Lower Merion Historical Society

The Lower Merion Historical Society

misty rural countryside looking across river to a wooded hill with buildings at crest

The final year of the Civil War

A special Union Army post was swiftly erected on a hilltop in Lower Merion to handle a jumble of returning citizen-soldiers.

Many bore bullet wounds, broken bones, and other scars of combat. Some had lost limbs. Some were laid low by illness. Hundreds arrived half-dead as survivors of wretched prison camps.

crowded muddy yard packed with ragged clothed men, sitting, lying, standing
Andersonville Prison, Georgia. 329 of its Union POWs went on to Camp Discharge. Library of Congress

Others were blessedly unscathed — but all grappled with the fresh, ferocious memories of their time at war.

damaged photograph of middle-aged man, bearded, haunted look in his eyes head and shoulders studio portrait of a young man in army dress uniform 
Pvt. Isaac Horner survived Andersonville and mustered out at Camp Discharge. Cowan’s Auctions
He later abandoned his wife and 7 children. National Archives

The post, known as Camp Discharge, did its best to help move the young Union veterans back to civilian life. During its brief existence, it sat on a bluff overlooking what is today the Schuylkill Expressway, one of the nation’s busiest highways. The post was quickly dismantled, its story nearly forgotten.

detail of the larger image: the camp buildings on the hillside above the woods 
Camp Discharge opposite Spring Mill, Montgomery Co. (detail); W. B. Powell. Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Back From Battle reclaims the history of Camp Discharge and follows the often tumultuous lives of the Pennsylvania volunteer soldiers who passed through its gates.

Back from Battle

Lower Merion’s Camp Discharge and Its War-Weary Vets

  • The Camp The where, what, why and when of it
  • The Rediscovery Unearthing what remains; visiting the site today
  • The Soldiers Who passed through? What became of them?
  • The Roster 1,118 troops and 642 guards, the complete census

The Book

book cover: an old soldier, head down, rests on a grave slab, crutch at his side. A ghostly parade of young troops marches past behind him

Back from Battle, the book, was written by Jim Remsen and Brad Upp. It is available from Sunbury Press or your local bookseller. Research for Back from Battle was supported by the Lower Merion Historical Society.