Rallying the Troops
The Shots Fired on Fort Sumter Mobilized the City
Masses of volunteers in Philadelphia and throughout the North soon exceeded Lincoln’s initial call for only 70,000 troops. Civic groups, professional organizations, and ethnic and occupational organizations joined local government in an outpouring of the volunteer spirit that had long guided Philadelphia civic life. Throughout the course of the war, these groups would dig deep to raise funds for troops and support efforts for the war. In the first year alone, about 60 military organizations were mobilized for three months’ service in defense of the city, the state, and the capital in Washington, D.C. Union reverses through 1861 and 1862 discouraged many, but business and civic leaders and local governments dug deep in their pockets to increase bounty payments to keep up recruitment. In 1863, as the Confederate forces invaded central Pennsylvania, recruitment was slow. But the threat of the draft spurred enlistment and, perhaps most important, the dramatic increase in bounty payments enticed many poor workers to the Union cause. Before it was all over, some 75,000 to 100,000 Philadelphia men out of a male population of about 300,000 had fought for the Union, a considerable percentage.
John A. McAllister collected over 500 local recruiting posters that boldly document the drama and excitement of a city mobilizing for war. Printers’ notes on several of them suggest that they were rare from the beginning, with press runs as low as twenty-five copies. The very small sample of McAllister’s recruiting posters displayed here is but a glimmer of the tip of the iceberg, focused on the dramatic rather than narrative or chronology. Shown are advertisements and circulars for products and services produced for soldiers.
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