Bob Andrews Group to Establish Specialist Emergency Response Headquarters in the Tri-State Area

Ten month long site selection process now focusing on Delaware County, PA

San Antonio, TX – February 24, 2014   

The Bob Andrews Group, LLC (BAG) today formally announced that after an extensive ten-month site selection process, it is now focusing on Delaware County, Pennsylvania for the location of its new regional fire station and headquarters.  The new facility will support BAG’s wholly-owned emergency response subsidiary, BAG Emergency Response Services, LLC (BAG-ERS).

Operating from a strategically located facility, BAG-ERS will focus on protecting the high-hazard, critical infrastructure, and crude oil by rail (CBR) industries in the Delaware Valley.

BAG-ERS_top_logo2The company will provide industrial firefighting specialists, as well as specially-designed firefighting equipment. These resources will be offered to oil refining, chemical, railroad, marine, utility and other heavy-industrial customers that require a specialized and highly-technical response to emergencies.

While BAG-ERS will initially focus on establishing a significant presence in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the company will also serve the Central Atlantic region of the United States and will then expand to offer its critical services both nationally and internationally.

“The company has identified several potential sites in Delaware County, Pennsylvania that are proximate to its targeted customer base, as well as close to major highways and bridges to facilitate rapid emergency response”, reported Sam Goldwater, Bob Andrews Group Senior Vice President. “Since November, we have been focusing on several suitable sites located in Delaware County, and have also been conducting our due-diligence with property owners, local government officials, and state economic development entities. Assuming the successful conclusion of these efforts, the Bob Andrews Group should be able to announce its site selection decision in the near future”, Goldwater said.

“With the pending selection and announcement of our new Regional Fire Station and Headquarters, BAG-ERS is now prepared to begin working with its prospective clients, employees, and government partners.  Our goal is to provide a significant emergency response capability in the region as soon as possible”, said Robert C. Andrews, Jr., P.E., Bob Andrews Group President & CEO.


Chief Bob Andrews
President & CEO
Bob Andrews Group, LLC

According to Andrews, the company envisions a “mega-fire station” to be situated within the three-state region, supported by several smaller “sub-stations” that will provide for initial rapid response within their local territory.  The company also sees hiring a mix of full-time and part-time firefighters and other emergency response professionals, drawing on the significant numbers of career, volunteer, industrial, and military emergency responders readily available in the region. “We certainly aim to be a preferred employer in the tri-state area, providing competitive compensation, comprehensive benefits, and significant educational opportunities, including tuition reimbursement, for our employees”, Andrews said.

Amongst the services offered by BAG-ERS will be specialized industrial firefighting, hazardous materials and oil spill response, specialized emergency medical response, marine firefighting, and technical rescue services including response to trench, high-angle, and confined-space emergencies.

The company will also be bringing its specialized expertise in emergency preparedness and response to the area’s crude oil by rail industry (CBR).


Samuel O. Goldwater
Senior Vice President
Bob Andrews Group, LLC

According to the company, Andrews tapped BAG Senior Vice President, Samuel O. Goldwater, early in 2013 to coordinate the preliminary phase of research and exploratory talks. Internally, the Bob Andrews Group had been referring to this new initiative as “The Philadelphia Project”. Mr. Goldwater will continue to lead the project locally, and will serve as BAG’s regional liaison. He may be reached through BAG San Antonio Headquarters at (210) 547-2400 until a local construction office is established, or by email at

Additional information about the Bob Andrews Group can be found on their website at Additional information about BAG Emergency Response Services can be found on their website at

Bob Andrews Group to Establish Specialist Emergency Response Headquarters in the Tri-State Area (pdf version)

