In Observance Of The Civil War Sesquicentennial We Present


America's firemen answer the call to arms


Philadelphia firemen were leaders in

fire department ambulance companies

Civil War casualties led to

35 fire companies purchasing

and manning stylish units


From “Philadelphia in the Civil War published by the City of Philadelphia in 1913:


“Notable is the story of the splendid work accomplished by the firemen of the city through their volunteer ambulance service, which began with the Southwark Hose No. 9 These ambulances were thirty-five in number. They were built with the money subscribed by the firemen and their friends and were maintained at the engine houses of the Delaware, Southwark, Washington, Weccacoe, Diligent, Philadelphia, Assistance, America, Fairmount, Northern Liberty, United States, Vigilant, Good Intent, Globe, Mechanic, Decature, Fellowship, Monroe, Good Will, and West Philadelphia Engine Companies, and at the houses of Franklin, Hope, Southwark, western, Philadelphia, Good Will, Neptune, Cohocksing, Kensington, Independence, Northern Liberty and West Philadelphia Hose Companies.

Great rivalry existed between the several companies in the artistic embellishment of their handsome and serviceable vehicles. They were kept in readiness for instant call. Upon the arrival of the vessels or trains filled with wounded and invalid soldiers the call of ‘9-6’ was repeated three times upon the bells of the city fire tower, and away the ambulances sped for the riverfront or the train depots.”

Lossing’s History of the Civil War noted that the fire ambulances of Philadelphia transported more than 120,000 wounded and sick soldiers from docks and depots to hospitals.  In the five days before Christmas, 1862 more than 2,5000 soldiers were transported.

This is the earliest mention of a fire department providing ambulance service I have found, albeit a specialized service. The next written record I can find is August 15, 1887 when the Reading Hose Company No.1 of Reading, Pa., ordered a “one horse ambulance” from G. W Biehl, the cost of which was $375. The cost was covered by public subscription, which probably means donations.


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