Archive for the ‘history’ Category

July 4Th, 1863

The 4TH of July had a special glory to it. Not only has Lee been defeated at the just ended battle of Gettysburg, but Vicksburg has fallen to Grant.

“I am entirely safe through the first three of these terrible days of the bloody struggle. The fighting has been the most desperate I ever saw. On July 1st, our corps was thrown in front, unsupported and almost annihilated. My regiment was detached from the brigade and we charged upon and captured the second Mississippi rebel regiment. Their battle flag is now at General Meade’s headquarters…
“The Sixth has lost so far one hundred and sixty men. Since the first day we have lost only six. O, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men. Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them. I have no opportunity to say more now or write to any one else. Tell mother I am safe. God has been kind to me and I think he will spare me.”

Col Rufus Dawes, Gettysburg, July 4th 1863

In 1913 they had a reunion for the 50th anniversary of the battle. Images here.

Day 2 : Pittsburgher’s Suffer in The Weatfield

The second day at Gettysburg finds more folks from Pittsburgh having a really bad day. From what, I can read, the 62nd Pennsylvania was a good example of a unit who often shed it’s blood in vain due to the mistakes of it’s leaders. “They gained ground, held ground, and lost ground. They suffered severe casualties, particularly at Gaines Mills, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg,(as it is now) The Wilderness, and Spottsylvania. They marched; they waited; they carried out orders. Twice, at the Second Battle of Bull Run and at Gettysburg, orders they followed in battle were so controversial that the commanders giving them were either courtmartialed or pressured to resign.”

It seems like there is lots of info on this unit that helps us paint a fuller picture of who they were. The unit was created on July 4th 1861 and was one of the first Three Year Regiments to leave Pittsburgh. “The regiment appears to be unusually heterogeneous — for its time, at least. Most of the companies of the 62d Pennsylvania Volunteers were recruited in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in Allegheny County, but other companies hailed from the surrounding rural counties. A sizeable number came from Ohio. City dwellers marched alongside farmhands. Because of the urban/rural mix of the volunteers, there was a large diversity. The most common occupations of volunteers from Pittsburgh, Birmingham, and Allegheny City (then all separate municipalities) were iron workers (“puddler” is my favorite specific title), glass blowers and other glass workers, boatmen and rivermen.” It also seems to be one of the few regiments that included several Jewish officers.

Another blunt fact that makes the regiment typical of many was that many of it’s members did not fight to free slaves.” Because its recruiting officers, especially Sam Black and J. Bowman Sweitzer, were active leaders of Democratic Party, a “great majority of [the 62d] were of the Democratic faith.” [Under the Maltese Cross], and the Democratic Party strongly opposed the abolitionist movement. As governor of the Nebraska Territory, Sam Black had vetoed an anti-slavery bill. In the first fugitive slave case to be tried in Pittsburgh, Sweitzer, then a United States Commissioner, took action to prevent the slave from being rescued, but instead ordered that he be returned to his owner.

11th Pennsylvania : Always Faithful

It’s day one at Gettysburg and the bloody 11th is having another bad day.

“The “Bloody Eleventh” was recruited in Latrobe and mustered-in in April 1861. The regiment recieved its nickname at the July 21, 1861 battle of Falling Waters.

The 11th Pennsylvania was a “fighting” regiment — of the almost 1,900 men carried on its rolls throughout the course of the Civil War, 1,650 were lost. The regiment lost 12 officers and 224 men killed and mortally wounded during the War.” (these numbers were not that abnormal for many civil war units)

A detail of their memorial at Gettysburg pays tribute to their faithful dog who sadly also never survived the war but was never forgotten.

Oberlin and ALCOA

One cool little fact I came across was that Oberlin is where the technology to mass produce Aluminum was invented.

“Charles Martin Hall, “American chemist, who discovered an inexpensive method for the isolation of pure aluminum from its compounds. The same elctrolytic process was discovered concurrently by the French chemist Paul L.T. Heroult and is therefore known as the Hall-Heroult process. It became the basis for the aluminum industries both in the United States and in Europe.
Hall was born in Thompson, Ohio, on Dec. 6, 1863. He became interested in chemistry, and more specifically in finding an inexpensive method for producing aluminum, while an undergraduate at Oberlin College. After his graduation in 1885, Hall set up laboratory at home and began work on the purification of aluminum. “
Hall then had to come Pittsburgh to find capital and the result was the formation of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
Before someone catches me on it, I need to acknowledge that the title of the last post; “The town that started the civil war” is the title of a book.
Photo from the Oberlin Archives

Remembering June 22ND

My dad fought in WWII and my mom escaped it as a child. June 22ND was the day Germany attacked Russia and escalated an already vast tragedy onto a global scale.I don’t think one can understand or relate to any of the states of the former Soviet Union without trying to grasp what happened. There is honestly no story to equal it in American History. These are the last days to talk to people who lived through that war.

I am posting this a little early in case I get too busy later.

