Franklin Repository: April 06, 1870Go To Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
The Border Counties. Their Hospitality to the Soldiers, etc.
(Column 01)Summary: In this letter, the author, Web Woodman, counters the accusation that border-county men treated soldiers unfairly during the war. He describes his own war experience in the militia and suggests that he was treated kindly wherever he went in the border counties. He ends his letter by calling on Pennsylvanians to pay back the border counties for their losses in rebel raids.
Full Text of Article:Speech of Capt. Geo. W. Skinner, Delivered in the House of Representatives, Wednesday, March 30th, 1870, On the Border Claim Bill
For the Editors of the Franklin Repository:
Not a resident of the Keystone State, I see little of its politics or public affairs, except what comes under my eye in your columns, and am not likely to read articles on State affairs or State news as closely or regularly as your Pennsylvania readers.
But to-day my eye fell on some extracts culled from papers published in your own State, and quoted in an editorial of the 2d inst., that made my blood boil. The following quotation, heated my blood hotter, if it were possible than did the Rebel invasions of 1862-3:
It is upon record that water was sold by the citizens to the parched and thirsty soldiers and that every species of extortion was resorted to in the sale of provisions to them.
One of the editors of the FRANKLIN REPOSITORY is an old and valued friend, and when, a year or more since, he asked me to occasionally write a line for his paper, it were a difficult matter to say to him nay. Still I think my constitutional fatigue would have made it such, had it not been for the pleasant memories and associations connected with the place of its publications, and the country surrounding.
There was, to me, an irresistible fascination in the feeling that some eye that had looked kindly on the boy militiaman might glance over my article, that some one of the many hands that extended me so many kindnesses during the time "I fit and bled with the bloody Fifth," might turn over the sheet containing my lines, and thus, as it were, make an unperceived, yet real connecting link between my present and that past, between me and those true and tried, but short time friends of the past.
And thus it came about that I have now and then scribbled a few lines for the FRANKLIN REPOSITORY, and thus it was I saw these slanderous misrepresentations of my border county friends. I know little concerning the technical quibbles of those who desire to defraud the border counties of their just dues; therefore shall not touch upon them. But I should consider myself a craven indeed, did I not unqualifiedly testify to the losses of many, the ardent patriotism of most the generous hospitality of all. Not being suited with soldiers fare (of which there was always, in my company, an abundance), and regulations and discipline being rather lax, from the time we reached Hagerstown until we reached Harrisburg on our return, I passed a considerable portion of my time, (boy like,) in seeking what I might devour, and never in a single instance was I repulsed or treated otherwise than in a hospitable manner.
Kind reader, if you have ever been a college student, if you have ever been father, mother, brother, or sister to one, you will readily understand how it was that one glorious September morning I started off with the militia with just a one dollar bill and a few shinplasters in my pocket. I offered that one dollar bill on payment for every meal I ate, from the time I arrived in Hagerstown until my return to Harrisburg, where I felt it would not be considered an insult: yet brought it back with me and have it yet as a souvenir of the hospitality of the border counties, and will be glad to show it to any doubter, who was compelled to buy water. If any of the militia soldiers were ill-treated by the inhabitants, it never fell under my observation; and that it was owing more to the indiscretion and lack of discipline in the men, than want of hospitality in the residents, when it did occur; I think that the entire backbone of the noble band that participated in that jolly old picnic, will bear me out in saying. I feel now, in looking back, that I was but little better than a beggar myself, for there was plenty to eat, (such as it was), still the craving for something better was more excusable in a boy than in grown men. No doubt, however, there were those who suffered from lack of provision, owing usually to carelessness or incompetency in their officers. In none of the places where we camped were we more hospitably treated than at Chambersburg. I remember one house, built in cottage style, on the outskirts, standing on a slight elevation, with trim grounds and shrubbery, where I ate, as well as others, many a hearty meal, and I received many a delicacy and many a favor from the genial proprietor and pleasant faced and kindly voiced mistress. Their names have faded from my mind but I can see the house, the cheerful dining room, and the tasteful parlor, as plain today as I saw it then, and should I ever have the good fortune to meet them again, I should recognize them as readily as if we had parted but yesterday.
