It was a Saturday morning parade of Civil War reenactors and bands, from the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall to Broad Street and Washington Avenue, the 1860s site of the depot of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad.
It was a reenactment of the April 18, 1861, parade of "Philadelphia volunteers marching to the train depot to board trains to defend the capital," said Anthony Waskie, assistant professor of langauges at Temple University.
Waskie, who estimated 500 people took part, was among the planners of the event, sponsored by the Civil War History Consortium of Greater Philadelphia.
Fittingly, the first major unit in the Saturday parade was the Orange Crush Roaring Lions Marching Band from Lincoln University, the historically African-American institution in southern Chester County.
And when the parade paused for speeches outside the Union League, on Broad Street south of City Hall, the principal speaker was an African American, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter.
"It is because of what you did 150 years ago," Nutter said to the ghosts of the volunteers, "I am able to be the mayor of this city as an African American."
Though the historical focus of visitors is often on the the Philadelphia of the American Revolution, Nutter reminded the audience that the city was a force in the Civil War.
Philadelphia was "a major stop on the Underground Railroad" along which freed slaves fled north, he said, and during the war 157,000 wounded military personnel were treated at hospitals in the city.
Unlike the Saturday paraders, the 1861 marchers did not pause on South Broad Street because the Union League was founded, its website states, "to support the Union and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln," in 1862.
And unlike on Saturday, none of the 1861 Philadelphians headed to the depot was African-American, Waskie said, unless they were "servants to officers, going unwillingly of course."
Only later in the conflict were they allowed to become Union troops.
But in the Saturday parade were reenactors of that tradition, members of the Third Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops.
Byron Childress, 68, of Germantown, a disabled Vietnam veteran, said that that Civil War unit meant more to him than reenacting.
Childress said he had tracked the life story of the unit's sergeant major, Henry James, and only this month found that his gravesite is at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Atglen, Chester County.
"I'm going to make sure it's kept up," he said.
When the April, 1861, train carrying the Philadelphia volunteers reached the end of the line in Baltimore, the volunteers had to walk to the Baltimore & Ohio station for a train to Washington.
But a Maryland state website states that "an angry mob of Southern sympathizers" fell on the troops and "in what became known as the Pratt Street Riots at least 12 people were killed, most of them civilians."
Waskie said the Philadelphia volunteers were in two regiments, one "entirely of American-born, English- speaking volunteers, the second regiment composed entirely of German-born, German-speaking immigrants."
George Leisenring, a German immigrant who was among the train riders, died of stab wounds on April 23, 1861, becoming the first Philadelphian to be killed in the Civil War.
Next Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m., Waskie will lead a commemoration at Leisenring's gravesite at the Palmer Burial Ground, at Belgrade and Palmer Streets in Fishtown.
Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.