Despite recent crashes, rail still safest way to haul oil, S.A. expert says

by Gary Cooper / KENS 5

News report by KENS-5 San Antonio, TX

SAN ANTONIO – A train carrying crude oil derailed on a Philadelphia bridge on Monday is the latest in a series of train accidents involving hauling crude. A San Antonio-based expert who provides emergency response services to the oil industry is offering his expertise preventing similar derailments in the Eagle Ford Shale. Bob Andrews, President and CEO of the Bob Andrews Group, provides emergency response services and safety consulting for oil companies, including those in the Bakken Shale in north Dakota which produces 750,000 barrels of oil a day. The Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas is projected to produce 2 million barrels of oil a day by the year 2020. He said despite the recent accidents, rail is still the safest way to haul oil. “Just as flying on an airliner is very safe, from time to time things can occur, and we know that so it’s the industry’s job to prepare for an accident should it occur,”  Andrews said. At the end of 2014, a train carrying oil from the Bakken Shale derailed in rural north Dakota and caught fire. It took several days for the fire to be put out.  Andrews said keeping oil better contained is possible, “however the problem is that right now there is no capacity to build these new cars, and with regard to training and rolling out new emergency response products like we have, it’s going to take some time for the industry to catch up,” Andrews believes the greater risk of dangerous oil spills is in the north and northeast United States. He said the oil industry infrastructure is safer in south Texas and the fire response is better equipped to handle an incident.

Celebrating the Success of Our Employees – YungWei Tang, P.E.

PDI is proud to announce that


YungWei Tang, P.E.


is now a Registered Fire Protection Engineer

YWTYungWei Tang, P.E. has been with PDI since 2010 and has proven to be a valuable asset and a dedicated employee. A graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, he earned both a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering. He has significant project experience in fire protection systems design, life safety reviews, and smoke/fire modeling. Mr. Tang is a talented engineer and he takes pride in using his skills to help a project reach successful completion.

We are delighted to celebrate the personal and professional accomplishments of our employees. The determination and dedication of the professionals at PDI enable us to serve our clients, maintain high ethical standards, and contribute to the communities in which we live and work. At PDI, we value our employees and continually invest in each person to encourage professional growth and promote work/life balance. We have worked hard to create a work environment in which employees are engaged, motivated, and thoroughly enjoy their contribution to our firm’s success.

Click here to view a PDF version of this news release: Press-Release-YungWei-Tang-PE

PDI Welcomes David Emler and Announces Expansion of Services

DRE-pictureProtection Development, Incorporated (PDI) is pleased to announce the addition of David Emler to our team as Permitting Services Manager. David, a graduate of Angelo State University, has over 10 years of experience in permitting commercial construction in San Antonio. Additionally, he is certified by the International Code Council as a Building Plans Examiner and as a National Standard Building Contractor. David is highly skilled in building and fire codes and has a long-standing relationship with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and surrounding municipalities.

David will lead this growing part of our business and, with his experience at a local architectural firm, will expand our services to include:

Assistance with Preparing Special Inspections Documentation
Construction Inspection Issues
Unified Development Code Consulting
International Energy Conservation Code

As the Permitting Services Manager, David plans to expand PDI’s permitting service areas to several additional municipalities currently served by our engineering group.

Contact David Emler via email to or by calling 210.828.7533.

Download a printable copy: PDI-Welcomes-David-Emler-and-Announces-Expansion-of-Services

Three Questions: Bob Andrews, President and CEO of the Bob Andrews Group LLC

President & CEO Robert C. Andrews, Jr.

President & CEO Robert C. Andrews, Jr.

Fire-protection company Bob Andrews Group LLC this month launched a new subsidiary that offers emergency-response services for shippers moving crude oil by rail. The company’s fledgling BAG-Emergency Response Services unit will provide firefighting crews and specialized equipment for the petroleum industry, which increasingly uses trains to get crude from remote shale plays like the Eagle Ford to refining centers. We asked Andrews to discuss the potential dangers of the practice and what his new venture can do to abate the risks.

Q: Clearly the shipping of crude-oil-by-rail is a growing trend. Has the industry done enough to ensure the safety of this practice?

Statistically, shipping crude-oil-by-rail remains one of the safest means of transporting oil to market, especially when pipelines are not available. Having said that, I don’t know anyone who predicted how fast the recent oil shale industry would grow throughout North America, nor especially predict its impact on railroads. Some have called it the “Oil-Shale Boom”, others the “21st Century Gold Rush”. And like the original Gold Rush, there are a lot of benefits, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of challenges. I think that to some degree the industry is having to play catch-up regarding crude oil train safety, especially in light of the recent accident in Quebec. However, I am confident that the industry is actively looking at numerous ways to improve the safety of crude-oil-by-rail, and the industry will be implementing those improvements in the future.

Q: Why did you form the new BAG-Emergency Response Services subsidiary to focus on this kind of specialized emergency response service?

