In April 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the war between the states, the United States did not have a standing army. The number of men in the Regular Army totaled only 16,367; these soldiers stationed more or less through out the country at frontier forts and camps or garrisoned at arsenals.
The nation followed the concept of the militia system, a system inherited from English common law. The militia system required that every able-bodied male citizen between the ages of 18 to 53 years of age had an arms-bearing obligation and responsibility to protect and degend the nation.
The Militia Acts of 1789 and 1792 established this military organization as the national armed force to support the Regular Army in time of need. The acts required the states to organize militia units and required militia members to muster once a year. Most of the men from Lehigh County that served in the Revolutionary War were members of the Northampton County militia (Lehigh County wasn't formed until 1812 from a portion of Northampton County.
By 1840 the common militia had fallen out of favor in Pennsylvania and had essentially been replaced by volunteer militia companies that were little more than private clubs. These volunteer companies would appear in elaborate uniformed slendor at picnics, parades and other celebrations. The volunteer militia was made up of men who enjoyed the military splendor and the fraternal aspect rather than martial service.
By 1861, only ten uniformed militia units were active in Lehigh County. Allentown had four of these units; the Allentown Rifles, the Jordan Artillerists, the Allen Infantry and the Lehigh Rifles.
The ten units of Lehigh County were:
|Allentown Rifles|| ||Captain Tilghman Good|
|Jordan Atillerists|| ||Captain William Gauser|
|Allen Infantry|| ||Captain Thomas Yeager|
|Lehigh Rifles|| ||Captain O. Ritter|
|Catasauqua Rifles|| ||Captain Henry Harte|
|*Washington Troop|| ||Captain William Lichtenwalner|
|Washington Infantry|| ||Captain Lentz|
|Lowhill Infantry|| ||Captain Zimmerman|
|Washington Guards|| ||Captain Hartzell|
|Washington Rifle Rangers || ||Captain Peter|
* also variously known as the Lehigh County Cavalry Troop, the North Whitehall Light Horse and Whitehall Troop of Dragoons.
Following the firing on Fort Sumpter (April 1861) the Allen Infantry militia unit, at full company strength joined with four other Pennsylvania companies and was transported to Washington as the 'First Defenders'.
The Catasauqua Rifles were sworn in as Company D' of the 9th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The Jordan Artillerists and the Allen Rifles joined ranks and became Company I in the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry under the new name; Union Rifles.
At some point the Allen Rifles were designated as Company G' of the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
All three companies were mustered out (having signed for only 90 days service) and returned to Lehigh valley by late July 1861.
Company C' of the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was organized with the majority of its contingent being from Catasauqua and their enlistment was for a period of three years. Company C' was mustered in on August 17, 1861 and was mustered out on July 16, 1865. Other companies were assigned to the 47th, the 54th and the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
On July 17, 1862 Congress passed the first draft law. Draftees were required to serve for nine months.
In 1862 the county formed companies C' and D' of the 128th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The 128th was mustered in on August 13, 1862 and was mustered out on May 19, 1863. Then Company H' of the 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was formed shortly after the other companies.
Seven companies from Lehigh County were raised by the provisions of the draft and assigned to the 176th Drafted Militia Regiment. The companies were mustered into service in early November 1862 and were mustered out in mid August 1863.
Additional companies served with the 41st Militia Regiment which was mustered in in July 1863 and was mustered out in early August 1863. The 27th Pennsylvania Troops was mustered in in on June 19, 1863 and was mustered out on August 1, 1863 at Harrisburg.
Company E' of the 202nd Pennsylvania Volunteers was recruited for one year of service and was mustered in on August 30, 1864 and was mustered out on August 3, 1865.
Company H' of the 209th Pennsylvania Volunteers was recruited for one year of service and was mustered in on September 3, 1864 and was paroled on May 31, 1865.