Chapter 11: Manhood

Philadelphia greeted war with two faces.

Aside from Chestnut Street, busy with people reading the latest war news on boards outside the newspaper offices, the city seemed strangely weary. “Recruiting parties were marching about with drum and flag, followed only by a few ragged boys — recruiting offices empty, taverns and grog shops full. The people looked careless and indifferent. There was no excitement,” Sidney Fisher wrote.  Just two years before, the city was aflutter with flags, abuzz with anger and earnestness of a people embracing war.

But the war was no longer news. Union losses were growing. The enemy was already in the state and drawing closer, and Fisher wrote, “the demagogues have spread abroad the opinion that the administration is corrupt and imbecile, that it is impossible to conquer the South and we ought to have peace now on any terms.”

So whites went about their business, some going to the race tracks at Point Breeze and Suffolk Park — each of which had Negro jockeys — and very few  hearkening to the call of the mayor and governor to protect their city and state from the relentless invaders.

The other face was that of colored Philadelphia, proud and eager for tomorrow to arrive.

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A Call to Arms

Click to get a closer look, you can see the name of Octavius Catto at the bottom, as well as his father's.

This broadside is eight feet high and was seen on windows in downtown Philadelphia in June, 1863, as black leaders called a meeting to convince black men to join the Union Army prior to Gettysburg.