The industry is taking a multi-targeted approach to crude oil rail safety. That approach includes reviewing and improving operating procedures, as well as improving the strength and design of the rail tank cars themselves. But there is also a need to increase the level of emergency preparedness and response in the unlikely event that a major emergency occur in the future. I formed BAG-Emergency Response Services to provide an effective corporate structure from which I could combine my 30-years of specialized oil, refining, and chemical firefighting, fire protection engineering, and railroad experience, to meet this specialized emergency response challenge.

Q: Should people be worried about the movement of crude unit trains through their neighborhoods and towns?

I think the public should be aware, possibly concerned, but certainly not worried. To put it in terms that most people would understand, we can look at the safety of the commercial aviation industry as a comparison. Like crude oil rail transport, flying commercially is a very safe way to travel. Yet, from time-to-time we read about an accident involving a commercial airliner. While we are ever aware that that risk exists, many of us, myself included, routinely fly. We expect, however, that should a mishap occur, that a very dedicated, effective, and robust emergency response system will activate and respond to our airliner emergency. BAG-Emergency Response Services will provide that specialized emergency response capability to the crude-oil-by-rail market, similar to what we expect from the commercial aviation industry.

San Antonio Business Journal
Sep 27, 2013, 5:00am CDT
by Sanford Nowlin

Three Questions: Bob Andrews, President and CEO of the Bob Andrews Group LLC (pdf version)

Fire-safety firm launches oil-by-rail service company

Fire-protection company Bob Andrews Group LLC will hire 25 additional workers in San Antonio with the launch of a new subsidiary that offers emergency-response services for shippers moving crude oil by rail.

The company’s new BAG-Emergency Response Services LLC unit will provide firefighting crews and specialized equipment for the petroleum industry, which increasingly transports crude by train.

Based on early interest, Bob Andrews Group will double the number of employees at its Alamo City headquarters over the next year and hire scores more workers nationwide, Vice President Samuel Goldwater says.

“This new venture is probably going to overshadow everything else we do in terms of size, scope and geography,” he adds.

As activities in U.S. shale plays such as South Texas’ Eagle Ford picks up, energy companies increasingly use rail to deliver crude from oilfield to refinery.

However, regulators and activists have raised safety concerns about the trend, especially in the wake of the July explosion of a crude train in Lac-Megantic Quebec, which left at least 42 people dead.

Goldwater says the new business unit not only addresses the trend but harnesses two of Bob Andrews Group’s core businesses— fire-protection engineering and installing fire systems for rail operators.

“We see this as an ideal fit,” Goldwater adds. “It’s kind of a combination of our rail entities and our fire protection entities.”

— Sanford Nowlin
San Antonio Business Journal


“Emergency Response Services will offer customized emergency preparedness and response solutions tailored to specific risk profiles” — Chief Robert C. Andrews, Bob Andrews Group

The recent Lac-Megantic tragedy has created an immediate need for a a pro-active railroad industry process to prevent a recurrence and limit the damage if there is another such incident. And there will be, even as crew sizes have come down to two from five while FRA injury and incident rates have come down markedly. Yet it still takes just one person not following Best Practices to get himself or somebody else hurt. Think Chatsworth, e.g.

Moreover, given the myriad reactions and responses to the Megantic event, one can only conclude that the best prevention comes from having the railroad industry offer its own solution and not wait for solutions to be forced upon the industry by well-meaning regulators, public officials, elected officials, concerned citizens, experts, and others.

Non-Class I railroads that are handling crude-oil unit trains are particularly vulnerable in any accident approaching the scale of what we saw in Quebec. Industry leaders and regulators have been very good about promptly issuing Best Practices guidelines to prevent such accidents, but not much has been said about containing the damage.

Based upon what we are seeing in the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic accident, the non-Class I carriers appear to be more vulnerable than the Class Is:

  1. Most short lines do not have the financial resources, nor are of sufficient net worth, to pay for the potential costs and claims associated with a Lac-Megantic-type event.
  2. Many short lines are either under-insured or non-insured for such an event.
  3. Short lines do not typically participate in the American Chemical Council’s “Responsible Care Program”, as Class 1 railroads do, yielding as they do a much higher “level of care” in the handling of chemical, hazmat, and TIH commodities.
  4. Short lines do not as a rule have robust emergency planning, emergency preparedness, nor first-responder training programs. (This spreads to NIMBY concerns about ethanol terminals.)
  5. As we’ve seen with the MMA bankruptcy, unless significant procedures to reduce the risk of moving crude-oil unit trains by short lines are implemented, these short lines are betting the farm every time they move a crude-oil unit train.

