Original Document
Original Document
Message of Andrew Curtin, Governor of Pennsylvania to the Legislature, Jan. 7, 1864.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Gentlemen :—The past year has afforded us new cause of thankfulness to the Almighty for the moral and material blessings which he has bestowed upon us….

On the invasion of the State during the last summer, the President made a call for militia, and with his assent, I subsequently made a call for volunteer militia for the defence of the State. Under these calls, men were assembled and organized with promptness, after the reality of the emergency came to be understood by our people. …

After the battle of Gettysburg, in which loyal volunteers from eighteen States, including Pennsylvania, were engaged, it appeared to me proper that all those States should unite in establishing a cemetery on the spot, in which their soldiers who had fallen in that conflict, should be honorably interred. I accordingly appointed David Wills, Esq., of Gettysburg, my agent, and through him, a site was purchased at a cost of $2,475 87, and the conveyances made to the Commonwealth. On communicating with the authorities of the other States, they all readily agreed to become parties to the arrangement, and on the 19th day of November last, the cemetery was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies in the presence of the President of the United States, the Governors of the States concerned, and other high officers, State and National. On the 19th day of December, on the invitation of Mr. Wills, commissioners representing the States interested in the cemetery, met in Harrisburg and agreed upon a plan for its improvement and care in the future, and the apportionment of the sum of money required, to the several States, which is herewith communicated The expenses attending the establishment of this cemetery, including the cost of the site and of removing the bodies of the slain, have thus far amounted to $5,209 38, and an appropriation will be required to pay these expenses, and to meet our portion of those attending its future maintenance. It will appear by the proceedings of the commissioners that their due proportion of the expenses already incurred are to be refunded by the States on whose account they were made. It is just to say that Mr. Wills has discharged his delicate and important duties with fidelity and to my entire satisfaction….

I commend to the prompt attention of the Legislature the subject of the relief of poor orphans of our soldiers who have given, or shall give their lives to the country during this crisis. In my opinion, their maintenance and education should be provided for by the State. Failing other natural friends of ability to provide for them, they should be honorably received and fostered as children of the Commonwealth. The $50,000 heretofore given by the Pennsylvania railroad company, referred to in my last annual message, is still unappropriated, and I recommend that this sum, with such other means as the Legislature may think fit, be applied to this end, in such manner as may be thought most expedient and effective. In anticipation of the adoption of a more perfect system, I recommend that provision be made for securing the admission of such children into existing educational establishments, to be there clothed, nurtured and instructed at the public expense. I make this recommendation earnestly, feeling assured that in doing so, I represent the wishes of the patriotic, the benevolent and the good, of the State….

I renew most earnestly the recommendation made in my last annual message of a revision of the militia laws. They are at present shamefully defective. Indeed, if by a militia law is meant a law intended to provide for so enrolling and organizing the military force of the State that it may be put into service when required, we may be said to have no militia law. In each of the last two years I have been obliged to call out the militia, but in fact those who obeyed the call were volunteers, and, with some exceptions, were wholly unorganized, so that almost in face of the enemy, time had to be consumed in distributing the men into companies and regiments, in electing officers, and in other preparations for effective organization.

In the report of the Adjutant General will be found a list of the Pennsylvania regiments, and a statement showing the several armies and departments in which they are now serving. In this connection I suggest the propriety of legislative authority being given for the preparation of a history of each of our regiments and other organizations, to be preserved among our archives. The necessary documents are now accessible, aud as they may in time be lost or destroyed, the making of such a record as I propose should not be deferred. It is due alike to the living and the dead that this subject should be promptly acted on.

I recommend that the proposed amendments to the Constitution, giving to citizens in the public service out of the State, the right to vote, be passed promptly and submitted to a vote of the people at as early a day as possible, so that such citizens may exercise their right of suffrage at all future elections. This would be only doing justice to the brave men who are periling their lives in our defence.

It is highly important that we should replenish the ranks of our regiments in the field and supply the places of those volunteers whose terms will soon expire and who may decline further service. I am happy to say that a large proportion of our regiments are re-enlisting. Efforts are making by myself and by the people in various portions of the State to procure a sufficient number of volunteers, and with a promise of success, provided a reasonable time be allowed for the purpose. Meanwhile persons professing to be officers and agents from some other States are most improperly endeavoring to seduce our citizens into their service by extravagant bounties and promises….

In May last it was believed from information received, that General Lee intended to invade this State. Communications on the subject were immediately sent to Washington, urging that preparations for effective defence should not be delayed. Accordingly the War Department erected two new military departments, viz: The Department of the Monongahela, including that portion of the State lying west of the mountains, to be commanded by Major-General Brooks, and the Department of the Susquehanna, comprising the remainder of the State, and to be commanded by Major-General Couch.

