Old Guard State Fencibles

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The Old Guard State Fencibles was a militia organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that existed between 1813 and 1981.

Dress uniform of the Old Guard State Fencibles

The Old Guard State Fencibles, "a military organization raised in Philadelphia in 1813 as part of the Pennsylvania militia and continued as a unit in the National Guard until independent battalions were abolished around 1900. The unit then was chartered as a Philadelphia quasi-military unit and continued as a social club."[1]


"A gentleman whose abilities and virtues, domestic and public, are the theme of universal applause and who received the undivided homage of citizens of later days, that gentleman was Joseph R. Ingersoll, Esq. He may therefore be called, with pride, the father of the Fencibles."[2]

Philadelphia nativist riots[edit]

The Old Guard State Fencibles participated in the Philadelphia nativist riots as part of the First Infantry Regiment of the First Brigade, composed of the State Fencibles, Captain Page; Washington Blues, Captain Patterson; National Grays, Captain Fritz, and other companies, were under the command of Col. Joseph Murray.

State Fencible Uniform of 1826

Mexican War[edit]

The State Fencibles offered their services to the governor, but the quota for Pennsylvania troops had already been met, and as a body the Fencibles were not called to active servie. Many of the members then entered into the service with other units. They were: Capt. William F. Small. Capt. R. B. ]\raeey, Lieut. R. Crittendon, Lieut. Orlando Griffith, Sergt. William Rice; Privates — George Gardner, Charles B. Packer, B. P. Button, Andrew Butler, Samuel Brown, Theodore Hesser. David B. Scheble, Jacob Stapleton, James Anderson, Thomas Punston, Thomas McClintock.

1859 target practice illustration[edit]

There is an illustration of the Old Guard State Fencibles marching to a target firing exercise held by the Library Company of Philadelphia. "Scene showing the State Fencibles militia marching past the Wetherill mansion on the Fatland estate. The men march in seven lines, led by the Fencibles marching band, followed by officers, and then four lines of enlisted men fronted by a single Fencible. All the men wear uniforms and the officers wear Hardee hats, while the enlisted men wear tall, Bearskin hats. In the left foreground, a group of well-dressed men, women, and children watch the militia. In the background, other guests line the portico and verandas of the mansion. near clusters of Fencibles and spectators lining the grounds in front of the mansion. The scene also includes the trees and bushes that surround the grounds and mansion. During the 1850s, Dr. Charles M. Wetherill, partner in the Wetherill & Brother White Lead Works, annually invited the Fencibles to his estate for spring target firing. The June 1859 excursion included seventy-four muskets and five officers, a lunch, dinner, and dance. The State Fencibles was a military organization raised in Philadelphia in 1813 as part of the Pennsylvania militia. In 1871, the military company, recruited under James Page, became attached to the Eighth Regiment National Guard of Pennsylvania. The Fatland (Audubon, Pennsylvania) seat was owned by gentleman William Bakewell beginning in 1803 before being sold to the Wetherill Family about 1821 and his death. Fatland, named for the estate's great soil fertility, remained in the Wetherill family through the early 20th century."[3]

Civil War[edit]

In 1861 the State Fencibles began training. "The original Company being full, an additional Company was organized, and on April 24th, both companies were mustered into the United States service, for the period of three months by Captain Neill... Out of 85 officers and men who were active members before the war, 62 entered the U. S. service in the three months campaign; 68 were elected into the Corps after the President's Proclamation, from which the second Company was formed, and the Companies were lettered E and K, 18th Regt. Company E, commanded by Capt. John Miller and Co. K, by Capt. Theo Hesser. The Corps furnished the Government during the war 177 of its members, 28 of its retired members taking up the sword in defense of the Flag, making a total of 205. It is stated with much satisfaction that the active members to the number of 23 who did not enter the three months service, all but three afterward served the Government in the three-year service, fully sustaining our Latin motto, "Spectamur Agendo." (To be tried by our Actions) and preserved their ancient record that they were soldiers for war as well as for peace. The two Companies E and K, left the city on the night of May 14, with the 18th Pa. Regiment, and the 19th and 20th Regiments which formed the Brigade. They were landed at Locust Point, near Baltimore, and at once went under canvas." After the three month's service was up, many of the men re-joined the service in the 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as the "State Fencible Regiment". Other men in the regiment went with Captain Theodore Hesser into the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry regiment.[4]

Pittsburgh and Scranton riots[edit]

The Old Guard State Fencibles were called out by the governor of Pennsylvania to help keep the peace during the Scranton general strike of 1877.

Homestead strike[edit]

The Old Guard State Fencibles were called out by the governor of Pennsylvania to restore order during the Homestead strike of 1892.

Philadelphia trolley strike 1910[edit]

The Old Guard State Fencibles were called out with the National Guard to restore peace and to guard state and private property during the Philadelphia general strike (1910).

Members of the Old Guard State Fencibles at Union Station, Washington, DC, January 1925.

Spanish American War[edit]

"The Sixth Regiment Infantry, as a National Guard organization, was an eight-company regiment, but at the time of its entrance into the service of the United States it was augmented by the addition of the State Fencibles Battalion of four companies, making the Sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry the only twelve company regiment originally mustered into the United States service from Pennsylvania." Company A of the State Fencibles became Company K of the 6th Pennsylvania US Volunteers; Company B became Company M of the 6th Pennsylvania US Volunteers; Company C of the State Fencibles became Company L of the 6th Pennsylvania US Volunteers; Company D of the State Fencibles became Company D of the 6th Pennsylvania US Volunteers.[5]