A short way out of town there stood a large, honest built, farm house; ample barns, neat outhouses, bursting granaries and plethoric stacks and ricks clustered round it; lusty kine and goodly uddered cows lowed in the pasture, motherly hens cackled, dandified roosters challenged, turkey gobblers strutted, geese hissed, and pigeons swooped around the yards. Everything spoke of good cheer, hospitality and a kindly welcome. And never did a goodly outside testify to a fairer inside, as many a hungry stomach, warmed and filled at the table and cheered by the kindly welcome of the good dame, certified to listening comrades. And yet, must I confess it, I saw soldiers--militia soldiers, without leave or license, or as much as saying by your leave, Sir, shoot down a wagon load of poultry at this very house. To be sure, these men were not fair samples of the militia men. No more should some churl who sold a cup of water, or copperhead who welcomed the rebels, be considered a fair sample of the border county men.
At Greencastle a regiment were quartered in a pretty grove not far from town, and near the grove were a number of unthreshed stacks of wheat. The owner came down and offered the men all the straw they wanted if they would go for it to his barnyard, hardly half a mile distant. The officers forbid the men using the unthreshed straw, yet every spear of it was used in preference to going a little farther for threshed. If this had been done by boys, by unthinking, careless students, it would not have been quite so bad. But I saw two middle aged men at this business who were mill owners and certainly ought to have valued grain. I also saw men I knew to be merchants, lawyers, and hotel keepers at the work of destruction.
Well, as I have before told you, I left college with one dollar and a few shinplasters in my pocket, and became a brave militia boy of the "Bloody Fifth." We slept on the floor of the capitol at Harrisburg, and here I should have soon parted with dollar and shin-plasters, had I not been acquainted with some of the "beauty and fashion" of the place, who were kind enough for "auld acquaintance sake" to invite me to their tables. From the time we left Harrisburg until darkness covered the scene, I remember little except one long line of pretty girls, waving handkerchiefs, boquets and cheers.
Just as the dawn broke, I awakened up and looking out of the car saw, as it seemed to me, soldiers, camp fires and tents, on every hill-top and in every valley. I asked a passerby the name of the place; Hagerstown was the reply. This name roused my snoring comrades, for the last we heard of that place she was occupied by rebels.
We were soon out of the car. A courier from McClellan addressed us, our captain (an old Colonel of the Mexican campaign) gave us another, and off we started at the head of the line, marching, oh so proudly. The sun soon grew hot, it was fearfully dusty, we were green, and some of us were young (now don't laugh); soon orders were given. "Go it the best you can," and the best we could do was to go it lame, sore, and tired, a band of stragglers.
At last we came to a church, and here we found the road blocked up with militia, huddled in the fields, round the houses, and especially in the graveyard and church, like so many sheep a great many of them officers and men, were very much discontented, and highly displeased that they had been taken out of the State; another portion anxious to snuff the battle. About the middle of the afternoon, there came a roar like an army fleeing. Soon a long train of six horse and six mule teams came in sight, on a full run. The report was immediately passed from mouth to mouth that McClellan was whipped and his army in full retreat. I never knew before how easy a matter it was to start a panic. That dense crowd of men shook and trembled like a forest in a gale but a trifle more and they would have been scattered like so many sheep. The wagons turned out to be going to Hagerstown for more ammunition. A little later in the day we were marched back to Hagerstown very much to our disgust. In a driving rain we were led into a muddy field, without tents, straw, or shelter of any kind, to pass the night. We should have learned some of the hardships of a soldier, had it not been for the kind heart of Mrs. Love, who threw open her house to us, gave us supper, lodging and breakfast. Most of us had at least been brought up as gentlemen, but a few, I fear, abused her hospitality. She was a noble woman. Let none whose hospitality and union sentiments have never been so severely tested, sneer at the patriotism of the border counties of these two States. I hope she still lives to enjoy the blessings of the government she so loved, and that she is blessed with an abundance of those creature comforts which she dealt out to the soldier with so lavish a hand. There was a large, old fashioned stone mansion opposite Mrs. Love's, and nearer the depot, where the ladies were very kind.
The next day we were put on guard over the railroad depot, but received many kindnesses from Mrs. Love during our entire stay. I passed one very miserable night at the depot, guarding a train of sick and wounded. Their groans and cries made me sick at heart. It was the night it was feared there would be an effort made to capture Gov. Curtin, and that the rebel cavalry would cut off communication on the railroad, consequently these poor men were waiting at the depot for twelve hours.