A best-practices solution will significantly reduce the hazards, and the associated damage, should an accident similar to Lac-Magantic happen in the future. The overall goal is to respond quickly to a derailment or similar event where product is released, and contain the spill/damage/fire rapidly. The faster the emergency is mitigated, the smaller the impact is to the railroad, the public, and the environment, resulting in a much-reduced overall accident cost. Once implemented, a best-practices solution would address the following “hot ticket” items:

  1. The flammable risk inherent to crude oil unit trains will be mitigated by dramatically enhancing firefighting and emergency response.
  2. The training of public first responders will be dramatically increased over each unit train route.
  3. The enhanced firefighting and emergency response program will provide a counter-measure to the concerns related to the current design of DOT 111 tank cars.
  4. Such a program, as adopted by a shortline railroad, will show a pro-activeness by that short line equivalent to the ACC “Responsible Care” program.

The crude-by-rail phenomenon is not going away. According to the July 2013 AAR “Rail Time Indicators” report, oil-train traffic for July 2013 was up 24.9 percent over July of 2012, and July 2012 was up 86.2 percent over July 2011. Railroads remain cost-competitive versus truck and are only bested by pipelines (which are long lead solutions to build, and then are only effective if they run where they need to).

However, in order for railroads to enjoy this market, and not bet the farm on every move, they need to increase their emergency preparedness and response capability. While the costs of these necessary improvements would initially be borne by the railroad, they should then be passed on to the oil producer or shipper and ultimately passed on to the consumer. The economics of the crude-oil marketplace are such that there is enough room to bear these reasonably small incremental costs to increase emergency response capability.

The fact that governments are forcing railroads to accept hazardous shipments under their common carrier statutes, but then leaving the cost of an accident to the railroad, at the railroad’s extreme peril, has also been well illustrated post the Lac-Megantic accident. This situation must be resolved. Increasing emergency response capability, passing those costs on to the consumer, reducing the railroads’ risk while still allowing them to carry these dangerous goods while meeting their common carrier obligation will in combination present a win-win-win proposition.

Step One is coordinating handoffs and continued care with the Class Is. They all have supported short lines in hazmat training. I commented on the BNSF first-responder program being extended to short lines Aug 23 and last week I got assurances from Union Pacific that they will engage short lines even as spelled out for their own local customers in the 10-K:

“UPRR Security Measures – We maintain a comprehensive security plan designed to both deter and to respond to any potential or actual threats as they arise… Our employees undergo recurrent security and preparedness training, as well as federally-mandated hazardous materials and security training. We regularly review the sufficiency of our employee training programs. We maintain the capability to move critical operations to back-up facilities in different locations.”

Which is all to the good: train crews learn how to recognize different types of fires and what to do until the first responders arrive. That’s where the Bob Andrews Group comes in. Chief Andrews has been fighting oil fires around the world for some 30 years. He also knows railroads, too, and is in the process of rebuilding a set of PRR Broadway Limited cars, incorporating state-of-the-art fire suppression systems designed specifically for for excursion trains, Ed Ellis’ Colorado operation being Exhibit A.

Based — not surprisingly — in San Antonio, Bob originally hails from Philadelphia, ergo his Broadway Limited interest. We were first acquainted some years ago when he joined Philadelphia’s Union League and became active in the League’s Civil War Round Table Group. We first began talking about crude-oil train emergency preparedness when the Philadelphia area started seeing such trains heading for half a dozen refineries and other destinations. And when the MMA had its incident, Bob went into overdrive to find the best means to contain the inevitable damage that ensues when a trainload of crude oil comes off the rails.

This week he issued his first press release, excerpts of which follow, emphasis added:

The Bob Andrews Group, LLC (BAG) today [Sep 4] announced the formation of BAG – Emergency Response Services, LLC (BAG-ERS), a wholly-owned subsidiary that will focus on providing specialist emergency preparedness and response services to protect crude oil unit trains in North America as well as the communities in which they operate. The new company will provide industrial firefighting specialists as well as specially-designed firefighting equipment aimed at crude oil unit trains and their associated fixed loading and unloading facilities.

