How a Civil War Treasure Trove Was Discovered in Carnegie

The 9th Pennsylvania Reserves recreate the battle of Gettysburg this month, but they shepherd their own history year-round.




Photos by Renee Rosensteel
 

 

This month, tens of thousands will make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg, Pa. Some will holster iPhones and bring the kids, hoping to experience living history. Others, including Pittsburgh-based re-enactors with the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, Co. A, will wear painstakingly assembled regalia and carry reproduction rifles, preparing to recreate the battle on its 150th anniversary.

“[The group] was established by four or five guys who were Civil War re-enacting before it was cool — before Glory, before Ken Burns’ Civil War,” says Rea Andrew Redd, board president for the 9th Pa. Reserves.

While they’ll play their part in the massive reconstruction of the Battle of Gettysburg — scheduled from July 4-7 — the “Pittsburg rifles,” as they’re informally known, mingle with history every time they meet.

Home base for this group is the Captain Thomas Espy Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 153, a single room in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie. The Grand Army of the Republic was a veterans organization for honorably discharged Union Civil War soldiers, with branches established throughout the former Union states — plus the south, Canada, Mexico and Peru; Pennsylvania alone boasted 640 posts.

As Civil War veterans died, most stations closed or were sold. The soldiers of Post 153 had been meeting since 1879. They cut a deal after moving into the “Carnegie Carnegie” in 1906: After the last surviving member died, the post would become property of the library, to be preserved as a memorial, in exchange for free rent. That included uniforms, equipment, maps, literature, photos and more — an invaluable record of local Civil War history. The room finally closed in 1934.



Apparently, the library staff of the 1930s didn’t know what to do with the collection. The room was sometimes sealed and sometimes left unlocked. Rare artifacts and records sat undisturbed for nearly 50 years.

In 1981, the room was discovered by Michael G. Kraus, Civil War enthusiast and current Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum curator, while he was following a lead on artifacts hidden in the library. The Allegheny County Bomb Squad was the first group notified — to defuse live ordnance in the collection. Then the Pittsburg rifles came calling when they realized the room was a momentous find — a completely preserved GAR post. Only a handful of posts nationwide remained in such immaculate condition.

Today, the 9th Pa. Reserves re-enact battles in various eastern states. They work to clean up battlefields and take a yearly preservation trip to Gettysburg; they’ve also put time and money into the restoration of Civil War-era headstones in Chartiers Cemetery, including the graves of GAR members who met in the same room the Reserves occupy today. And, of course, they’re the custodians of Post 153, offering regular tours.



While Redd, who joined the group in 1993, says he’s approaching the Gettysburg memorial re-enactment the same way he’d approach any other, he acknowledges that an occasion like this month’s provides the opportunity for an uncanny experience.

“You look around and think, ‘There’s nothing here but 1860,’” he says. “The cavalry is racing by, the sabres are jangling, the dust is up. Off in the distance, you hear the volleys. And you think, ‘OK, keep your eyes open. This is the way it was.’”

Info:
>> 9th Pa. Reserves: 9thpareserves.org
>> Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall: 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie; 412/276-3456, carnegiecarnegie.org

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Part craft-cocktail joint and part coffee bar, the welcoming spot wants you to stay a while.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Although NFL teams never simply pick up where they left off the previous season, there’s reason to believe the 2016 Steelers could resemble the team that came agonizingly close to knocking off the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos in Denver last January.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

This Pittsburgh bride brought all the details together for a flawless “Alice in Wonderland”-themed wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Real estate crowd-funding platform Small Change Pittsburgh is raising funds to transform the Butler Street building.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments