The Civil War Memorial was erected in 1910 “in memory of the men of Allegheny College who served their country as SOLDIERS AND SAILORS OF THE CIVIL WAR.” The most notable group of these were the Allegheny Volunteers.
The Allegheny College Volunteers were made up of students and faculty from the school who took up arms for the North when the South seceded. When the war began on April 12, 1861, with the attack on Fort Sumter, sympathizers from both North and South were found on campus. The College company quickly formed with Ira Ayer Jr. as its leader, pressuring most of the Southerners to leave, although Tennessee-born Sion Smith stayed on and would rise to first lieutenant.
On June 20, 1861, the College company merged into the 39th Regiment, 10th Reserve, Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps, as Company I. Probably between 50-75 Alleghenians served alongside men from the Meadville community. It is not known how many Alleghenians from this unit died in service, but their losses were many, especially in the early months of their service. The regiment was known for its devout and abstemious practices, reflecting the strong Allegheny connection to the Methodist Episcopal faith. Preserved letters from Alleghenians provide vivid details of the fighting as well as their day-to-day life.
After participating in nearly every major battle of the war (excluding Chancellorsville in 1863), the company was mustered out in Pittsburgh on June 11, 1864. If it were not for the cohesive bonds formed at Allegheny College—despite their very short enrollment there, these volunteers would have more quickly succumbed to the hardships of the Civil War.