Andrews will create user-specific emergency preparedness plans to address the frequency and routes of unit train travel, the population density and any environmental sensitive areas along the route, and the current preparedness level of local first responders. The company will apply three emergency response deployment models, alone or in combination, in order to provide sufficient personnel and equipment to curtail the growth of an emergency in its earliest stages and within agreed-to response time parameters.

Location options include both wayside fixed emergency response facilities housing specially designed, hi-rail equipped, firefighting vehicles, as well as purpose-built firefighting railcars that will be part of the crude-oil unit train consist. Says Andrews, “Being able to interrupt the growth of the fire or emergency at its earliest phase is critical to preventing a Lac-Mégantic-type disaster in the future.” He has a point.

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Bob Andrews Group to Provide Specialist Emergency Response Service to Protect Crude Oil Unit Trains in North America

San Antonio, TX – September 4, 2013

The Bob Andrews Group, LLC (BAG) today announced the formation of BAG – Emergency Response Services, LLC (BAG-ERS), a wholly-owned subsidiary that will focus on providing specialist emergency preparedness and response services to protect crude oil unit trains in North America as well as the communities in which they operate.

The new company will provide industrial firefighting specialists as well as specially-designed firefighting equipment aimed at crude oil unit trains and their associated fixed loading and unloading facilities.

According to the company, the Bob Andrews Group has been working to establish this capability for the past several months, but the recent Lac-Mégantic tragedy has served as a catalyst to launch this much-needed service on an expedited basis.  “BAG Emergency Response Services will offer customized emergency preparedness and response solutions tailored to the specific risk profile of railroads, shippers, fixed facility operators, insurers, and communities along a particular unit train travel route”, said Chief Robert C. Andrews, Jr., P.E., Bob Andrews Group President & CEO.  “Among the risk metrics we will use to tailor our solutions will be the frequency and routes of unit train travel, the population density and any environmentally sensitive areas along the route, and the current preparedness level of local first responders”, Andrews said.

Chief Robert C. Andrews, Jr. P.E., M.Sc.<br />President & CEO<br />Bob Andrews Group, LLC

Chief Robert C. Andrews, Jr. P.E., M.Sc. President & CEO Bob Andrews Group, LLC

According to Andrews, the company will apply three emergency response deployment models, alone or in combination, in order to provide sufficient personnel and equipment to curtail the growth of an emergency in its earliest stages and within agreed-to response time parameters.

Location options include both wayside fixed emergency response facilities housing specially-designed, high-rail firefighting vehicles, as well as the inclusion of specially-designed firefighting railcars that will be part of the crude oil unit train consist.  “Being able to interrupt the growth of the fire or emergency at its earliest phase is critical to preventing a Lac-Mégantic-type disaster in the future”, Andrews said.

The company is immediately available to work with railroads, shippers, facility operators, insurers, communities and first responders, as well as local, state, and national regulators in both the United States and Canada to help them specifically satisfy the myriad concerns that have arisen out of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

The company believes that its projected emergency response enhancements represent a reasonably small incremental increase in rail shipping costs and are easily justifiable on a cost vs. risk reduction basis.

Additional Background – The Lac-Mégantic Disaster

On July 6, 2013, a catastrophic accident involving a freight train containing loaded tank cars of petroleum crude oil occurred in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  The train was approximately 4,700 feet long, weighed over 10,000 tons and consisted of five locomotives, a loaded box car, and 72 loaded tank cars containing petroleum crude oil.

At approximately 1:00 a.m., it appears that the [unmanned] train began rolling and picking up speed down the descending grade toward the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  Near the center of town, the train derailed.

The locomotives separated from the train and came to a stop approximately ½ mile from the derailment site.  The box car and 63 of the loaded tank cars derailed.  A number of the derailed tank cars released product resulting in multiple explosions and numerous fires.  At this time, it is estimated that there were 42 fatalities and 5 persons are still missing.  There was also extensive damage to the town, and approximately 2,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area.1  

According to news sources, clean-up costs alone are estimated to exceed $200 million.  Costs related to life loss and property damage will be additional.  On August 7, 2013, the railroad whose train derailed filed for bankruptcy protection in both the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal (under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act) and the United States Bankruptcy Court in Bangor, Maine (under Chapter 11).

