Page images

such jealousies, encouraged for wicked purposes by unscrupulous politicians. The men who, for any purpose, now continue to encourage them, ought to be held as public enemies-enemies of our Union and our peace and should be treated as such. Common feelings, common sympathies, are the necessary foundations of a common free government. I am proud to say that the people of Pennsylvania feel every blow at any of her sister States as an assault upon themselves, and give to them all that hearty good will, the expression of which is sometimes more important, under the infliction of calamity, than mere material aid.

It is unnecessary to refer to the approach of the rebel army up the Shenandoah Valley on the 3d day of July last; to the defeat of General Wallace on the Monocacy; their approach to and threatening of the capital; or to their destruction of property and pillage of the counties of Maryland, lying on our border.

These events have passed into history, and the responsibilities will be settled by the judgment of the people. At that time a call was made upon Pennsylvania for volunteers, to be mustered into the service of the United States, and "to serve for 100 days in the States of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and at Washington and its vicinity."

Notwithstanding the embarrassments which complicated the orders for their organization and muster, six regiments were enlisted and organized, and a battalion of six companies. The regiments were withdrawn from the State, the last leaving the 29th day of July. I desired that at least part of this force should be confined in their service to the States of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and made such an application to the War Department. As the proposition did not meet their approbation it was rejected and the general order changed to include the States named and Washington and its vicinity.

No part of the rebel army at that time had come within the State. The people of the border counties were warned, and removed their stock, and at Chambersburg and York were organized and armed for their own protection.

I was not officially informed of the movements of the Federal armies, and, of course, not of the strategy of their commanders; but it was stated in the newspapers that the rebel army was closely pursued after it had crossed the Potomac, and was retiring up the Valley of the Shenandoah. Repeated successes of our troops were also announced, and the people of this State had just cause to believe that quite a sufficient Federal force had been thrown forward for its protection upon the line of the Potomac.

On Friday, the 29th day of July, the rebel brigades of Johnson and McCausland, consisting of 2,500 to 3,000 mounted men, with six guns, crossed the Potomac at Clear Spring ford. They commenced crossing at 10 a. m. and marched directly on Mercersburg. There were but fortyfive men picketed in that direction, under the command of Lieutenant McLean, U. S. Army, and as the enemy succeeded in cutting the telegraph communication, which from that point had to pass west by way of Bedford, no information could be sent to General Couch, by telegraph, who was then at Chambersburg. The head of this column reached Chambersburg at 3 a. m. on Saturday, the 30th.

The rebel brigades of Vaughn and Jackson, numbering about 3,000 mounted men, crossed the Potomac at about the same time at or near Williamsport-part of the command advanced on Hagerstown; the main body moved on the road leading from Williamsport to Greencastle. 48 R R-VOL XLIII, PT I


Another rebel column of infantry and artillery crossed the Potomac simultaneously at Shepherdstown and moved toward Leitersburg. General Averell, who commanded a force reduced to about 2,600 men, was at Hagerstown, and being threatened in front by Vaughn and Jackson, on his right by McCausland and Johnson, who also threatened his rear, and on his left by the column which crossed at Shepherdstown, he therefore fell back upon Greencastle.

General Averell it is understood was under the orders of General Hunter, but was kept as fully advised by General Couch as was possible of the enemy's movement on his right and to his rear. General Couch was in Chambersburg, where his entire force consisted of sixty infantry and forty-five cavalry and a section of a battery of artillery, in all less than 150 men. The six companies of men enlisted for 100 days remaining in the State and two companies of cavalry had, under orders from Washington (as I am officially advised), joined General Averell. The town of Chambersburg was held until daylight by the small force under General Couch, during which time the Government stores and train were saved. Two batteries were then planted by the enemy, commanding the town, and it was invested by the whole command of Johnson and McCausland. At 7 a. m. six companies of dismounted men, commanded by Sweeney, entered the town, followed by mounted men, under Gilmor. The main force was in line for battle. A demand was made for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Government funds, as ransom, and a number of citizens were arrested and held as hostages for its payment. No offer of money was made by the citizens of the town, and even if they had any intentions of paying a ransom, no time was allowed, as the rebels commenced immediately to burn and pillage the town, disregarding the appeals of women and children, the aged and infirm, and even the bodies of the dead were not protected from their brutality. It would have been vain for all the citizens of the town, if armed, to have attempted, in connection with General Couch's small force, to defend it. General Couch withdrew his command, and did not himself leave until the enemy were actually in the town. General Averell's command being within nine miles of Chambersburg, it was hoped would arrive in time to save the town, and efforts were made during the night to communicate with him. In the meantime the small force of General Couch held the enemy at bay. General Averell marched on Chambersburg, but did not arrive until after the town was burned, and the enemy had retired. He pursued and overtook them at McConnellsburg, in Fulton County, in time to save that place from pillage and destruction. He promptly engaged and defeated them, driving them to Hancock and across the Potomac.