Early in June, Major-General Couch arrived at Harrisburg and assumed command of his department, which he has since exercised with the soldierlike promptness, energy and discretion which were to be expected from his known character.

The rebels having actually entered the State in some force, and the approach of their whole army being imminent, the President made a requisition for militia from this and some of the neighboring States, and several regiments from New York and New Jersey were promptly sent, and our own volunteer militia began to assemble, but some embarrassments arising, the President assented to a call by the Executive of the State, which was accordingly made. Under these calls 5,166 of the men of Pennsylvania were assembled in the department of General Brooks, and 31,422 in that of General Couch. To give the details, or even a summary of the operations which ensued, would be impracticable within the limits of a message. It is unnecessary to do so, as I have recommended the adoption of measures for preserving the history of our several regiments and other organizations, and in that history the events to which I have referred will be recorded. It is due, however, to the men who came forward, that I should say now that they made long and laborious marches, in parts of this and other States which had been plundered by the rebels, suffered great privations, and were frequently in conflict with the enemy; and on all occasions acted in obedience to military discipline and orders, and with courage and endurance.

Some of the militia called in 1862 and in 1863, were killed and others disabled. In all these cases, where there are no laws for the relief of these men or their families, I recommend the enactment of a law for that purpose.

The campaign on our soil was closed by the victory of Gettysburg, gained by the veteran Army of the Potomac, under the command of Major General Meade, the officers and men of which displayed all their accustomed valor and endurance in the conflict, and in the forced and rapid marches which immediately preceded it.

Under Divine Providence, to them and to the military genius and unsurpassed energy of General Meade, and the promptness and self-sacrificing gallantry of General Reynolds, we are indebted for success on that bloody field

We are proud to claim Generals Meade and Reynolds as sons of our own Pennsylvania.

The first lives to enjoy the most precious of all rewards, the grateful appreciation of his countrymen. The latter fell in the very front of the battle, and we can only pay homage to his memory. "Whatever honors have been at any time devised to commemorate the virtues of a patriot—of a true, fearless, loyal citizen and soldier, he has abundantly deserved.

His surviving companions in arms claim the right of themselves erecting a monument to him on the field on which he fell, and it would not be well to interfere with their pious intention. But I hope that the Legislature will place upon the records of the State some appropriate testimony of the public gratitude to him and his surviving commander.

It would be unjust to omit referring again to the loyal spirit of our people, which has been evinced in every mode since this war commenced. Not only have they sent 277,409 men for the general and special service of the Government, and supported with cheerfulness the burdens of taxation, but our storehouses and depots have literally overflowed with comforts and necessaries, spontaneously contributed by them, under the active care of thousands of our women, (faithful unto death,) for the sick and wounded and prisoners, as well as for our armies in the field. Their patriotic benevolence seems to be inexhaustible. To every new call, the response becomes more and more liberal. When intelligence was received of the barbarian starvation of our prisoners in Richmond, the garners of the whole State were instantly thrown open, and before any similar movement had been made elsewhere, I was already employed on behalf of our people in efforts to secure the admission through the rebel lines of the abundant supplies provided for the relief of our Buffering brethren. Those of our citizens who have fallen into the habit of disparaging our great Commonwealth and the unsurpassed efforts of her people should blush when they look on this picture.

That this unnatural rebellion may be speedily and effectually crushed, we lie—all—under the obligation of the one paramount duty—that of vigorously supporting our Government in its measures to that end. To the full extent of my official and individual ability it shall be supported, and I rely heartily on your co-operation. I am ready for all proper measures to strengthen its arm—to encourage its upholders—to stimulate by public liberality, to themselves and their families, the men who give to it their personal service—in every mode to invigorate its action We are fighting the great battle of God—of truth—of right—of liberty. The Almighty has no attribute that can favor our savage and degenerate enemies. No people can submit to territorial dismemberment without becoming contemptible in its own eyes and in those of the world. But it is not only against territorial dismemberment that we are struggling, but against the destruction of the very ground work of our whole political system. The ultimate question truly at issue is the possibility of the permanent existence of a powerful Republic. That is the question to be now solved, and by the blessing of God, we mean that it shall not be our fault if it be not solved favorably.

We have, during the past year, made mighty strides toward such a solution, and to all human appearance we approach its completion. But whatever reverses may happen—whatever blood and treasure may still be required—whatever sacrifices may be necessary—there will remain the inexorable determination of our people to fight out this thing to the end—to preserve and perpetuate this Union. They have sworn that not one star shall be reft from the constellation, nor its clustered brightness be dimmed by treason and savagery, and they will keep their oath.

Executive Chamber,  Harrisburg, January 7, 1863.

Credit: Pennsylvania General Assembly, Reports of the Heads of Departments to the Governor..., Volume 1 (Harrisburg: Singerly & Myers, State Printers, 1864), 3-16.
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