1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 152 / Wednesday, August 7, 2013 / Notices

Better Late Than Never: Celebrating Black Military Heroes, In Art


As a black child growing up during the modern Civil Rights era, and in a family whose military service dates back to the Civil War, I often wondered why so little was known about the service of black men. I soon came to realize that racial segregation and the marginalization of blacks prevailed not only in America but also across the globe. Black soldiers were recruited in times of crisis, but their service and contributions were often omitted from history textbooks and national narratives.

Philadelphia’s own Union League is a case in point. The Union League was founded in 1862 to support the Union cause during the Civil War; it was instrumental in recruiting and mustering the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) at Camp William Penn, just outside of Philadelphia. In fact, the League actually created more black regiments than white ones during the Civil War. Yet until this year none of the League’s many monuments and paintings celebrating the exploits of Civil War soldiers and leaders reflected the League’s own important role in America’s black military legacy.

Two new art events in Philadelphia make important contributions toward correcting this oversight. They also help us to appreciate the role that art plays in teaching us about the past.

The Penn Museum’s new exhibit, “Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster,” explores depictions of black men in military recruiting and propaganda art from the American Civil War through the African Independence movements of the 1960s. (To read Alaina Mabaso’s BSR review, click here.)

Union League’s breakthrough

Meanwhile, this week the Union League’s Abraham Lincoln Foundation unveiled Three Medals of Honor, by Don Troiani, an artist known for his breathtaking and meticulously researched depictions of historic military events. Troiani’s commissioned painting, funded with a gift from a League member, Robert C. Andrews, Jr., is the League’s first artwork commemorating the military exploits of African Americans.

Three Medals of Honor captures a moment in the Battle of New Market Heights, Virginia, on September 29, 1864, for which 16 Medals of Honor were awarded— 14 to black soldiers— the most such medals ever awarded at one time. Troiani’s painting of two such black heroes— Sergeant Major Thomas R. Hawkins and First Sergeant Alexander Kelly— effectively encapsulates the courage of black troops during the Civil War as well as the injustice of prevailing attitudes toward them: Because black men were believed incapable of serving as commissioned officers, their ranks were led by a white Lieutenant, Nathan Edgerton, who is the third Medal of Honor recipient in the painting.

Real models, real sword

Troiani’s painting, the result of extensive research in the National Archives and other historical records, is stunningly accurate in its rendering of the battle scene— a far cry from The Storming of Fort Wagner, an 1890 lithograph currently on display in the Penn Museum’s “Black Bodies” exhibit. Both works are extraordinary images of war, but Troiani’s is moving for its realism, especially of the soldiers. (Troiani used several local U.S. Colored Troops re-enactors as his models, and one of Edgerton’s descendants provided the Lieutenant’s sword.)

“Black Bodies” and Three Medals of Honor both beg a nagging question: Why would individuals who were disenfranchised and subjected to second-class citizenship fight for a country that denies them equal treatment? The artwork is a moving and important medium for this reflection.

New painting honors key Civil War moment for African Americans

By Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: June 20, 2013
Sixth in an occasional series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1 to 3.

James Mundy Jr., Union League director of education and programming, with the work.

A thick, misty fog embraced the blue columns of African American soldiers “like a mantle of death” as they marched through pre-dawn darkness toward the enemy earthworks outside Richmond, Va.

Spotted by Confederate pickets, members of the Sixth U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) quickly ran into a torrent of musket and artillery fire that cut through their ranks and shredded the national and regimental colors, snapping the flagpoles in two.

That chaotic moment – when Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Hawkins, First Sgt. Alexander Kelly, and Lt. Nathan Edgerton rushed in to rescue the colors – has been captured for the Union League of Philadelphia in a newly commissioned oil painting by the renowned Civil War artist Don Troiani.

That day, Sept. 29, 1864, is arguably the most important in African American military history, historians say, because it displayed the prowess and determination of black soldiers against seemingly impossible odds. Hawkins, Kelly, and 12 others who fought at what became known as the Battle of New Market Heights each received the Medal of Honor, as did two white officers, including Edgerton.

The attack “was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War,” Troiani said, with a 57 percent casualty rate. “They were slaughtered, crushed, and fell back, but the brigades behind them took” the enemy position.

