Albright, Charles

The hard-driving Charles Albright packed the fifty years of his life with action. He was an ardent free-soiler from his youth, rose to command a brigade during the Civil War, served in Congress, and made a fortune as a ruthless corporate lawyer in the Pennsylvania coalfields. The son of a prosperous Berks County, Pennsylvania farmer, he attended Dickinson College and studied law. Always restless, in 1854 he led a company of anti-slavery and pro-temperance Pennsylvania families on a trek to settle Kansas. This kind of drive was handily harnessed during the Civil War. He took command of his 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment on the battlefield when his senior officers were killed and later commanded a brigade at Chancellorsville. Late in the war, he led the defense of the vital Manassas Gap railway line from Confederate raiders. There he had a brief and violent college reunion in April 1865, meeting a raid from cavalry under Captain George Baylor, class of 1860. Following the war, Albright served a term in Congress as a Republican and became counsel for the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, where he was especially active in leading the industry’s resistance to the labor agitation of the "Molly Maguires" during the 1870s. All this brought him considerable wealth and an impressive mansion in “millionaire’s row” on Broad Street in Mauch Chunk. Always a devout Methodist and non-smoking teetotaler, Albright died at his home in September 1880 after several weeks of serious illness. He was forty-nine years old. (By John Osborne)
Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1852; Trustee, 1879-1880
    Full name
    Charles Albright
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    Solomon Albright (father), Mary Miller (mother), Naomi E. Wingard (wife)
    Dickinson (Carlisle College)
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Union Army
    Household Size in 1860
    Occupation in 1860
    Residence in 1860
    Wealth in 1860
    Marital status in 1860

    Charles Albright (Dickinson Chronicles)

    Charles Albright was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania on December 13, 1830, the son of Solomon and Mary Miller Albright. He was a student for a time at the select school at Seyfert's Mills near his home in 1845 and then enrolled at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the class of 1852 in September 1848. While at the College, he was a particularly active member of the Union Philosophical Society, chairing the committee, for example, that petitioned the board of trustees to expand the society's library in West College. He withdrew from his undergraduate course in 1851 to undertake the study of law with Robert L. Johnson in Edenburg, Pennsylvania.

    By 1854 Albright had become involved as one of the secretaries of the Western Pennsylvania Kansas Company which intended to settle Kansas with men and families of solid anti-slavery and pro-temperance convictions. The company was organized in Conneaultville, Crawford County on September 16, 1854 and associated itself with the larger New York Kansas Society that sponsored the American Settlement Company. Two hundred Pennsylvanians set out for Kansas with the young Charles Albright guiding the party. The group arrived in Kansas City on November 9, 1854 but quickly lost organization and broke up. The American Settlement Company was more successful in setting up the town of Council City, now Burlingame, in Osage County. But the overall disorganization took its toll on the meticulous and ambitious Albright. He resigned in late 1854 as agent to the company, complaining to its president, Thaddeus Hyatt, that too many potential freesoilers were giving up and going home on seeing no preparations for their arrival and nothing but open prairie. In addition, Albright complained that the best land was set aside for the reserves of the indigenous tribes. Albright allied himself for a time with Governor Andrew Reeder but, on Reeder's dismissal and flight from Kansas in early 1856, he returned to Pennsylvania and took up his law practice in Mauch Chunk in Carbon County.

    By this time an ardent Republican, Albright was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Abraham Lincoln. He remained in the capital after the inauguration of the new president and volunteered in one of the companies of irregulars that Cassius M. Clay organized to protect Washington from sudden attack. In August 1862 he took a major's commission with the 132nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and served at South Mountain and Fredericksburg. Casualties were heavy among the senior officers and after Fredericksburg, Albright took command of the regiment until its mustering out in May 1863. In January 1863, he served for a time in command of a brigade at Chancellorsville.

