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Many of you are so well read on the Maryland Campaign that I�m
embarrassed to suggest I may have uncovered something you haven�t. But
Most info here was taken from what I hope is a lesser known (to you)
work entitled _The Training of an Army: Camp Curtin and the North�s
Civil War_ by William J. Miller (White Mane Publishing, 1990).
Camp Curtin, located in Harrisburg and named for the governor, was the
rendezvous center for new Pennsylvania regiments. Less than a week
after some naughty southerners fired on Fort Sumter :-) in 1861, the
camp was started about a mile north of the state capital. Men were
organized (more or less) into companies and regiments, issued uniforms
(sometimes), drilled (sort of), issued weapons (varied) and trappings
as they became available, and on departure given their regimental
colors by the Commonwealth. Then the troops were marched to the
railroad depot or a siding, packed onto freight cars and shipped to
their units� various assigned destinations.
By July, 1862, when McClellan�s ceaseless requests for more and more
troops had gobbled up nearly all of the regiments Camp Curtin had
assembled, the state had little militarily of its own to defend itself
in the event of an invasion. No more units were at hand to feed
McClellan�s insatiable demands from Pennsylvania or any other state.
Lincoln called for �300,000 more� and Pennsylvania�s assigned quota was
18 regiments (for which the State and Federal governments negotiated an
agreement of 9-months service only).
The first wave of young men eager to go in months prior had long since
volunteered and �gone.� The next batch had to be recruited from men a
bit less naive or illusionary about army life, combat, the so-called
inferiority of southerners, and of course the myth of the �one-battle
war.� Many of the 1862 targets for recruitment were married in a time
when it was next to impossible for a woman alone to provide for a
family. But they also were torn by a sense of duty, responsibility and
patriotism. Mass meetings to recruit the new batch were held in cities
and villages throughout the state.
Newspapers chimed in with their appeals and weren�t always truthful with
them. The Harrisburg _Patriot and Union_, for example, wrote: �The stay
at homes may think soldiering a hard life, but we know to the contrary.
There is no place like a camp filled with jolly, good fellows, who make
the welkin ring from morn to night with their musical voices. Among a
hundred men there is always one � to keep the childish thoughts of home
and a well-filled larder from the minds of those who have, perhaps, been
tied too long to a woman�s apron string. The merry disciples of fun
banish dull care to the devil, and days go round unnoticed, so that even
the Chaplain often asks on the Sabbath, � what day is this?� He that
calls the life of a soldier a hard one, knows not what he says.�
Not exactly an accurate description of life and romance at Camp Curtin.
The camp was nowhere near large enough to quarter all 12-15,000 men
assigned to it that summer. The camp quickly lost its grass and the
grounds became insufferably dusty. Camp diseases took their toll.
Civilian hucksters came and went as they pleased, including one elderly
woman who sold pies that later poisoned and killed seven men. And by
the time the units were ordered to ship out, most of the men were