Notable for its industrial contributions during the war, the western region of Pennsylvania played a crucial role in the Union victory. The “iron city” of Pittsburgh fashioned steamboats, locomotives, freight cars, iron and more, while Fort Pitt Foundry supplied 15 percent of the government’s wartime orders for weaponry and supplies. Pittsburgh manufactured the world’s then-largest cannon and nearly 1,200 guns used in the war.
Western Pennsylvania also played a key role in financial support for the Union cause. Pittsburgh held the most successful fundraiser (in per capita dollars) with the 1864 Pittsburgh Sanitary Fair, raising more than $300,000 in 18 days.
The area is also the birthplace of a number of wartime heroes who fought in some of the Civil War’s most notable battles, including John White Geary who commanded the “White Star Division” (Twelfth Army Corps) during the Battle of Gettysburg and later went on to become governor of Pennsylvania. Journalist Jane Grey Swisshelm, known for her radical abolitionist newspapers and political activism, also hails from this region.
Though no battles were fought on the ground in this region, Pittsburgh and its countryside were critical in industrial, military, financial and political support for the Union cause.
Senator John Heinz History Center
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, this center is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, featuring the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, extensive scholarly resources in the Library & Archives, and six floors of long-term and changing exhibition space, including Civil War-related displays.
Plaque Honoring Jane Grey Swisshelm
Dedicated to ending slavery, Swisshelm faced countless threats as editor of several radical abolitionist newspapers. View this plaque in her honor at the Heinz headquarters.
Just one of a handful of National Historic Landmarks of the Underground Railroad in the U.S., the house of Francis Julius LeMoyne was a safe haven for those seeking refuge as they tried to escape from slavery.
Blairsville Area Underground Railroad Project
Tour the town of Blairsville—a stop along an Underground Railroad route in Pennsylvania—for a look at the many Underground Railroad sites. And make an appointment to see the Underground Railroad museum.
Visit the graves of soldiers who served in the Civil War, both for the Confederate and Union armies, at the Allegheny Cemetery.
Visit any of these historical societies for access to extensive information on Civil War history, genealogy and more. Many feature libraries and rotating exhibits and offer research assistance as well as maintain historic homes that are open to the public.