    Mustered out of the 132nd, Albright commanded Camp Muhlenberg in Reading, Pennsylvania in June 1863. He then took command in July 1863 of one of the so-called "emergency regiments," the 34th Pennsylvania Militia, partially recruited in Carbon County, and marched with it to Philadelphia, where the authorities feared draft riots. He announced his unit's presence in the city by having them "clear their muskets" of old powder by firing them in the air on Chestnut Street then ordering them not to reload. This combination of noise and declaration of peaceful intent perhaps helped Philadelphia avoid the fate of New York. The 34th stood down in August and when trouble arose soon after in the Pennsylvania mining districts, Albright was dispatched there to arrest the ringleaders and restore calm.

    Albright's regimental command experience was once again called to service in September, 1864 when he took charge of another newly raised unit, the 202nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This command saw difficult service guarding the Manassas Gap railway lines in Virginia from guerilla action. Albright, who had little patience with the rebellion - he considered Democrats as aiding the enemy, was not above firm action in this task, once burning all houses surrounding a portion of rail line that had been attacked and then forcing locals to ride in all trains to forestall sabotage to the tracks. On at least one defense of the rail line he faced a fellow Dickinsonian. On April 10, 1865, Albright reported to his superiors that he had met a raid from Captain George Baylor, class of 1860 and a fellow Union Philosophical member, and "whipped him like thunder." Albright had already by this time been named a Brevet Brigadier General, on March 25, 1865. The regiment spent its last days on home duty in the Lehigh Valley following the Confederate surrender and was mustered out in August 1865.

    Albright resumed his career in Mauch Chunk where he had been named the president of the newly established Second Bank of Mauch Chunk in 1864. He also became involved with iron and slate interests in the area. Albright was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1872 and served one term, preferring not to stand for reelection. He did, however, serve as a delegate to the Philadelphia Republican Convention renominating President Grant and acted as chair of its committee on permanent organization. Back in the coal districts, he was the legal representative of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company and, in this capacity, aided in the prosecution and trial of the so-called "Molly Maguires" who were resisting the mining companies absolute control in the coal areas. Specifically, he assisted in the 1876 trial and conviction of the four men accused of murdering the Tamaque chief of police; the four were hanged in Mauch Chunk the same year.

    Albright married Naomi E. Wingard in 1852. A devout Methodist and non-smoking teetotaler, Albright attended the general conference of the church in 1872 in Brooklyn as a lay delegate. He was also elected to the board of trustees of his alma mater in 1879. This last service came to a premature end, however, when after several weeks of serious illness Charles Albright died at his home in Mauch Chunk on September 28, 1880. He was forty-nine years old.
    John Osborne and James W. Gerencser, eds., “Charles Albright,” Dickinson Chronicles,

    Charles Albright (Congressional Biographical Dictionary)

    ALBRIGHT, Charles, a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Bucks County, Pa., December 13, 1830; attended Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1852 and commenced practice in Mauch Chunk, Pa.; moved to the Territory of Kansas in 1854 and participated in its early development; returned to Pennsylvania and resumed the practice of law in Mauch Chunk in 1856; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860 and 1872; during the Civil War served in the Union Army and was promoted through the ranks to colonel of the One Hundred and Thirty-second Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; honorably mustered out May 24, 1865; recommissioned colonel of the Thirty-fourth Pennsylvania Militia July 3, 1863, and honorably mustered out August 10, 1863; recommissioned colonel of the Two Hundred and Second Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, September 4, 1864; honorably mustered out August 3, 1865; resumed the practice of law in Mauch Chunk, Pa.; elected as a Republican to the Forty-third Congress (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1875); was not a candidate for reelection in 1874; resumed the practice of law and also engaged in manufacturing in Mauch Chunk, Pa., until his death there September 28, 1880; interment in Mauch Chunk Cemetery.
    “Albright, Charles,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

    Charles Albright (Congressional Directory, 1878)