I commend the houseless and ruined people of Chambersburg to the liberal benevolence of the Legislature, and suggest that a suitable appropriation be made for their relief. Similar charity has been heretofore exercised in the case of an accidental and destructive fire at Pittsburg, and I cannot doubt the disposition of the Legislature on the present occasion.

On the 5th day of this month a large rebel army was in Maryland, and at various points on the Potomac as far west as New Creek, and as there was no adequate force within the State I deemed it my duty on that day to call for 30,000 volunteer militia for domestic protection. They will be armed, transported, and supplied by the United States; but as no provision is made for their payment it will be necessary, should you approve my action, to make an appropriation for that pur pose.

Feeling it to be the duty of the General Government to afford full protection to the people of Pennsylvania and Maryland by the defense of the line of the Potomac, I united with Governor Bradford in the following letter to the President, dated July 21, 1864:

Annapolis, July 21, 1864.


President of the United States:

SIR: The repeated raids across the Potomac River made by portions of the rebel army, and the extent of the damage they have succeeded so frequently in inflicting, have most injuriously affected the people of Maryland and Pennsylvania in the neighborhood of that river, and many of them, it is believed, as the only security against such losses in the future, are seriously considering the propriety of abandoning their present homes and seeking safety at the north.

It seems to us that not merely in this sectional aspect of the case, but in its national relations, the security of this border line between the loyal and rebellious States is an object justifying and requiring a disposition of a portion of the national force with an especial view to its defense. The Potomac River can only be crossed, in its ordinary state of water, at some five or six fords, and we propose to enlist from our respective States a volunteer force that shall be sufficient, with the aid of the fortifications which the force itself can speedily construct, to effectually guard them all. We ask of the Government that the recruits so raised shall be credited to the quotas of our several States, on the call last made, and be armed, equipped, and supplied as other volunteers in the service.

We are aware that, as a general rule, well-founded objections exist to the enlistmeurt of a force to be exclusively used for home or local defense; but we regard such a service as we now suggest as an exceptional case, and the complete protection of this part of our frontier as of admitted national importance.

Soon after the outbreak of this rebellion the importance of a special defense of the region bordering on the upper Potomac was recognized by the Government, and the Hon. Francis Thomas, of Maryland, was authorized by it to raise three regiments with a view to the protection of the counties on either side of that river. These regiments were raised, but the subsequent exigencies of the service required their employment elsewhere, and they therefore afford at present no particular security to that region beyond other troops in the service.

The necessity, as we think, for some peculiar provision has now become so obvious that we would with great respect, but most earnestly, urge upon Your Excellency the expediency of acceding to the suggestions we havo made, and we will immediately set about raising the forces required, and we have no doubt they will be promptly procured.

We have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servants,

The following letter from the assistant adjutant-general, dated August 1, A. D. 1864, is the only reply received by me up to this time:

Washington, D. C., August 1, 1864.



SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the joint letter from yourself and the Governor of Maryland, dated July 21, 1864, asking authority to raise a volunteer force in your respective States, to be exclusively used for home or local defense and for guarding the fords of the Potomac.

In reply I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that the proposition has been fully considered and that the authority asked for cannot be granted. In this connection please see the act of Congress approved February 13, 1862, as promulgated in General Orders, No. 15, series of 1862, from this office. I have the honor to remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, THOMAS M. VINCENT, Assistant Adjutant-General.

MEMORANDUM.-Similar letter sent His Excellency the Governor of Maryland this


How the reason given for the refusal to act on this proposition can be made consistent with the enlistment of men for 100 days, to serve


in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and at Washington and its vicinity, it is hard to perceive.

On the suggestion made by citizens of the border counties the following communication, dated July 22, 1864, was made by Major-General Couch to the Secretary of War:

Harrisburg, Pa., July 22, 1864.


