THEY HELD THE ANGLE AND COPSE OF TREES AGAINST PICKETT’S CHARGE! PHILADELPHIA BRIGADE RECRUITING BROADSIDE

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Item Code: 1125-01

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This is a very attractive Civil War recruiting broadside for a very historic unit posted at the precise target of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Originally recruited under Federal authority in the Philadelphia area in 1861 by Senator Edward Baker, the Philadelphia Brigade started off as a regiment to be credited to California. Baker’s recruiting was so successful that he ended up with a brigade of four regiments, still mostly from Philadelphia, that was taken over by Pennsylvania after Baker’s death at Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. Redesignated as the 69th, 71st, 72nd, and 106th Pennsylvania Volunteers, they assumed the nickname of the Philadelphia Brigade and were assigned to the Second Army Corps.

They saw plenty of action, fighting in the Peninsula Campaign at Allen’s Farm, Savage Station, and Glendale, were heavily engaged at Antietam, losing some 500 men in the West Woods, and at Fredericksburg took part in the assault on Marye’s Heights. At Gettysburg, under the command of General Alexander Webb, they were posted on Cemetery Ridge at “the angle” and the “copse of trees,” which was the designated point of attack for Pickett’s Charge on July 3. Out of a fighting strength of some 1244 men, they lost 491, almost 40 percent. The brigade went on to fight in the Fall campaign, and Grant’s 1864 campaign against Richmond and Petersburg, seeing action at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and other engagements. The brigade was broken up in June 1864, but elements of it continued to see action right through Appomattox in 1865. The brigade’s veteran association stated their overall number during the war as 5,320 and their losses as 3,533, a rate of 64%. This was truly a fighting unit.

This broadside is framed and ready to hang. We have not examined it out of the frame. There are some flattened creases, but there appear to be no holes, tears or stains and the colors are strong. The broadside itself measures about 24 by 32 inches and the frame overall is roughly 28 by 35 inches. It has a strong visual appeal, being printed in red, white, blue, and black, with the red, white, and blue the most striking colors. The poster advertises the general recruiting office for the second army corps at 416 Library Street in Philadelphia, but is specifically designated as for the “HEAD-QUARTERS / PHILAD’A BRIGADE” with a large exclamation point and list of its four regiments. Bounties are listed for recruits that include an extra $100 for anyone with nine month’s prior service, and promises that men can choose which regiment to join and which ward of the city to be credited to, a choice worth having since wards might differ in additional bounties offered in order to avoid having eligible residents drafted.

At bottom right in red lettering Richard L. R. Shreve of the 72nd Pennsylvania is designated as the recruiting officer. Shreve had been born in New Jersey and was a clerk when he first enlisted, mustering in as a private in the 19th Pennsylvania, a militia regiment and one of the first responders after the firing on Fort Sumter, offering its services for three months on April 16, 1861. He then followed the regiment’s lieutenant colonel, DeWitt C. Baxter, who recruited Baxter’s Philadelphia Fire Zouaves in barely one week’s time in August, gaining a commission as ensign (2nd lieutenant) in Co. I to date August 10, 1861. This regiment was at first also designated the 3rd California as part of Baker’s brigade, and then the 72nd Pennsylvania once it was transferred to its home state. Shreve was promoted to captain of Co. B to date May 1, 1863, and was with the regiment at Gettysburg. His name appears on the regiment’s plaque on the Pennsylvania state monument and family genealogy states he was wounded in the left arm.

The broadside bears the imprint of “King & Baird, Printers,” at bottom left. No date is given. Since Shreve is ranked as captain, it could be as early as May 1863, but more likely dates to the Fall, when regiments were anxious to make up for their Gettysburg losses. He was certainly in Philadelphia at the time: he was married there in October. In any case, the broadside cannot date later than the next Spring, when Shreve returned to the front for Grant’s overland campaign and was killed in action at the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. A funeral notice in the Philadelphia Inquirer eight days later includes an invitation for members of the Weccacoe Engine Company to attend, perhaps explaining in part his membership in Baxter’s Fire Zouaves. He was just 24 years of age. His wife gave birth to their daughter six months later.

This broadside has a great combination of visual and historic appeal. We see few recruiting broadsides with anywhere near the Gettysburg associations as well, let alone one for a unit that fought at the “High Water Mark,” which many regard as the turning point of the war.  [sr]

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