Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 1862: "The State to be Armed"

The following is a re-post from last September.  I apologize for my laziness, but over the past year my available research time has been somewhat placed on the back burner.  Among the many projects drawing away my attention has been my effort to become an official Antietam Battlefield Guide.  This requires large amounts of time researching, testing, preparing practice tours, and traveling to and from the Battlefield in Maryland.  The light at the end of the tunnel is within sight, and I hope to report to you after the approaching Antietam 150th (something else that has been occupying much of time and thoughts) that I have successfully passed through the Guide mentorship process, and have become a full Guide. 
Enough with my sob story.  Today, we officially enter the Sesquicentennial of the Maryland Campaign, as Sept. 4 marks 150 years since Lee crossed his Rebel army into Maryland for the first time.  Sept. 4 also marks an important milestone in the story of Pennsylvania's Emergency Militia, as you will read below.  Over the next few weeks, as I take part in events (both on and off the Antietam Battlefield) that mark this moment in history, I hope to share with you my thoughts, interests, photos, videos, etc., of the remembrance of this hugely important time period in American History. 
By September 1862, the mighty armies of the North (Army of the Potomac commanded by McClellan, and the Army of Virginia commanded by Pope), were massed in confusion and demoralization in and around Washington.  Gen. McClellan had been beaten back from the outskirts of the Confederate capital at Richmond, and Gen. Pope had been soundly defeated and sent fleeing from the field at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run.  This left Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia unopposed.  With Lee's sights now set on moving north into Maryland, panic immediately began to spread northward into nearby Pennsylvania. 

The summer before, the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, who had been originally organized for state defense, had been sent away into Federal service, to help bolster the Union Army after it's defeat at the Battle of 1st Bull Run.  On September 4, Lee began to look north as he crossed his army over the Potomac River into Maryland.  Many in Pennsylvania feared Lee's ultimate goal was the state capital in Harrisburg.  Pennsylvania was completely undefended, but not helpless.  That same day, September 4, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin issued a proclamation calling for the men of Pennsylvania to form and train companies of militia, which were to be called forward to Harrisburg if Lee should indeed threaten the Commonwealth.  This proclamation, which appeared in nearly every newspaper, created what would become the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia; the state's last line of defense.

Proclamation of Gov. Curtin

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  [General Order No.] 33
            In the name and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Andrew G. Curtin, Governor of the said Commonwealth.


WHEREAS, in the present position of affairs, it is expedient that measures should be taken to arm and prepare our people for defense.
            Now, therefore, I did earnestly recommend the immediate formation, throughout the Commonwealth, of volunteer companies and regiments, in conformity with the militia act of 1858.  Arms will be distributed to the organizations to be formed.
            It is further recommended that in order to give due opportunities for drill and instruction all places of business be closed daily at , P. M. so that persons employed therein may after that hour be at liberty to attend to their military duties.
            The cheerful alacrity with which the men of Pennsylvania have hitherto given themselves to the services of the country has pressed heavily on her military resources  -  I am reluctant to ask her people to assume further burdens; but as their safety requires they should do,  it is in their behalf that I put forth the recommendations herein contained and urge a prompt compliance with them.

Given under my hand and the Great Seal of the State at Harrisburg, this 4th day of September, in the year of our Lord 1862
By the Governor,                                               Eli Slifer
                                                                        Secretary of the Commonwealth

Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5 : prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

Carlisle Herald, September 12, 1862

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.

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