Secretary of War:

SIR: During the recent raid into Maryland the citizens of Chambersburg turned out with a determination to stand by the few soldiers present and hold the town. against any cavalry force that might assail it. Five hundred citizens of York, irrespective of party, volunteered, were armed, and went down the Northern Central Railroad to guard the bridges or hold their town. This is stated in order to show you that the "border citizens" are beginning to realize that by a united action they have the strength to protect themselves against an ordinary raiding party. Inclosed I invite your attention to a letter addressed to the Governor, together with his indorsement, upon the subject of forming a special corps from the six border counties most exposed.

If 10,000 men can thus be organized, its existence would be a protection and give confidence.

I am informed that the general sentiment of the people in question is in favor of something being done at once, and, as a military measure, think it will be of essential service to the General Government, and recommend that the War Department encourage the movement by authorizing the loan or issue of uniforms, provided the law in question is enacted.

It is believed that the new militia law of this State will practically prove of no value, excepting that an enrollment will probably be made. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding Department.

Harrisburg, Pa., August 4, 1864.

A true copy.
Respectfully furnished for the information of His Excellency Governor A. G.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

On the same day I approved, in writing, of the proposition and expressed my opinion that the Legislature would pass an act in accordance with it at its adjourned session on the 23d of August. I am furnished with an official copy of the following reply, dated August 1, 1864, to the proposition of General Couch:

Maj. Gen. D. N. COUCH,

Washington, D. C., August 1, 1864.

Commanding, Sc., Harrisburg, Pa.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22d of July relative to the United States providing uniforms for a "special corps" of militia from certain border counties of Pennsylvania.

In reply I am directed to inform you that the subject has been carefully considered by the Secretary of War, who cannot sanction the issue of the clothing in question. I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Harrisburg, Pa., August 6, 1864.

Respectfully furnished for the information of His Excellency Governor A. G.

A true copy.



Assistant Adjutant-General.


In each of the three years, 1862, 1863, and 1864, it has been found necessary to call the State militia for the defense of the State, and this has been done with the assent and assistance of the General Government. From the want of organization we have been obliged to rely exclusively on volunteer militia, and, with few exceptions, to organize them anew for each occasion. This has caused confusion and a loss of valua ble time, and has resulted in sending to the field bodies of men in a great measure undisciplined. The militia bill passed at the last session is, I think, for ordinary times, the best militia law we have ever had, but under the existing extraordinary circumstances it seems to require modification. I suggest that the assessors be directed to make an immediate enrollment, classifying the militia as may be thought best; that the officers be appointed by the Governor, on the recommendation approved by him of a board of examination composed of three majorgenerals for each division, of whom the major-general of the division shall be one, the other two to be designated by the Governor, from adjoining divisions, or in such other mode as the Legislature may think fit; that in all cases the officers shall be selected by preference from officers and men who have been in service and shall have been honorably discharged by the United States; and that effectual provision be made for drafting the militia when required.

The recommendation in regard to appointments is made to avoid the angry dissensions and too often political jealousies which divide military organizations by the election of officers, and to secure the services of the most deserving and competent men.

The election of officers in the volunteer forces in the field has been found to be injurious to the service, while promotions by seniority and appointments of meritorious privates have produced harmony and stimulated to faithfulness. In the enlistments of new organizations the plan adopted of granting authority to officers to recruit companies has been found to be the best policy.

I also recommend that the Governor be authorized to form (either by the acceptance of volunteers or by draft in such parts of the State as he may deem expedient) a special corps of militia, to consist in due proportion of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, to be kept up to the full number of fifteen regiments, to be styled "Minute Men," who shall be sworn and mustered in the service of the State for three years, who shall assemble for drill at such times and places as he may direct, who shall be clothed, armed, and equipped by the State, and paid when assembled for drill or called into service, and who shall, at all times, be liable to be called into immediate service for the defense of the State, independently of the remainder of the militia. As this force would be subject to sudden calls, the large part of it should be organized in the counties lying on our extreme border, and as the people of those counties have more personal interest in their protection, the recommendation is made to authorize the Governor to designate the parts of the State in which it shall be raised, and to save the time, expense of transporting troops from remote parts of the State, and the subsistence and pay in going to and from the border. A body of men so organized will, it is believed, be effective to prevent raids and incursions. The expenses of clothing, arming, and equipping such a force cannot be correctly ascertained, but the quartermaster-general has been directed to make approximate estimates for your information, which will be independent of pay and subsistence. The State should provide at least six four-gun batteries of field artillery, with all the modern improvements. The suggestion has been frequently made by unreflecting

« PreviousContinue »