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Nicholas Biddle:The Civil War’s First Blood

10/3/2008 • America's Civil War

After the sermon at the cemetery, a number of uniformed First Defenders carried the simple coffin to the burial site and laid Nicholas Biddle to rest. The surviving First Defenders contributed $1 each to pay for a tombstone, upon which was inscribed: In Memory of Nicholas Biddle, Died August 2, 1876, Aged 80 Years. His Was the Proud Distinction of Shedding the First Blood In the Late War For the Union, Being Wounded While Marching Through Baltimore With the First Volunteers From Schuylkill County 18 April 1861. Erected By His Friends In Pottsville.

On April 18, 1951, the 90th anniversary of the First Defenders’ famed march through Baltimore, the people of Pottsville dedicated a bronze plaque for the Civil War Soldiers’ Monument in Garfield Square. “In Memory of the First Defenders And Nicholas Biddle, of Pottsville, First Man To Shed Blood In The Civil War. April 18, 1861,” it reads.

Since that time, remembrance of Biddle’s role in the Civil War has faded almost to the point of oblivion, and, shamefully, his tombstone has been destroyed by vandals.

John D. Hoptak works as a ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. He is the author of First in Defense of the Union: The Civil War History of the First Defenders, and maintains a Web site on the 48th Pennsylvania at

Read the poem “The Grave of Nick Biddle“, a stirring ode written in 1876 about April 18, 1861, the day “In Baltimore City, where riot ran high.”

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One Response to Nicholas Biddle:The Civil War’s First Blood

  1. richard fusilier says:

    The Civil War need not have been fought. ZAt the vrery time of ft.
    DSumner, thdere was a High Council of Confederate and Northern
    Cignitaries rreaching rapprochemnt, when Gen Beauregard took the
    place, Lincoln had lied assrting ythat he we would not lodge any yroops
    on Confederate tefrritory nor caxhe armn=ms there, but he did and
    refused to remove them, thus P.T. Beaauregard acted. Linc0ln imposed
    an embargo on the South some months before hostilities. The Feds
    killed all chickens, cattle, horses, burned crops, cities and lone farm
    houses to starve the South.
    . There were more slaves up North than in the South.(true) The Civil
    war was fought over principle not slavery. It was going out anyway.
    Lincoln was a clever attorney. I read his cases in Law school. How he
    loved to refer to his opponent as a jackass!; He lost very few cases. How
    about his suspending habeas corpus? Booth said “thus die Tyrants. but
    he was our President and a great man! What gurt thebDSouth swas the
    “Mason Dixon Tax, fiaally vitiated hy Eisenhouer and South arose in

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