During the nineteenth century, West Goshen Township was a getaway for Philadelphia residents to relax at their country homes. The expansive pastures and dense forests offered a quiet reprieve from the chaos of the city. One of these notable residents was General George Archibald McCall. He retired to his West Goshen farm after a life of service to the United States. Although the house is no longer standing, the property once stood near the intersection of Goshen Road and Phoenixville Pike. McCall’s journey to West Goshen involved traveling throughout the United States.
McCall’s life began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1802. From an early age, he desired to serve in the United States Military. In 1822, McCall graduated from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. He experienced his first military campaigns during the Seminole War of 1835-1842 in Pensacola, Florida. During the war, McCall served as aide-de-camp to Gen. Edmund P. Gaines.
McCall returned to war by participating in the first major battles of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in May 1846 began the movement to claim Mexican territory now known as the State of Texas. McCall and his fellow soldiers fought under the command of General Zachary Taylor who became the twelfth president of the United States. In 1850, after McCall’s successful military accomplishments during the Mexican-American War, he was appointed Inspector General of the Army. In 1853, after nearly thirty years of military service, he retired to West Goshen Township with his wife, Elizabeth McMurtrie, to engage in farming at the Belair Estate.
Although McCall decided to end his military service, his retirement only lasted a few years. On May 15, 1861, as the United States Civil War began, he rejoined the military. At the age of 59, McCall was commissioned major-general of the Pennsylvania Volunteers and later the U.S. Volunteers. His division assisted with protecting the nation’s capital from the Confederate Army. McCall also planned several successful movements in Virginia throughout the Civil War, including the Battle of Dranesville, the Battle of Mechanicsville, and the Battle of Gaines’ Mill.
During the Battle of Glendale on June 30, 1862, McCall was taken prisoner. He was confined in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, until August 1862. After his escape, McCall remained on sick leave until March 1863 when he retired back to Belair Estate. Upon his return to West Goshen, McCall was presented with a ceremonial sword to honor his service of over thirty-five years to the country. On February 26, 1868, General McCall died at Belair Estate. As a tribute to General McCall’s service, the West Chester Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post was named in his honor.
The lives of local residents tell stories of survival, sacrifice, and bravery. Although some of our historic properties are no longer standing in West Goshen, the documents and photographs of these residents will continue to survive. General McCall is one of many inspiring stories that reveal the impact that West Goshen residents can have on the country. The journey continues to uncover the history of many more notable residents.