    Albright, Charles, was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1830; was educated at Dickinson College; studied law at Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, and was admitted to the bar in 1852; in 1854 went to Kansas, and participated in the early struggles of the Territory for freedom; in 1856 returned to Pennsylvania, and resumed the practice of law at Mauch Chunk, where he has since resided; in 1860 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention; entered the army in 1862 as major of the One Hundred and Thirty-second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; after the battle of Antietam, was made lieutenant-colonel; on February 22, 1863, was commissioned colonel, commanding the third brigade, third division, Second Army Corps, until after the battle of Chancellorsville; in September, 1864, was commissioned colonel of the Two Hundred and Second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers; in March, 1865, was promoted to brevet brigadier-general of volunteers; after the surrender of Richmond, was sent to pacify the tumults in the mining regions; in August, 1865, he was mustered out of service, and resumed business at Mauch Chunk; in 1872 was a delegate to the Republican National Convention at Philadelphia; was elected to the Forty- third Congress as one of the three congressmen at large from Pennsylvania, as a Republican, receiving 360,674 votes against 314,036 votes for Richard Vaux, Democrat, and serving from December 1, 1873, to March 3, 1875.
    Ben Perley Poore, “Albright, Charles,” The Political Register and Congressional Directory: A Statistical Record of the Federal Officials, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial, of the United States of America, 1776-1878 (Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Company, 1878): 254.

    Charles Albright (Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania)

    Charles Albright, Colonel of the One Hundred and Thirty-second regiment and Brevet Brigadier-General, was born on the 13th of December, 1830, in Berks county, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Solomon and Mary (Miller) Albright. He was educated at Dickinson College, and studied law at Ebensburg with Robert L. Johnson. He subsequently removed to Mauch Chunk, where he acquired a commanding influence both in his profession and in politics. He was married in 1852 to Miss Naomi E. Wingard, daughter of Valentine Wingard. In stature he is above the medium height. He is methodical and temperate, eschewing altogether tobacco and spirituous liquors. In 1854 he went with Governor Reeder to Kansas, where he was involved in the troubles of that infant State, allying himself actively with the Free State party, and contending, as was the right of citizens, for the consecration of that virgin soil to the cause of freedom forever.
    Samuel P. Bates, “Charles Albright,” Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: T. H. Davis and Company, 1876), 816.

    Charles Albright (Biographical Annals)

    Albright, Charles; was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1830; educated at Dickinson College; studied law, and came to the bar in 1852; in 1854 visited Kansas, and in 1856 returned to Pennsylvania; in 1860 was a Delegate to the Republican National Convention; entered the Army in 1862 ; was commissioned Colonel, commanding the Third Brigade, at Chancellorsville; was placed in command of Camp Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania, to organize troops; in July was sent to Philadelphia to assist in the draft; in September, 1864, was assigned to an independent command to protect Railroads and the outer defenses of Washington; in March, 1865, was promoted to brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers; after the war was sent to the command of the Lehigh military district, to pacify tumults in the mining regions; in 1865 was mustered out of service; in 1872, was a Delegate to the Republican National Convention at Philadelphia; was elected to the Forty-third Congress, serving on the Committee on Military Affairs.
    Charles Lanman and Joseph M. Morrison, “Albright, Charles,” Biographical Annals of the Civil Government of the United States: From Original and Official Sources (New York: J. M. Morrison, 1887), 4.

    Charles Albright (New York Times)

    Gen. Charles Albright, a leading lawyer of Mauch Chunk, Penn., died yesterday morning of paralysis. He was born in Berks County, Penn., Dec. 13, 1830, and received his education at Dickinson College. After preliminary legal studies, he admitted to the Bar in 1852. He spent a year or two in Kansas, and returned to Pennsylvania in 1856. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860. Soon after the breaking out of the war he entered the Army, and was commissioned as Colonel, commanding the Third Brigade, at Chancellorsville. He was later in command of Camp Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania, to organize troops. He assisted, in July, in the draft at Philadelphia. He had an independent command, in September, 1864, in the protection of the railroads and outer defenses of Washington. In March, 1865, he was made a Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers. He had charge, after the war, of the Lehigh military district, assisting in pacifying the mining tumults. His military career ended in 1865, when he was mustered out of the service. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, at Philadelphia, in 1872, and was elected to the Forty-third Congress, serving on the Committee on Military Affairs.
    “Charles Albright,” New York Times, September 29, 1880, p. 5: 2.
    How to Cite This Page: "Albright, Charles," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,