On April 15th, 1861, President Lincoln issued his proclamation calling out the Militia of the several states, to quell the Rebellion. Pennsylvania was called upon to furnish sixteen regiments, two of which were wanted within three days to defend the National Capital which was unprotected.
So wrote Allentonians in the 1922 Proceedings and Papers Read Before the Lehigh County Historical Society, who added that members of the Allen Infantry were actually the first among Lehigh County’s First Defenders to step up to protect America’s Union:
One of the first companies to respond to the call of the President were the Allen Guards, Captain Thomas Yeager of Allentown … offered their services to the Governor, April 17th, and mustered into services April 18th, arriving at the same time at Harrisburg were Ringgold’s Light Artillery, Captain McKnight of Reading; Logan Guards, Captain Selheimer of Lewistown; Washington Guards, Captain Wren and the National Light Infantry, Captain McDonalds, of Pottsville; and Co. H, Fourth Artillery Regulars under Lieut. Pemberton, (afterwards a general of the Confederate army). They all started for the seat of war on the 18th of April. The Regulars for Fort McHenry and the others for Washington.
Yeager, organizer and commander of the unit, was a Lehigh Valley native, born on 2 November 1825 in Upper Saucon Township. The grandson of the Rev. John Conrad Yeager and son of Henry Yeager, Thomas Yeager was respected militarily not only for founding and commanding the Allen Infantry (estimated by various historians as having been between 51 to 75 men strong), but for his later gallantry while leading the 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry. Commissioned as a Major with the 53rd roughly four months after completing his Three Months’ Service with the Allen Infantry, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General by President Lincoln on 1 June 1862, but died the next day after being shot three times while commanding his regiment in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia.
The enlisted men of the Allen Infantry (also referred to as the “Allen Guards”) were primarily engaged in the performance of guard duty, according to A History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time including much Valuable Information for the use of Schools Families Libraries. They and the other early defenders from Pennsylvania were praised by Galisha A. Grow, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives, who conveyed the gratitude of his fellow members of Congress as follows:
For their promptness in marching to the defence [sic] of Washington, arriving there on the 18th of April, 1861, the thanks of the House of Representatives, which are rarely tendered except for great and signal service to the state were expressed in the following terms; ‘37th Congress, U.S. July 22d, 1861. Resolved, that the thanks of this house are due and are hereby tendered to the 530 soldiers from Pennsylvania who passed through the mob at Baltimore and reached Washington on the 18th of April last for the defence of the National Capital.’
Mustering in on 18 April 1861, the men who completed their Three Months’ Service with the Allen Infantry on 23 July 1861 were:
Captain Thomas Yeager
1st Lieutenant James Wilson
2nd Lieutenant Joseph T. Wilt*
2nd Sergeant Solomon Goeble (Alternate Spelling: Goble)
Quartermaster Sergeant George Junker
1st Corporal William Wolf
2nd Corporal John E. Webster
3rd Corporal Ignatz Gresser* (Alternate Spelling: Cressor)
4th Corporal Daniel Kramer
Enlisted Men (rank of Private):
Cole, Norman H.
Derr, Henry Wilson
Dunlap, Milton H.
Frame, William G.
Fuller, Nathan R.
Henry, George F.
Hittle, Edwin M.
Keiper, George W.
Leisenring, Martin W.
Miller, Edwin H.
Pfeiffer, Charles A.
Reber, Jonathan W.
Rhoads. George W.
Seip, Lewis G.
Shiffert, Charles A.
Uhler, John E.
* Note: Certain rosters list Joseph T. Wilt as a 1st Sergeant, but Hauser’s History of Lehigh County describes his rank as 2nd Lieutenant.
** Note: Ignatz Gresser was recognized “for extraordinary heroism … while serving with Company D, 128th Pennsylvania, in action at Antietam, Maryland” when he received the Medal of Honor on 17 September 1862. Corporal Gresser distinguished himself by carrying a wounded fellow Union soldier from the battlefield while under enemy fire.
1. Berlin, Alfred, et. al. Proceedings and Papers Read Before the Lehigh County Historical Society. Allentown: Lehigh County Historical Society, 1922.
2. Hauser, James J. A History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time including much Valuable Information for the use of Schools Families Libraries. Allentown: Jacks, the Printer, 1902.