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The Pittsburgh Blues

"A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the most natural defense of a free country." - James Madison

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Prior to the beginning of the War of 1812, the "Pittsburgh Blues" were organized under the military laws of the state with James R. Butler as their Captain. There were about twenty one volunteers mostly between the ages of sixteen and twenty two. The unit was well trained and equipped and regarded with much pride in the town. Each was paid $5.00/month for their services and $12/month for use of their horses.

When war between the United States and Great Britain was declared on June 19, 1812, Governor Snyder called for fourteen thousand militia from Pennsylvania. The "Pittsburgh Blues" unanimously offered their services to the government and were accepted. They were immediately ordered into active duty and joined the northwestern troops commanded by General William Henry Harrison. During their time of service they suffered greatly from exposure, disease, and lack of supplies. They were singled out and praised for their conduct during the Battle of Mississinew (Indiana) and at Ft. Meigs (Ohio).

General Harrison later went on to become the 9th President of the United States. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison became our 23rd President in 1886 narrowly defeating Grover Cleveland.

Monica Bradsher, a Ferree family member descended from Jeremiah Ferree and his grandson, Milo Gibson. submitted "The Pittsburgh Blues" poem for this article and tells a family story that has been passed down.

"Benjamin Harrison was a big favorite of my great, great grandfather, Milo Gibson, and his Ferree cousins who had fought in the Civil War because Harrison championed war veterans and sought to improve their pensions. My grandmother told me that when Harrison lost the 1890 election to Cleveland, Milo Gibson was so disappointed that he and his friends (no doubt including some Ferrees) got quite drunk. When Milo staggered home, he fell into the household's rain barrel, to the great amusement of my then four-year-old grandmother."

The poem below is from "The History of the Washington Infantry and Its Forebears", pp 20-21. The Washington Infantry refers to Washington County, PA. The forebears of this unit included the "Pittsburgh Blues" (War of 1812), the Old 13th (beginning of the Civil War) and the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers (rest of the Civil War). The item is not dated, but the book is arranged chronologically, and this paragraph and poem fall between May 1813 and May 1815. It was found among old papers of the Ferree family and credited to Jacob Ferree, Jr., aged 18 years, by Cora A. Weber Lindsay, a descendant of the Ferree's. Colonel Joel Ferree commanded the First Pennsylvania Regiment and Captain Jeremiah Ferree had command of a company in the same infantry regiment in the northwestern army of General Harrison and served in the same army with the "Pittsburgh Blues".

THE PITTSBURGH BLUES

Farewell peace! Another crisis

Calls us to the last appeal,
Made when monarchs and their vices
Leave no argument but steel.
When injustice and oppression,
Dare avow the tyrant's plea
Who would recommend submission?
Virtue bids us to be free.
History spreads her flag before us,
Time enrolls her ample scroll,
Truth unfolds to assure us,
State united ne'er will fall.
See in annuals, Greek and Roman,
What immortal deeds we find,
When those gallant sons of freedom
In their country's cause combine.
Sons of freemen have descended
From a race of heroes tried;
To preserve our independence,
Let all Europe be defiled.
Let not all the world united
Rob us of our sacred right.
Every patriot's heart delighted,
In this country's call to fight.
Come then, war! With hearts elated
To thy standard we will fly,
Every bosom animated,
Either to live free or die.
May the wretch that shrinks from duty
Or desert the glorious strife
Never know the smile of beauty,
Or the blessing of a wife.
Jacob Ferree, Jr.

Sources: "The Recollections of Seventy Years & Historical Gleanings of Allegheny, Pennsylvania" by John E. Parke; "The History of Pittsburgh: Its Rise & Progress" by Sarah Hutchins Killikelly. A sincere thank you is extended to Monica Bradsher for sharing "The Pittsburgh Blues" poem and background of its origination.