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A Pennsylvania newspaper does its bit

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  • Anthony W. Turner
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit Many of you are so well read on the Maryland Campaign that I’m embarrassed to
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2001
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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
      here goes.

      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
      thrilled.

      Tony Turner
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