Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"The road to Pennsylvania lies invitingly open"

In the late summer of 1862, after a string of impressive successes against the Union armies in the East, General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were riding a large wave of momentum and high morale.  Lee decided that it was, "...the most propitious time since the commencement of the war to enter Maryland."  One of Lee's objectives for commencing the Maryland Campaign, and moving northward, was to relocate the seat of war out of Northern Virginia, and allow that region, which saw nearly constant fighting and occupation for more than a year, a chance to recuperate.  After widespread loss and destruction of agriculture and private property, the region could no longer support his hungry army.    

The Confederate population was also feeling the rejuvenating momentum gained by Lee's army.  They believed strongly in the invincibility of their Southern legions, and understandably so.  Throughout most of the summer they had read colorful newspaper accounts of the withdrawal of Gen. George McClellan's army from the outskirts of Richmond, and of the thrashing of Gen. John Pope's force at 2nd Bull Run.  The citizens also began to express a growing anger and resentment toward the North, specifically toward Pope's treatment of Confederate civilians and their property.  For many in Virginia, these feelings, coupled with Lee's push into Northern territory, had grown into a fevered demand for ruthless retaliation.  This can be plainly seen in the following editorial, which was printed in the Richmond Dispatch on September 17, 1862. 

"The road to Pennsylvania lies invitingly open.  There are no regular soldiers on the route, and it would be a task of little difficulty to disperse the rabble of [Emergency] militia that might be brought to oppose them.

The country is enormously rich.  It abounds in fat cattle, cereals, horses, and mules.  Our troops would live on the very fat of the land.  They would find an opportunity, moreover, to teach the Dutch farmers and graziers, who have been clamorous for this war, what invasion really is.  If once compelled to take his own physic, which is a great deal more than he ever bargained for, Mynheer will cry aloud for peace in a very short time.  For our own part, we trust the first proclamation of Pope, and the manner in which his army carried it out, will not be forgotten.  We hope the troops will turn the whole country into a desert, as the Yankees did the Piedmont country of Virginia.

Let not a blade of grass, or a stalk of corn, or a barrel of flour, or a bushel of meal, or a sack of salt, or a horse, or a cow, or a hog, or a sheep, be left wherever they move along.  Let vengeance be taken for all that has been done, until retribution itself shall stand aghast.  This is the country of the smooth-spoken, would-be gentleman McClellan.  He caused a loss to us, in Virginia, of at least thirty thousand negroes, the most valuable property that a Virginian can own.  They have no negroes in Pennsylvania.  Retaliation must therefore fall upon something else, and let it fall upon every thing that constitutes property.  A Dutch farmer has no negroes, but he has horses that can be seized, grain that can be confiscated, cattle that can be killed, and housed that can be burnt.  He can be taken prisoner and sent to Libby's Warehouse, as our friends in Fauquier and Loudon, Culpeper, and the peninsula have been sent to Lincoln's dungeons in the North.  Let retaliation be complete, that the Yankees may learn that two can play at the game they have themselves commenced. 

By advancing into Pennsylvania with rapidity, our army can easily get possesion of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, and break it down so thoroughly that it cannot be repaired in six months.  They have already possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the York River Railroad.  By breaking down these and the railroad from Philadelphia to Baltimore, they will completely isolate both Washington and Baltimore.  No reenforcements can reach them from either North or West, except by the Potomac and the bay."

Although it was printed on the same day that Lee's campaign reached a dramatic climax at the terrible Battle of Antietam, the article's frightful tone and description of a potential Rebel invasion of Pennsylvania does allow us to understand the fear and anxiety that must have been felt by the citizens of the Keystone state during the Emergency.  What they feared in Pennsylvania was what many in the South were hoping for.  Whether or not Lee ever anticipated invading as far north as Pennsylvania, by September 19, the Rebel army had retreated back across the Potomac River and into Virginia.  The campaign was over.

[It is also worthwhile to point out that the war was not just being played out in Southern newspapers.  On September 13, 1862, the Shippensburg News, in Pennsylvania's Cumberland Valley, had just as harsh words when it printed, "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."]

