History of the 72nd PVI

The volunteer firemen of Philadelphia were patriotic, intelligent and brave, and were prompt in their response to the call of President Lincoln in April 1861, enlisting in large numbers in the three months' regiments soon afterward in the field.  At the end of this term of service they were equally ready to volunteer "for three years or the war."  The regiment of Fire Zouaves, which Colonel De Witt Clinton Baxter formed, was composed of this fine hardy material, nearly every fire company in the city being represented in its ranks.  Camp was established at Haddington, near the old Bull's Head Tavern.  The regiment was mustered in August 10th, 1861, and left for Washington on September 16th.  The command was assigned to Baker's Brigade, Sedgwick's Division, Sumner's Corps.

The brigade, having its origin as the "California Brigade" under direct authority of the President, was rated, at that time as a body of regular troops.  It was only after the death of Col. E. D. Baker that the several Philadelphia regiments were claimed by the state of Pennsylvania and given numbers and designations accordingly.

While at Camp Observation, Maryland, the Fire Zouaves were increased to fifteen companies, having a muster roll of almost 1,600 officers and men.  The uniform then worn, of the showy French Zouave pattern, and the picturesque drill of the regiment, attracted great popular admiration.

Colonel Baker fell at Ball's Bluff, Va., October 22nd, 1861, He was succeeded in command of the brigade by General W. W. Burns.  The four regiments were rechristened as the "Philadelphia Brigade," and as such became part, throughout their entire term of service, of the Second Corps.

After six months of comparative peaceful guard duty and marches along the upper Potomac River and in the Shenandoah Valley, the brigade entered upon the Peninsular Campaign, covering the interval from April 4th when the march began from Fortress Monroe, to the return to that point on August 22nd. . . .

The 72nd reached Alexandria, Va., on August 28th, hastening thence with the Corps to the support of Pope's force, arriving near Manassas in time to assist in covering his retreat.  At Antietam the 72nd met with severe and prolonged fighting and heavy loss, The campaign ended with further losses in the occupation of Fredericksburg and operations at Chancellorsville.  The regiment was encamped at Falmouth, Va., to the opening of the Gettysburg Campaign.  The command reached the field [Gettysburg] on the evening of July 1st and went into position near the center of the battle line, and there, at the "bloody angle," stands today the Zouave, in bronze, typifying, with clubbed musket, the heroic hand-to-hand battle the regiment made on July 3rd, 1863.  When the advance of the Confederate column across the valley began, the 72nd

Philadelphia Fire Zouaves Militia Cartridge Box Plate (upper) and Officer's Buckle (lower) circa 1867-1873.

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