Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"A Welcome With Bloody Hands To Hospital Graves"

From the Shippensburg News, September 13, 1862, we gain a glimpse into the events, hysteria, and "fires of patriotism" that were sweeping up through the Cumberland Valley in those late summer days.  The writer appears to have a harsh tone towards his "skedaddling" neighbors, and those looking for excuses to avoid the coming fight.  Yet, at the same time, the article offers an even harsher tone for any rebels who might threaten invasion.  Having lived for several years in the historic town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, quietly nestled in the middle of the Cumberland Valley, I hope you find this article as fascinating as I do.  It has been many generations since Pennsylvanians have had to scan the horizon for invading armies.  The American Civil War unleashed this country's greatest tragedy, and turned it's citizens' lives upside down.  We will never be able to experience or understand the emotions of the day, but newspaper articles such as this, and letters and diaries left behind offer us our greatest opportunity to feel and understand.   

This week has been one of unusual excitement.  On Thursday it rose to fever heat.  The alarming news of the morning by a company of refugees from imaginary danger, threw the community into a state of feeling - The rebel raid into Maryland has been followed by a "skedaddle" in considerable numbers from all points along the Pennsylvania line.  With every fugitive comes a different story, the magnitude of which depends upon the stage of the fever or degree of alarm, and its credibility can be measured by the narrator's pulsations.  To heighten the interest of the day, and perhaps the alarm, scores of maimed, half deaf blind and withered, crowded around the Commissioners and Surgeon's office claiming exemption from the coming draft.  The impression upon the mind of the stranger must have been the Infirmary had disgorged itself upon our square.  It would have afforded a rare field of usefulness to the self sacrificing philanthropist and a splendid market to the dealer in nostrums.  We were reminded of the philosopher's allegory where in all the people of the world bring their infirmities into one great heap.  O, the degeneracy of the race! and how pitiable these invalids in the necessity of a universal skedaddle.

But we glory in announcing that amongst sound and healthy remaining, the zeal in our country's cause is still earnest and cheering.  The fires of patriotism are still alive.  The flame of love of country still burns with unabated warmth.  On the morning of that day - in the midst of the interest, and after a few telling and patriotic remarks by Revs. Gotwalt and Nevin -  two volunteer companies were formed for state defense.  It is understood that the company of infantry will be composed of men in the vigor of early manhood - the cavalry company of those past the age of forty five, or who are not subject to military duty.  This latter will act as scouts night and day.  With this vigilance our people may go to their beds with some feeling of security.  This community is not alone in this earnest demonstration.  The rebel who hopes to have an easy conquest of this valley will in due time wake up to a "welcome with bloody hands to hospital graves".  A free people thus aroused - fighting upon their own soil - for their own firesides, for their own alters, for their freedom, and for truth and rights, will put to flight the ruthless invader and send to their last account the slave minions who fight for death of human freedom and the perpetuity of human slavery.

Shippensburg News, September 13, 1862

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