue is one of preservation or destruction.” A similar call during the 1862 Antietam Campaign had raised many troops that were never needed for the defense of the Keystone State, and skeptical Pennsylvanians initially met the 1863 call for emergency militia troops with apathy.

The Commonwealth did raise a number of infantry and cavalry regiments and ten batteries of artillery for the 1863 crisis. Landis’ Independent Battery, a militia battery of 87 men of the Pennsylvania Light Artillery, was raised in Philadelphia and led by 42-year old Captain Henry D. Landis. It mustered into service on June 27, 1863, and served until mustering out on July 30.

Captain Landis’ battery took an active role in the Battle of Sporting Hill in Cumberland County where the soldiers silenced the Confederate guns on the evening of June 30. At Carlisle on July 1 the battery traded shots with enemy artillery. General William Farrar “Baldy” Smith, Commander of the 1st Division of the Department of the Susquehanna, expressed his appreciation for the services rendered by Landis’ artillery battery during the Gettysburg Campaign in a letter dated July 15. “Under circumstances well calculated to try the courage, fortitude and endurance of even old and well tried soldiers they have borne themselves in a manner demanding great praise,” Smith wrote. “Two states delivered from the hands of the rebels as well as the whole country, will ever hold them in grateful remembrance. The engagements of ‘Sporting Hill’ and ‘Carlisle’ – the march over impassable roads … bear witness to their devotion to the cause in which they are engaged.”

A photograph taken in late July 1863 and now in Manuscript Group 218, Photograph Collections, held by the Pennsylvania State Archives, depicts four privates of the battery: (seated, from left) artillerymen Josiah W. Harmer and John M. Zinn and (standing, from left) Robert A. Wilson and John G. Johnson.


Richard C. Saylor is an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and author of the national award-winning book Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders, published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2010.