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

Moore, Frank, ed. The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, Etc. Vol. 5, New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863.

Shippensburg News, September 13, 1862

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hodge Podge: (more) PA Farm Show and more...

  • Each year, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission selects an overall theme to promote preservation, education, recordation, and visitation (to name a few) of Pennsylvania history and resources.  The annual theme for 2012 is entitled "The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table".  According to the PHMC, "Since its settlement by founder William Penn, Pennsylvania has been universally acknowledged for its abundance of rich soil, game, fish, and fowl, a bountiful legacy that spawned culinary traditions over the past three centuries. This legacy has been made more expansive by the diverse peoples Penn welcomed to his colony, all of whom brought distinctive cookery and customs from their native countries that have been incorporated into an unusual mosaic made up of both regional and ethnic tastes and foodways.   To learn more about this year's theme, please click here or the recently launched theme webpage here.

  • In conjunction with this year's annual theme, the Bureau for Historic Preservation will be displaying a select group of PA Historical Markers throughout the 2012 PA Farm Show complex (see my previous post) that help tell the story of Pennsylvania's rich agricultural past.  To learn more about the BHP's Farm Show Historical Markers, and the Scavenger Hunt, click here.

  • Also appearing at this year's Pennsylvania Farm Show is the Pennsylvania Civil War 150 Road Show.  Just within the first two days of the Farm Show, over 3,000 people have visited the traveling exhibit.  Make sure you don't miss it!

  • And finally, the Pennsylvania State Archives have published their latest issue of the biannual newsletter Access Archives.  A few of the highlights in this issue include "A Message from State Archivist Davd Haury", "Letter Conservation Rights a Wrong", "Tales from the Tower: Magee Civil War Diaries", "Web Updates", and "Recent Acquisitions".  To read the Winter 2012 Access Archives, please click here.

PA Civil War 150 Road Show trailer - PACivilWar150 flickr page (click here)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hodge Podge: PA Farm Show and more...

  • The fine folks at the Friends of Monterey Pass Battlefield are offering a limited quantity opportunity to own a fine work of art by a local artist, which depicts some of the desperate fighting that took place on July 4-5, 1863, as the bloodied Army of Northern Virginia attempted to limp their way back into Virginia.  It's a great chance to make a donation for historic preservation.  The fighting at Monterey Pass, south of Gettysburg, is the 2nd largest battle to be fought in Pennsylvania.  Sadly, it, and the events of the weeks long Southern retreat, and Northern pursuit, are largely overshadowed by the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-2-3.  Check out the Friends' blog post here.

Also, check out this trailer for a short film made in 2010, about the Battle

  • Today not only marks the beginning of the Sesquicentennial commemoration of the events of 1862, it also is time to look forward to some of the many great Civil War related books that will be hitting the stores in 2012.  Friend, and fellow blogger, John Hoptak, has once again put together a great list of truly fascinating titles to look for, and make space for, on your bookshelves.  Check out the list here.
  •  The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association recently posted news of a strategic victory in their attempt to preserve the land on which fighting took place on September 19-20, 1862, as the Army of Northern Virginia attempted to retreat deep into Virginia, after the terrible Battle of Antietam.  Read the SBPA's December 22nd press release here
  • For those who aren't aware, January in Pennsylvania means "Farm Show", and January 7-14, 2012 marks the 96th year of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.  If you've never attended this great cultural event, held in Harrisburg, you have no excuse.  Personally, my favorite sights (and tastes) at the Show are draft horses, the milk shakes, "sheep to shawl" competition, and tractor square dancing (see it to believe it).  The PA Farm Show is truly one of a kind.  This year, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission's (PHMC) Bureau for Historic Preservation (aka State Historic Preservation Office) will be showcasing a collection of Pennsylvania Historical Markers in the first ever Marker Scavenger Hunt at the Farm Show.  The hunt is not only a great way to highlight historical agricultural themes in PA, or spotlight one of the Commonwealth's most recognizable roadside attractions (the Historical Markers), but it is a great way for Farm Show visitors to interact with the history and heritage that is all around them, whether they realize it or not.  For more info, check out this post on the PHMC's blog Trailheads.