County’s role in Civil War given color by historian
While the Civil War might not have been physically fought in Warren County, that doesn’t mean that Warren County played no part in the Civil War.
And there is no better way to understand that than by looking through the experiences of residents who were involved.
That was the focal point of Steve Anderson’s presentation, “Homegrown Heroes: Pennsylvania Communities in the Civil War,” given to more than 50 people on Tuesday night in the Main Courtroom of the Warren County Courthouse.
The presentation was coordinated by the Warren County Historical Society and provided by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.
Anderson recounted the experiences of people from across the Commonwealth, as well as many from Warren County, who had their hand in the conflict.
Throughout the county, from Freehold to Eldred townships, and Underground Railroad connections in Sugar Grove, including an abolition convention in 1854 that included Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony, Anderson said the record shows that “people were willing to stand up and take action.”
As a hotbed for the Underground Railroad, Anderson explained that some runaway slaves “came along what is now Route 6, others in the northern part of the county.”
“There were people all over the county willing to help,” he said.
Once the war started, Warren County also answered the call.
Anderson told the story of six meetings held throughout the county in the week after Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. One of those was at the county courthouse. “Warren County’s quota was two companies,” Anderson said, explaining that each company was comprised of 100 men. Those meetings held in the county resulted in five companies, 500 men, who volunteered to serve.
Harrisburg wasn’t ready to accept the number of Warren County men that offered their service.
And the effects at home continued once the men left for war. “The women stepped up,” he said, doing “kinds of work they have never done before.”
That includes Mary Hazeltine, whose son was wounded and moved to a hospital in Annapolis, tending Union soldiers as a nurse for eight weeks when women weren’t yet widely accepted in that capacity. Anderson said she then went further going to Washington D.C. and lobbying Congress for reforms in the hospitals.
With his knowledge of Gettysburg, Anderson said he always tries to link a unit or two from where he is speaking into the presentation. For Warren County, that wasn’t a challenge.
“Men from Warren County were all over the Battle of Gettysburg,” he said.
Over 2,000 men from Warren County fought for the Union throughout the Civil War.
At the time, the county’s population was less than 20,000.
While Anderson has given nearly 1,000 tours of the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said “if you stay focused on the communities the men came from” the stories are amazing.