At two o'clock on Friday morning I was ordered to take my gun and several men, and start out a worthy citizen to his farm, several miles distant, where it was said he had corn secreted. I have no doubt he was a fine old gentleman, but was reputed slightly secesh, and, moreover, I can certify that he had a will of his own. My repeated knocks brought his man at length, but the citizen refused to appear, and I was finally compelled to violate the sanctity of his sleeping apartment, and separate him from his bosom companion at the point of the bayonet. A similar use of the bayonet compelled his man to gear up a four mule team, contrary to orders from said citizen, and similar persuasions induced man and master to mount with us into the ample wagon. We finally succeeded, by the use of threats and certain persuasions, in finding both farm and corn, and loaded our wagon well. On top of the wagon we placed an immense heap of slaughtered poultry--chickens, geese and turkeys alike suffered. I did not pity him much, as he gave us a good deal of trouble by his perverseness. He got an order on the government for his corn, and we considered that the poultry only paid us for the extra trouble he made us.
On our return to quarters we found our comrades gone, and learned they had been ordered to Greencastle. We roasted our chickens, &c., on Saturday and Sunday, and then began to think about means of transportation to our company. Our first application was received with contempt by the officer (a West Pointer) who told us if we wanted to play soldier to walk. But a second application by one of our number, who had been a regular army officer, put a different face on affairs, and we were sent on without further delay. We dawdled about Greencastle for a while, then were ordered to Chambersburg, where we laid a while longer. For what reason we were delayed in either place I never knew. Chambersburg was so radient with pretty girls that I there spent all my shinplasters for paper collars, without, I fear leaving any lasting impression in return for my trouble. At Chambersburg I saw the prettiest girl of the trip, save one--a lady that brought me cakes and sandwiches at Carlisle, where we halted an hour or so. Either the cakes or sandwiches were beyond the skill of Professor Blot, she a marvel of beauty or I marvelously hungry. It is said "the nearest way to a man's heart is through his stomach." She found the way to a boy's heart. What was it, hunger, cakes or beauty, or all combined? Well, at last orders came for us to pick up our duds and start for home, and thus ends my militia campaign, a glorious, jolly, old pic-nic it was, "that and nothing more." As I said before, I am not a resident of the Keystone State, nevertheless I am a tax-payer in that State, and it will give me pleasure, as it will every other true militiaman, to pay my share towards recompensing those border county friends who made our pleasure trip agreeable, and who were, I fear, in return wronged by some most scandalously.
A majority of those who turned out in 1862-3 were of the noblest of the land. But the lack of the discipline and order inevitable under the circumstances, demoralized every one, and, aside from this, we, as a matter of course, had our share of scalawags. Such men soon mated with the scalawags of the border counties, and, as it is all the world over, soon got into a brawl with their brother scalawags, and then to get sympathy, charged them with selling water, &c. Such men lived on the public at home, and went into the militia with the firm resolve to live on the "border county fellows," and nobly did they fulfill their resolves. Military discipline and order were things unknown. Many of the privates were lawyers, clergymen, doctors, merchants and farmers, and were frequently commanded by men inferior to them in education, social position and natural ability, chosen because they had served in the ranks and knew something of the drill. Such officers, of course, possessed no moral power or control over their men.
It may be said that soldiery, made up largely of men of education and position, should have been a law unto themselves. History gives us no account of an equally large body of men, raised on such short notice, poorly officered and poorly provided for, often without tents, blankets or stores of any kind, who behaved so well. But every man carries within him the germ of a Gipsey, and in that short season of turmoil and confusion, many a man developed a disregard for property, and meum and teum that he never himself before dreamed of, and that he has since bitterly repented of. I must myself confess that I enjoyed getting my meals from house to house, in true vagabond style, sleeping on the ground pleasant nights, and living at loose ends generally.
A little more of that life would have made me a confirmed tramp. And never to this day does a tramp come to my house or barn but he gets more straw, and a warmer bite for that Gipsey campaign. I feel that I once belonged to the same brotherhood and I acknowledge the fascination that binds him to the life.
In concluding my militia experience, I will only add, that the suffering, of the border counties from the rebels is a matter of history. So too is the patriotism of the great majrrity of her people, and if the great and wealthy State of Pennsylvania refuses now to grant the request of these, her children, for aid, it will make at least one bloted page in her history.
(Column 05)Summary: This is a reprinted speech made by George Skinner, in favor of the Border Claims Bill. Skinner described in detail the sacrifices made by the border counties and listed numerous reasons why compensation should be forthcoming.
Full Text of Article:
The question being on motion to indefinitely postpone the further consideration of the bill, Capt. Skinner said:--
Mr. Speaker:--I hope this motion to postpone will not prevail. As the immediate representative on this floor of a people more largely interested than any other in the passage of this bill, it seems proper that I should give at this time some of the reasons which induces me to ask, in their behalf, indemnification for losses sustained during the war of the Rebellion. Standing upon the threshold of this debate, it also seems proper that I should disclaim any pecuniary interest in the bill. --Neither myself nor any of those peculiarly near to me, lost anything in the shape of property. If I have shown extraordinary zeal in my desire for its passage, if I have persistently importuned and earnestly besought members to give it their support, it is because I feel the fearful responsibility resting upon me. From out the depths of their financial distress and in many cases of absolute naked penury, my people are looking up to-day to the Legislature for relief. Could you have gone with me to my home at the close of each weekly session of this House, and heard the anxious, almost despairing, inquiries of those whose properties and whose houses are now hanging over the abyss of bankruptcy by the brittle thread of this appropriation, could your eyes meet, as mine are compelled to meet, each time I walk the streets of Chambersburg the ruined walls of once peaceful and happy homes, whose former tenantry have not even yet been able to rebuild them. Could you see as I have seen, an old man bowed with age, and struggling under his load of debt, along past that dwelling, of which in former years he was the happy possessor, but has now passed under the auctioneer's hammer into the hands of another, and could you recollect that that same old man gave his sons to your cause, and that they perished on the battle field--you would then little wonder that I am tremulously anxious to-day to see this bill pass. But, Mr. Speaker, it is not on the ground of sympathy we base our arguments in favor of its passage. There are better, weightier and higher reasons why these claims should be paid. Law, right, justice, the duty of the State to the people--demand that they should be paid.
What is the history of these claims? It is a part of the history of that long, dark and terrible war which came upon the land, the details of which are so fresh in the minds of all that I need hardly recur to them. I was yet a boy when the first faint specks of that disastrous struggle appeared above the Southern horizon, but my remembrance of the time is most vivid. I did not then know what war was. I had read of great armies going forth to battle, of dire conflicts in which thousands went down to death and thousands more were borne away horribly mangled and mutilated. I believed it to be a mere contest of arms, and that men sought "the tented field" to win glory and renown. The picture went no further with me then. I did not realize that the struggle at that time in spending involved destruction of property and houses; that it would entail misery and ruin wherever its monster tread would fall, and that a nation's people were to be plunged into a huge debt. An experience common to us all has taught me these sterner realities. I now profess to know what was in all its horrible details, and, sir, I profess to have some proper conception of what are the duties of the survivors of such a war as that through which we have just passed. The dead have done their work, and done it well. Their mission ended when the fatal bullet laid them low. Ours is yet in part to be performed. We are to see that the fruits of the nation's victory over treason are secured; that the families of those who died in our stead are cared for; that those who went forth in the strength and vigor of manhood and came back to us mere shattered wrecks of their former selves are sustained and comforted; that the nation's plighted faith is not broken, and above all, sir, that the excessive burdens of the few be borne by the many.
My appeal then, gentlemen representatives, is not to your sympathies, but to your sense of duty. I ask not charity, but justice for my people. They are a part of yourselves--a part of the great loyal North and the only people of any of the Northern States upon whom the scourge of war fell, with any great effect. Living upon the Border, with no natural defense save the narrow, shallow Potomac, we were from the very first subject to the invasions of that enemy which had sprung up just over beyond us. Harpers Ferry and all the surrounding region had early been seized by Virginia troops. The Nation stood still as if paralyzed by some sudden fright. As soon as she recovered from the shock, she began to concentrate forces in the vicinity of Chambersburg in order to guard that avenue to the Capitol of this State. The Seventh, Eighth and Tenth regiments of three months Pennsylvania Volunteers were the first to come. Afterward this force was augmented to twenty-five thousand men--all of whom were quartered upon us for weeks, and at a time, too, when our harvests were ripening for the sickle. Spreading as their encampments did, over the most fertile portion of our lands, it is not difficult to conceive how great must have been the injury done. Our people did not complain of this however, but were only too glad to have them come among us for our security and better safety. This is the history of the Summer of 1861--briefly told.
Again in the fall of 1862 were large bodies of our own troops quartered upon us. Hagerstown, and all the adjacent territory lying as far North as the Pennsylvania and Maryland line was in the occupancy of Gen. Longstreet's corps. Our whole State was in imminent danger of invasion. The necessity was great and men were crowded to the front. They came without tents and but scantily rationed. Our people threw open their houses and larders in order that they might be properly subsisted and made comfortable. Fences were thrown down and the fields of husbandmen again overrun. An unmounted body of cavalry known as the Anderson troop were in need of horses, and our farmers were compelled to throw open their stables in order that they might be supplied to meet the then pressing exigencies of the service. Few, if any, of these horses were ever returned and none of them ever paid for. All these and still greater losses my people were called upon to endure, and even yet they did not complain. Injuries sustained at the hands of our own troops would have been cheerfully borne. Had this been all, they would not be here to-day asking indemnification. But sir they were to be overrun with another class of soldiery. The enemy were lying in wait upon our borders ready to effect their first invasion of Northern soil. They soon came. In October, 1862, we saw the first of them in the presence of Gen. Stuart's cavalry corps. This very considerable body swept over portions of the counties of Franklin and Adams, destroying much property and leading away all the horses they could lay their hands upon. The losses up to this period constitute the first class and were adjudicated by a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Courts of Dauphin county under the act of the Legislature, approved April 22d, 1863.
In the summer of 1863 came the invasions of Lee's whole army. Almost all of the counties of Franklin and Adams, and a very considerable portion of the counties of Cumberland, York, Fulton and Bedford were overrun by this large force. Illy provided for, hungry and almost naked, these men on their departure left little or nothing in the shape of provisions and live stock. After that invasion there was hardly a farmer in my county that did not find himself in a state of feeble helplessness. His stock all gone--his implements of agriculture broken up--his granaries empty and his harvest trodden to the earth--his condition was indeed pitiable in the extreme. It may be, too, and was often the case, that he was nothing more than a tenant of those lands and had all he possessed in the world invested in just such property as was suited to the demands of the enemy. Mr. Speaker, these are not idle stories I am telling you. They are truths. I have not allowed my fancy to paint the picture in deeper colors, than the bare facts would warrant. In truth, sir, I can give you no adequate conception of what the losses by that invasion were. Suffice it to say that in the rural districts they have not even yet recovered from that wholesale devastation of their property and I doubt very much if they ever recover, unless this Legislature magnanimously comes to their assistance.
But, Mr. Speaker, the loss by the invasion of Lee's army, was small indeed in comparison with what our people suffered by the subsequent invasion of McCausland. The burning of Chambersburg is the darkest chapter in the history of our sufferings. In one single hour of disaster that beautiful town was laid in ashes. By its destruction two hundred and sixty-six families were robbed of their houses and turned out upon the world in condition little short of pauperism. It would be hard indeed to estimate the actual loss by that conflagration. 537 buildings of various kinds were reduced to ashes. I believe sir I can safely say that a million and a half dollars would not have restored the buildings burned, and as much more would not cover the loss of such personal property as money could replace.
Such, Mr. Speaker, is a brief and cursory history of the origin of these claims. Thrice invaded and robbed by the enemy continuously drawn upon by our troops, and living for years in constant apprehension and danger, what estimate would you place upon their losses? Has any member upon this floor the hardihood and courage to say that the amount asked for, together with the $600,000 already received, is too much? Any member who would say it is too much or anything near enough, knows nothing about those losses common to the wake of large armies. Now these things and more we have suffered in addition to what fell to the common lot of all. These misfortunes came upon us while our borders were unprotected by any force of our troops, and while our natural defenders were absent fighting in the trenches of Virginia and Georgia. While the red flames of the invader were licking up our dwellings, they were standing like a wall of fire between portions of that same foe and homes of others. They were forming a part of that grand cordon of defense, which saved the western frontier of our own State, together with the State and National Capitol from the same ruthless hands which were razing our beautiful town to its foundations. We were told by these destroyers of our homes that it was a retaliatory measure--that we were to expiate, the wanton destruction of property by Genl. Hunter's troops in the valley of Virginia. Surely if it was a retaliatory measure, retaliation for crimes committed in the name of the Federal Government by one of its highest officials, and we should not be made to pay the penalty.
We paid without complaint our share of taxes for the support of the government, and gave our full quota to the army of the union. As many sons of the border counties sleep to day in the selpulchre of the nation as any other section of the North can boast of. On every battlefield of the war our representatives could be found lying with their feet to the foe and their faces to the sky. It was my fortune to belong to one of the gallant regiments which Franklin county sent out to aid our armies in the West. And sir it is somewhat remarkable that when the stars for the first time at night looked upon the charred and blackened ruins of Chambersburg, they were also glimmering upon the pallid faces of a score of that regiment's best and bravest where they lay cold in death on one of the battlefields of Georgia. I also say it without fear of any imputations of self commendation, that I shared with the gallant men of that regiment in every battle and skirmish in which they were engaged. I know how courageously each man bore himself. I saw many of them die where the battle raged fiercest. I brought home the remains of a company, which had buried forty-nine of its members including its first and second commanders. And sir it is first in party by such titles as these I claim the right this day to plead the cause of those whom my dead comrades left behind them. Full many a Franklin county boy sealed his devotion to his country with his heart's blood. When the cry of the government for men to sustain her imperiled flag was raised, Democrats and Republicans alike rushed to her support. Shoulder to shoulder they kept step to the music of the Union, and side by side they lay in death after the battle was over. There was no politics in their death, just as there had been none in their lives after they once realized their country's great peril. Nor did they ask when they went forth, whether their property and homes would be protected. These were secondary considerations. The only question with them was "does my country need my services?" Many a one of them did not live to know that the home of his wife and children had been mercilessly consumed by the foe. I might speak in this connection of other regiments and other organizations which my county and the other counties of the Border sent forth--organizations equally as gallant and deserving of mention as the one to which I have referred, but the nearness of the hour of adjournment admonishes me to hasten on.
Mr. Speaker, I have not adverted to these mournful realities for the purpose of exciting feelings of sympathy, but to show, sir, that my people were not derelict in the performance of their duties to their government. They owed allegiance and they gave it, fully and freely, but failed to receive in turn that protection due them. They fulfilled their share of the great original contract between the government and the people, and now, inasmuch as they suffered great loss by reason of non-protection--their borders having been left open to the foe--they come to you to ask restitution. Will you afford it to them, or will you say to them, as they have been told before, "Go to the General Government. The State has no right to pay these claims. We admit they are just and right, but do not recognize their binding force on the State Government." Now, Mr. Speaker, it is folly for men to argue thus. How are we going to approach the General Government? We can only command the influence and support of a single member of Congress, while the State, if she were to assume the payment of these claims, could instruct her Congressional delegation to demand payment of the General Government. This delegation being a power at Washington could easily secure such payment. I hold this to be the proper method for the State to adopt. I am credibly informed that after Gen. Morgan's raids through the States of Indiana and Ohio, the Legislatures of those States assumed the payment of all damages sustained by their citizens. We have precedents established by the Legislature of this State for the payment of these claims. In 1864 an appropriation of $100,000 was made to the people of Chambersburg, which was barely enough to supply the immediate necessities of her thousands of homeless penniless sufferers. Again in 1866 a further appropriation of $500,000 was made for their relief. This is all they have ever received--all that has ever been returned them by a great and powerful State in lieu of the millions in money and the hundreds of precious lives they gave to that cause so near to their hearts. As a still further precedent, I find by reference to the Auditor General's report for last year, that within the year $11,000 has been paid to citizens of Philadelphia and to various Agricultural Associations throughout the State for damages sustained from the encampment of troops on their premises.
The State can pay these claims and then very properly ask the General Government to reimburse her. I will tell you why, and I want gentlemen here to pay strict attention to the fact, because I believe it to be a very strong argument in favor of the State paying the claims, and becoming the owner of them, as against the General Government. Shortly after the nation became involved in her great struggle with treason, Pennsylvania, fearing an invasion of her soil, organized, armed and equipped at an expense to herself of over $3,000,000 a splendid body of men known as the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, a corps whose gallantry and brilliant deeds on many a hotly contested field, afterwards gained for it the appellation of "The Old Guard" of our armies. This corps was organized expressly for State defense, and had it been placed upon our Southern borders and allowed to remain there, no rebel soldier would ever have cursed Pennsylvania soil with his tread. The quick and steady eye of the Reserve man would have marred him for a bloody grave ere he had even looked upon our pleasant habitations. But, sir, Bull Run and all its long train of fearful disasters to the Union army came. The nation was reduced to one of its severest straits, and the State Government, realizing the great need of the General Government, tendered these troops to her service. The consequence of this was that they were ever after retained in such service. Now, sir, my position is this--having made this loan of thoroughly equipped troops to the Government--troops equipped at our expense, we can with a very fair grace go to her and say "we have adjudicated and paid claims which you should have adjudicated and paid, and we now demand that you reimburse the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for moneys thus paid out. Such a demand coming in such a shape could hardly fail to be recognized.
When the war broke out all parties in the commonwealth assumed the ground that the State was in duty bound to protect every citizen within her borders. The motto was that the shield of the State was not only to be a safeguard in Peace, but also in war. On this ground the war loan was created and the Reserve corps brought into existence. Pennsylvania stands between us and the General Government. She is our alma mater and with true filial regard we come to her this day, and laying our heads upon her lap, ask her inasmuch as we have been loyal sons and daughters, to the generous and just--to equalize the great burden which fell upon us while defending the maternal hearthstone against those who sought to invade its sacred precincts. Had that foe crossed yonder river and coming up here laid this Capitol in ashes, think you this Legislature would hesitate long in deciding who should repair the loss? Would they not decide it should be paid out of the common treasury--in other words that your people and mine should contribute the means? We are bound for the losses of the State and when she fails in her duties to us, why should she not be bound for ours. What is the use of having a state government if we are to derive no benefit therefrom--if we are to contribute to its support and take care of ourselves at the same time. No, no, gentlemen the relationship existing between us and the State involves certain reciprocal duties--the plainest of which is protection on the part of the State. Failing in this duty, there is a resulting obligation to make good all losses which her inability or negligence may have occasioned. I have used the word "State," in this connection, instead of "General Government," because under our double Government, it seems to me this obligation rests more directly with the State. She is our nearest source of protection and it is to her we first fly for relief, and for redress of injuries. She should meditate in our behalf, by assuming the burden which a few of her citzens are now toiling under. I am no lawyer. I have but a slight knowledge of the technicalities of the law, but it does seem to me that these claims, if once paid by the State, would assume the force of law against the General Government.
Granting that the liability of the General Government is questionable, and that collection from that source is an experiment yet to be tried, which is in the better condition to try the experiment--the State or the people of the Border Counties? Why, sir, the State. Let her pay these claims and then test the experiment. If she fails she is able to stand it, and it would be but just and right, under such circumstances, that she should stand it. We as individuals, besides being less capable than the State to engage in such work, could not afford to try the experiment and fail. We dare not throw the little we have left after that which has already gone, by incurring the expense of sending Committees to Washington for the purpose of pressing this matter upon the intention of Congress.
It is said there is a great amount of money involved in this bill--that it is too much for the State to pay. I submit, Mr. Speaker, whether this be an argument against it, and if it is not rather an argument in favor of it. If it is too much for the State to pay, I ask you gentlemen, is it not too much for my people to lose, constituting as they do a very small proportion of the inhabitants of this great Commonwealth. No, no! Mr. Speaker, that poor paltry subterfuge will not avail the opponents of this bill. It is no argument. Pennsylvania, with her untold millions of wealth and all her vast resources, is fully able to pay these claims. The amount asked for would be but as a drop in the bucket of her great wealth. She would never feel it, while my people would be raised to their feet again and enabled to pursue their business avocations without the hindrance which the want of capital imposes. It is not proposed by this bill to make a heavy draft upon the Treasury immediately. It provides that no more than claims under $100, and the fractional part under that sum of other claims shall be paid in cash. The bulk of these claims is to be paid by certificates of indebtedness, and the revenues of the Border Counties are to be set aside for the payment of interest on, and the ultimate redemption of these certificates. Could anything be fairer? Could anything be more just than the appropriation of our own revenues to the payment of our own losses? The State must either admit her liability for losses incurred in the manner these have been incurred, or she must admit that she has no claim whatever upon these people for revenues. It is contrary to the spirit of our institutions that any people should sustain a government which does not admit their right to claim its protection. Must we go on contributing to the support of the Government, and derive no benefit therefrom? Must we pay our taxes and when war and invasion come provide for our own defense and pay our own losses? This would be too manifestly unjust. Let any Government attempt to carry out a principle of this kind and she will find it as impossible to stand as the spacious temple, when the pillars that support it have been torn away.
