Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10, 1862: The Militia is Called

By September 9, 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had pushed it's way north, across the Potomac River, and was massed in and around the town of Frederick, MD, some 25 miles south of the Pennsylvania border.  Over the past several days, the Rebel army steadily moved north and west into the border state.  Knowing that the Union forces were in a state of demoralization resulting from their defeats that summer, Gen. Robert E. Lee hoped this movement by his army would draw the massive force of Union troops out from their defenses surrounding Washington, in order to give chase.  This would not only thrust a disorganized Union army prematurely back out into the field, but might help expose Washington and Baltimore to Confederate invasion, further hesitating and confusing the Union as to Lee's intended targets. 

Now, on the 9th of September, Lee hoped to further allude the Union Army of the Potomac, by crossing both Catoctin and South Mountains to the west of Frederick.  This would not only shield his movements, but would cause the Union army to put further distance (including two mountains!) between them and their base of supply in Washington, if they continued the chase.  It also would allow Lee to gain access to his communication/supply line in the Shenandoah Vally of Virginia, and the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania, which would provide Lee a chance to pick clean of supplies a population that was, for once, not in Northern Virginia.  The Cumberland Valley, as it does today with Interstate 81, enabled easy access to Harrisburg, the capital of one of Lincoln's most powerful war-machine states.

Messages, reports, and wild rumors began to flood Harrisburg.  No one knew exactly where Lee and his rebel horde were, or where they were going.  However, to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, it was painfully obvious; Lee would try to capture Harrisburg with it's vital railroad hub and army training grounds.  It was even thought Lee would move further west to capture the arsenal at Pittsburgh and strike a large blow against the North's ability to wage war.  Either way, Pennsylvania was ripe for the picking, and, for Gov. Curtin, the Union army was not moving fast enough to catch up to and destroy Lee before the Rebels would be able to invade the Keystone state.  Curtin decided to act.

Having issued a proclamation the week before, calling for the formation and training of militia companies, in case Pennsylvania was to be invaded, Gov. Curtin issued a new proclamation, calling into action the "Emergency Militia".

Headquarters Pennsylvania Militia
                        Harrisburg, Sept. 10, 1862

            No. 35

   In view of the danger of invasion now threatening our State, by the enemies of the government, it is deemed necessary to call upon all the able bodied men of Pennsylvania to organize immediately for the defense of the State, and be ready for marching orders, upon one hour’s notice, to proceed to such points of rendezvous as the Governor may direct.
            It is ordered –
   First.  That Company organizations be made in accordance with the number required under the law of the United States, to wit:
   One Captain,
   1st Lieutenant,
   2nd Lieutenant,
   80 privates as the minimum, and 98 privates as the maximum standard of each company.  The company officers to be elected by each organization.
   Second.  As the call may be sudden, it is desirable that the officers and members of each company provide themselves with the best arms they can secure, with at least sixty rounds of ammunition to suit the kind of arms in possession of the soldier.  Such persons as cannot secure and bring arms with them will be furnished by the government after their arrival at the place of rendezvous.
   Third.  Each officer and member of the company shall provide himself with good stout clothing, (uniform or otherwise) boots, blanket and haversack, ready to go into camp when called into service.
   Fourth.  Each company organization to be perfected as soon as possible, and report the name of officer in command, the number of men and the place of its headquarters, to theses headquarters in order that they may be promptly notified to move when their services are required.
   Fifth.  Organizations when ordered to move, will be furnished with transportation by the government.
   Sixth.  On arrival at the place of rendezvous, they will be formed into regiments or such other organizations as the Governor, Commander-in-Chief of Pennsylvania may direct.
   Seventh.  So far as practicable and as my be found consistent with the interests of the public service, companies from the same localities will be put together in such larger organizations as may be formed.
   Eighth.  Organizations formed under the recent proclamation are earnestly requested to adopt without delay such measures as may be necessary to comply with this order.
   Ninth.  Organizations called in the field under this order will be held for services for such time only as the pressing exigency for state defense may continue.
   By order of                                                       A. G. Curtin,
            Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

Read my previous post on the response in Reading, PA to the Governor's proclamations.

Carlisle Herald, September 12, 1862

Carman, Ezra. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Vol. 1, South Mountain. ed. Thomas G. Clemens. New York: Savas Beatie, 2010.

Harsh, Joseph L., Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862.Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1999.

Hoptak, John David. The Battle of South Mountain. Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011.

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