Organized at Harrisburg in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, the 47th Pennsylvania Militia, Emergency of 1863 was a separate and distinct military unit from the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (also known as the “47th Pennsylvania Volunteers” or “47th Pennsylvania Infantry”). Authorized by Pennsylvania leaders as an emergency response to the Confederate Army’s invasion of Pennsylvania, the 47th Pennsylvania Militia and other militia units of 1863 generally performed duties not associated with front line actions – guarding Rebel prisoners or locations strategically important to the Union (government buildings, railroads, main thoroughfares, etc.).
According to historian Samuel P. Bates, the 47th Pennsylvania Militia performed duties in Williamsport and Reading before being transported to Schuylkill County to head off potential violence among the miners there. The 47th Pennsylvania Militia was commanded by Colonel James P. Wickersham, who had been a respected educator prior to his military tenure. Also serving with this militia unit was William Henry Egle, M.D., a physician-historian who went on to become the State Librarian of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He also researched and authored the respected publication, Notes and Queries, Historical, Biographical, and Genealogical, Chiefly Relating to Interior Pennsylvania.
Also serving with this militia unit was Brainerd Leaman, M.D., who was commissioned at the rank of officer and Assistant Surgeon.
As Confederates retreated from the great Keystone State, following their defeat during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the crisis gradually abated, and the need for emergency militia units decreased. As a result, on 14 August 1863, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania Militia were officially mustered out.
A roster of commanding officers and men may be found in Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, and is also available on Ranger95’s Civil War website.
1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.
2. Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
3. Letter from William H. Egle, M.D. (dated 31 December 1883), in The State Journal. Harrisburg: January 1884.
4. Obituary of William Henry Egle, in The New York Times. New York: 10 February 1901.
5. William H. Egle Diary, in William H. Eagle Collection (1814-1899). Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.
6. William H. Egle Collection (1817-1867). San Diego: San Diego State University.
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