Pittsburgh History in House Hunting

I have casually been looking in to buy a house for the past 5 years. I know it is a “good investment” and I also know I need to find a place to live. So I have stepped up the search in recent weeks and spent my Sunday afternoon’s visiting open houses. I really have no clue what type of home I actually want to buy and I am afraid to ask an agent to escort me to every home for sale in the city – one day I may want to look at remodeled condos and another day I feel like looking at old brick homes. I think any agent would hate to work with me. So I have been visiting the open houses every Sunday. This past Sunday I looked at Greenfield. It was a trip back in time. All 3 of the homes I looked at had been owned by the same person for at least the past 50 years.
The second house I looked at was 74 Bigelow Street – while the home is in decent shape it has literally not been touched (painted, carpet, appliances, nothing) since probably 1948.

Above Picture is from the Allegheny County Real Estate Website.

There was a refrigerator looking thing built into the kitchen wall – I didn’t even know those existed. To be fair, there was also a slightly newer (probably 30 year old) refrigerator there also. Another plus is that there was a full bathroom on the 2nd floor. If you are new to Pittsburgh, it is not unheard of to find homes that only have full bathrooms in the basement. (See the wikipedia article on the Pittsburgh toilet for more info. I also found a blog post that reference the Pittsburgh toilet here.
While this house would require more work than I am able to put into to it right now. It is a great house and a pretty good deal. It is really interesting to go through these old homes that seem frozen in time. Some of the decor is amazing – lots of gold flex wall paper and white wash wood paneling.

This picture is from the Howard Hanna website. You can see more pictures of the house here.
I would like to learn more about who lived here and it will be really interesting to see who lives here next and what they do to the house. If you buy this house let us know so we can check in on it every so often.

Capital Of Appalachia

Pretty much my whole life, I have lived on the east coast, mainly in NY, a little in Boston with vacations in New Hampshire and a few early years in Reading,PA. Knowing the east pretty well, I can say for sure that, culturally– Pittsburgh is not the east coast. So I assumed it would be like the midwest, but it doesn’t quite feel like the places I know there either, I think partly because most of the midwest is flat.

Then, I came accross this post a while back from someone who say’s Pittsburgh is really an Appalachian city and to me that seems to ring very true. I want to define my terms here– Appalachian people are not really fully connected to the dark history of the south. They are mountain people. I am looking for some feedback on this.

Pittsburgh Metropolitan Zombie Invasion Contingency Plan

(image by macwagen)

Herein I shall outline the steps necessary for survival in the event of a sudden emptying of our city’s cemetaries. It’s only natural to consider Pittsburgh for this sort of thing, since our fair city is where the original invasion took place (as chronicled in George Romero’s documentary, Night of the Living Dead).

If you don’t know what a zombie invasion is like, here are some key points to consider:

1) Zombies eat people. A zombie will ravenously devour any human unfortunate enough to cross its path. They appear to be able to detect living humans, likely through smell. Though there are rare exceptions, zombies don’t eat each other.

Most Livable Again


Mayor Luke Ravenstahl doesn’t remember the last time Pittsburgh was rated No. 1 in the country by “Places Rated Almanac.” That was in 1985, and he was only 5.

But he grew up in “America’s Most Livable City,” and last night said he was glad to hear that the latest edition of the almanac has again put Pittsburgh No. 1.

That’s the lede of the story; the most important thing, according to Dan Majors, about the whole thing. The Boy Mayor’s office agrees. Coming soon to a billboard near you:

Well, we will just have to learn to live with that, like we learned to live with looking at Luke every time we take out our garbage or have a concern about city services. It is nice to be number one again, especially since we have spent the past twenty-two years pretending that we had never stopped.

I, like the Mayor, was five the first and last time Pittsburgh was so named, and we held on to that designation like Kate Moss to an eightball, long after a dozen other cities had taken the prize, long after it had to be changed to “a most livable city” to avoid angering other honorees with our use of the definite article.

But none of that matters now. Back on top, yinz!

Sorry To Point This Out.

Hopefully by the time we have our 250Th anniversary next year, (cause you know there was no history until the British came) we will have learned how to correctly pronounce our name !!!

“As used in this article, the word burgh is derived from Scots language and refers to corporate entities whose legality is peculiar to Scotland. (Scottish law was protected and preserved as distinct from laws of England under the Acts of Union of 1707.) Pronunciation is different from the English word borough, which is a near cognate of the Scots word.
The word has cognates, or near cognates, in other Germanic languages. For example, burg in German, and borg in both Danish and Swedish. The equivalent word is also to be found in Frisian, Dutch, Norwegian, and Icelandic. In southern England, the word took the form bury, as in Canterbury (Stewart 1967:193).
The Scots language burgh and the English language borough are derived from the Old English language word burh (whose dative singular and nominative/accusative plural form byrig sometimes underlies modern place-names, and which had dialectal variants including burg; it was also sometimes confused with beorh, beorg, ‘mound, hill’, on which see Hall 2001, 69-70). The Old English word was originally used for a fortified town or proto-castle (eg at Dover Castle or Burgh Castle) and was related to the verb beorgan (cf. Dutch and German bergen), meaning “to keep, save, make secure”. In German Burg means castle, though so many towns grew up around castles that it almost came to mean city, and is incorporated into many placenames, such as Hamburg and Strasbourg),”

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