Carlisle Fencibles

After the outbreak of the Civil War, four volunteer companies originally consisting of fifty to one hundred men were recruited in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on April 19, 1861. On April 21, the officers were chosen with Captain Robert M. Henderson, in charge of Company A of the 36th Regiment, 7th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Henderson was assisted in command by First Lieutenant James S. Colwell, Second Lieutenant Erkuries Beatty, and First Sergeant John D. Adair. These men received the nickname “Carlisle Fencibles” in part because most of its members belonged to a gymnastic club and because a “fencible” is a defender of a country. The company spent a two month period of relative inactivity marching and drilling until the soldiers left for Camp Wayne in West Chester, Pennsylvania on June 6. Before the men departed they received a satin flag from Mrs. Samuel Alexander, a granddaughter of Ephraim Blaine, that, according to David G. Colwell, had the inscription “May God defend the right!”  The 7th Pennsylvania Reserves went on to fight in the Battles of Gaines’ Mill, Bull Run, and Antietam while suffering great losses. A more thorough description of the experiences of the company is available on Google Books in Samuel B. Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65 . The wartime experience of one member of the Carlisle Fencibles, John Taylor Cuddy, is chronicled through letters he sent home to his family in Carlisle. His correspondence is available as a part of Dickinson College’s “Their Own Words” digital archive which provides a picture of the experience of a young Carlisle Fencible during the Civil War.

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