When Andrew Curtin sent out orders on Tuesday, commanding all militia units that had not yet set out for Harrisburg to stand down, it was, probably, with the expectation that a short season of relative calm would follow.
It was a reasonable assumption, but nothing could have been further from the truth. From the very moment the order went out, the governor’s telegraph station hummed with pleas from disappointed volunteers. By Curtin’s estimation, three hundred companies were turned away, and many of that number refused to take rejection lying down. Between Wednesday and Friday, civic leaders representing the jilted units arrived at the state capital to plead their case in person. His offices were beset by an endless stream of the heartbroken, and for whom he could offer little consolation. There was nothing he could then do, he told them.
On Friday, however, the tide of fortune swung in favor of the unhappy volunteers. General Patterson’s requisition for an additional twenty-five, three-month regiments opened the floodgates anew. Most, but not all of those turned away would now be needed; allowing the governor to pick and choose, bestowing reward on good Republican voting districts – a unique opportunity in the practice of patronage. He would send for the chosen as soon as space became available at various receiving stations across the commonwealth. On Saturday, volunteer companies once again began their descent upon Harrisburg.
On Sunday, Governor Curtin received representatives from Pennsylvania’s Thirteenth Congressional District, composed primarily of Bradford and Tioga counties. They told a sad and strange tale of an entire regiment’s worth of volunteers (seven companies from Tioga; three from Bradford) marooned at the Bradford County town of Troy since Wednesday. Curtin had no choice but to listen to their pleas for acceptance with a sympathetic ear. This was no ordinary voting district: the Thirteenth District was a bastion of the new Republican party, and the home base of party hero, David Wilmot and his handpicked successor, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Galusha Grow.
To these men Andrew Curtin gave every assurance that their companies would be given top priority status. They would be the next companies sent for, no farther than Wednesday at the very latest. It was a promise he intended to keep, at all cost.
The late Justin Sanders (1957-2016) hailed from Astoria, New York. Long time Civil War enthusiast whose focus has been sighted in on the History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps.