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History of Pennsylvania Reserve Corps

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

On November 7, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, to the displeasure of southern confederates who had threatened to secede from the Union if a Republican president were elected. The influential people of the south insisted on selecting their own Democratic leader, one who would support slavery and enable them to maintain their wealth, status and power.

Lincoln was to be inaugurated on March 4, 1861. This left James Buchanan, Lincoln's predecessor, and his administration four months to sabotage the U.S. government from within. Howell Cobb, the Secretary of the Treasury, was a slave owner from Georgia. He left the treasury empty and destroyed the nation's credit. John B. Floyd, of Virginia, was Secretary of War. He emptied arsenals in the north, transferring vast quantities of weapons and ammunition to the south. They were setting the stage for a rebellion and the division of a nation.

One month after Lincoln's inauguration, on April 12, 1861, an army of more than two thousand men attacked Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. With less than a hundred men in the fort, they resisted for two days, before finally surrendering early on April 14th. The following day, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 militia to serve a 3-month term in a war against the rebels.

In Pennsylvania, twenty-five regiments were organized promptly, although the Commonwealth was only required to provide fourteen. Many more volunteered, but were turned away by the War Department, their quota having been met. Then, Pennsylvania Governor, Andrew G. Curtin, recommended the immediate organization of fifteen regiments of defensive troops to guard the state's southern border. On May 15, 1861, the Act was passed by Legislature, providing for the organization of the "Reserve Corps of the Commonwealth". Thirteen regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one regiment of artillery would train and be on hand to protect their borders and citizens. This was an opportunity for 15,000 more men to join the fight. They were instructed to convene at camps established at Chester, Easton, Harrisburg, Pittsburg, and West Chester, and await military instruction. The number of men who volunteered in Pennsylvania greatly exceeded the number required.

Although the purpose of the Reserve Corps was to defend Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1861, two regiments were dispatched to Maryland to help defend their borders. Then, after suffering heavy losses at the battle of Bull Run, there was an urgent need for reinforcements. The following month, 11,000 men of the Reserve Corps were quickly transported to Washington, and within a few days every man in the Corps - 15,856 of them, were mustered in as soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. From there, the Civil War ensued and in the end, the confederates were defeated. Had they won, Americans would be in the hands of rich, powerful men who think nothing of human life, except what those lives can do to benefit them, similar to the mindset of some people to this day.

This book, "History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps: a complete record of the organization; and of the different companies, regiments and brigades containing descriptions of expeditions, marches, skirmishes and battles, together with biographical sketches of officers and personal records of each man during his term of service", contains the names of the brave patriots who helped restore the freedom of all Americans. Much honor and respect is due these men.

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