Winter Lecture Series: “First in '61:" Nicholas "Nick" Biddle and Pennsylvania's Forgotten First Defenders

Gettysburg National Military Park



Dates & Times


Saturday, February 11, 2023


1:30 PM


1 hour

Type of Event



On the evening of April 18, 1861, less than 72 hours after the surrender of Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln's subsequent call-to-arms, the very first Northern volunteer soldiers arrived in the nation's beleaguered capital. Although long overshadowed in history by the more famous 6th Massachusetts Infantry, these soldiers composed the ranks of five companies of Pennsylvania militia who later became known as the "First Defenders." Attacked by a pro-secessionist/pro-Confederate mob in Baltimore on their journey south to Washington, these First Defenders shed some of the very first blood of what would become the country's bloodiest conflict. Included among those injured was Nicholas "Nick" Biddle, a sixty-five-year-old African American man who had escaped from slavery, and who now wore the uniform of one of the Pennsylvania companies. Join John Hoptak for a look at the fascinating life and story of Biddle, and the history of these lesser-known companies, their prompt response, and their place in American Civil War history.

More information

Reservation or Registration: No

Free tickets will be available day of at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.