Troiani’s latest work, one of dozens of paintings on the war, will be unveiled June 24 at the league building on South Broad Street.

"Three Medals of Honor" by Don Troiani depicts the battle of New Market Heights near Richmond, Va.

Every detail of it has been researched in period accounts, post-war depositions, and other records, down to the heights of soldiers, exact uniforms, and the role each played.

Hawkins grabs the blue regimental colors bearing the motto “Freedom for All” alongside Edgerton, who has just been shot. Nearby, Kelly clasps the staff of the bullet-ridden, tattered national colors.

“After the color guard was all either killed or wounded . . . we got orders to retire,” Kelly recalled. Upon seeing the colors “being left I seized them and carried them to the rear where I rallied the few remaining men.”

At the same time, with Hawkins coming to his aid, Edgerton noticed “my hand was covered in blood, and perfectly powerless, and the flag staff [was] lying in two pieces.”

That a painting of that battle has a home now at the league is appropriate, officials said.

“It’s important to acknowledge the league’s part” in raising 11 black and nine white regiments, said James Mundy Jr., league director of education and programming. “In 1902, the league unveiled a bronze high-relief memorial to recognize the contributions of its white soldiers, and now it’s recognizing the contributions of its black soldiers.”

The league bucked popular opinion 150 years ago to establish Camp William Penn in what is now Cheltenham, where African American troops were trained.

The camp where they prepared for that deadly day was built on land owned by Union League member Edward M. Davis, son-in-law of the abolitionist Lucretia A. Mott, whose estate was a major stop on the Underground Railroad.

“You had this patriotic social society composed mostly of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant upper-class gentlemen who had political epiphanies about the role of race in America that included the ultimate awarding of citizenship to black Americans,” Mundy said.

Black soldiers wanted to help fight off the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania in the month leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Professor Octavius V. Catto raised a company of African Americans from his students at the Institute for Colored Youth who were turned away at Harrisburg “due to a bureaucratic blunder and misinterpretation” of orders, said historian and author Andy Waskie, a professor at Temple University.

“This company was promptly offered and quickly accepted by the government and mustered in on June 26, 1863, as Company A, Third Regiment, United States Colored Troops,” said Waskie, a League member. It was “recognized to have been the first company of colored troops from Philadelphia enrolled in the U.S. Army.”

Across the city, copies of a circular were distributed to raise more black units: “This is our golden moment. The government of the United States calls for every able-bodied colored man to enter the army for the three years’ service, and join in fighting the battles of liberty and the Union. A new era is open to us.”

Mundy had long wanted to remember the league’s black soldiers. The painting project took shape with the support and financial help of league member Bob Andrews, a fire protection engineer and president of the Bob Andrews Group in San Antonio, Texas.

“I was getting a tour of the artwork at the league,” Andrews said. “I saw the bronze relief to the league’s white regiments but nothing for the black regiments.

“I blurted out, ‘We need to do something about that,’ “ he said.

Choosing the right artist was easy, said John Meko, executive director of the Foundations at the Union League. “What was neat about this was the timing,” Meko said. “It was the 150th [anniversary] of the founding of the U.S. Colored Troops and Camp William Penn.”

The black troops who fought at New Market Heights were not the first African American soldiers to be trained in 1863, following President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. They also weren’t the first to see combat or gain recognition.

The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was widely acclaimed for its valor during its July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C. Sgt. William H. Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor for grabbing the U.S. flag as the colorbearer fell. He carried the flag to the Confederate ramparts and back, later saying, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”

“So much of this history has been in plain sight,” said Rob Houston of Philadelphia, an USCT reenactor and Carney cousin three generations removed. “It gives me great pleasure to represent those who have gone before, all those that served in the Union Army and Navy.”

Among those planning to attend the ceremony June 24 is Milton Dank, a member of the board of Citizens for the Restoration of Historical La Mott, which is seeking to build a museum honoring black Civil War soldiers in a former firehouse in the 1600 block of Willow Avenue in Cheltenham Township. La Mott is the community where Camp William Penn was located.

“New Market Heights is a salient point in the history of African Americans,” said Dank, an author and combat glider pilot during World War II.

Bob Andrews helped make the painting possible.

The oil painting re-creation of that desperate fight – called Three Medals of Honor – “is stunning,” Andrews said. “It’s important to tell history correctly.”

Contact Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or

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