Historical Markers
Altoona Conference Historical Marker
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Altoona Conference

Laurel Highlands/Southern Alleghenies


Marker Location:
US 22 between Hollidaysburg and Duncansville

Dedication Date:
May 28, 1948

Behind the Marker

The need for a conference of pro-Union governors became evident in the summer of 1862. The problem was a shortage of manpower. Federal troops had been stalemated in fierce combat along the Virginia peninsula, south of Richmond. With the war more than a year old, and the Confederacy apparently stronger than ever, northern morale plunged. President Lincoln, who wanted more troops, worried that the country would not support a call for more volunteers. The Union Army had suffered a series of defeats in Virginia, raising fears in the North. Enlistments had slowed, and the threat of a draft was very real.

Lincoln sent Secretary of State William Seward to New York City in late June 1862 to meet with New York Governor Edwin Morgan and discuss the situation with other governors over the telegraph. markerAndrew Curtin, governor of Pennsylvania, came to the meeting in New York City in person.
Logan House photograph.
The Logan House, Altoona, PA, circa 1865.

Seward read a letter from the president claiming that 100,000 more troops would "substantially end the war." "I would publicly appeal to the country for this new force," Lincoln claimed, "were it not that I fear a general panic and stampede would follow." A heated exchange of telegrams followed. The president eventually decided to call for 300,000 additional volunteers. But the experience was frustrating for everyone and when Union forces continued to suffer reversals, there was a growing sense of panic.

Governor Curtin decided to take the initiative. In early September, he sent around a telegram to key governors suggesting a face-to-face conference. "In the present emergency," he wrote, "would it not be well if the loyal governors should meet at some point in the border States to take measures for a more active support of the government?"

Finding consensus for his proposal, Curtin set up a gathering at the accessible railroad junction of markerAltoona, Pennsylvania, toward the end of September. Fourteen northern governors attended the conference, which quickly evolved into a blunt off-the-record session. They debated the Federal military strategy, and also discussed the President's recently announced emancipation policy, generally agreeing that it was a wise move. On September 26, 1862, twelve of the governors met with the president at the White House, to describe the results of their discussions to him.
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