Again, it is said a large amount of money is being used to secure the passage of this bill. Prominent and influential newspapers in the States have made the charge boldly, that these claims have been parted with by their original owners for mere nominal prices, and that they have drifted into the hands of a few speculators, who are now here organizing a gigantic raid on the Treasury. In answer to these charges, Mr. Speaker, I have this to say. I know of no corrupt means having been used, nor do I know of a single claim having been sold or transferred for a consideration. The delegations from the Border Counties have been here, I do not deny. I know that such delegations have been here in the interest of this bill, and I hold that they have a right to be here. Why sir, I venture to say that within the recollection of the oldest representative on the floor, no important measure of any kind has been up for the action of the Legislature, but what has had its advocates in the shape of committees here. Mr. Speaker, we do not complain of the action of the opponents of the bill so long as they engage in honorable and manly warfare, but we do complain of those who would condemn our cause before it is heard. We complain of those who wilfully misrepresent us, and fling broadcast the charge that we are a set of "thieves and robbers" come here to pillage the Treasury of the people. I confess I can not understand these attacks of the press. What have my people done that they should be made the object of so much sneering abuse and such vile misrepresentations? Is it because when the nation was struggling in the throes of a mighty revolution, they clung by her aide and shared her great peril? Is it because they sent their strong man to guard the homes of others, and left their own open to the ravages of a merciless foe, who came and despoiled them of almost everything? Is it because when bankruptcy and ruin come staring them in the faces they dare to come here and claim what they believe to be just and right? I know no other reasons for such attacks on the part of the newspaper press of the State. Such articles are in strange contrast with stirring appeals which were wont in the dark days of the war to summon our young men from their quiet, peaceful homes to the field of conflict and death. Certainly no fair and honorable newspaper could be guilty of such base ingratitude. As well might its Editor cleave the arm of some faithful friend when raised in his defence, as to utter insulting charges against those who periled their fortunes and their lives in a common cause.
Mr. Speaker, I have already spoken longer than I had intended. A word, or two more and I am done. I have tried to do my whole duty to my constituency in reference to this bill. All here will bear me witness that from the earliest hour of the session I have labored constantly in its behalf. I am about to resign its fate into your hands. If I have spoken with more than my usual earnestness to-day--if I have shown some feeling while narrating the history of my people in the dark days of their sufferings and losses, it is because I feel that I am pleading the cause of those who have had great wrongs--"wrongs enough to stir a fever in the blood of age and make the infant sinews strong as steel." I wish I had the ability to make such as plea in behalf of my people as has been made my former representatives from my district on this floor. Could I do this, I know a majority of the House would not leave this Hall without giving this measure their support. I can hardly believe that a majority will do so at any rate--standing as these claims do on the broad foundation of their own intrinsic merit. I wish each one of you could visit Chambersburg, as some of you I know have done within a few months. You could see there such evidences and traces of rebel vandalism, as would convince you of the great extent of the misfortunes of my people. The stagnation of trade in her business marts--the noise of the auctioneer's hammer and the dismantled walls of once bright and pleasant homes, would plead more eloquently and convince more forcibly than words of mine or any other friend of this bill. Vote for the bill, gentlemen, and I do not believe any of you will ever regret it. Vote for it, and if ever in the mutation of time, a common enemy should reach the threshold of your dwelling and lay the home of your family in ashes, my prayer, and the prayer of my people will be, that you shall meet with a just recompense at the hands of the Legislature of your State.
Let these claims be paid now. Do not postpone payment any longer. If you do it will soon be too late to do justice. Already are strangers stepping in and usurping the places of those who are unable longer, by reason of financial distress, to retain their homes and conduct their business. I could stand it to see this bill detested, but I tell you my people can not stand it. In the cases of many of them, their all is at stake, and if this relief is denied them, bankruptcy and ruin are inevitable. Let me ask you then in conclusion, gentlemen representatives, these simple questions, are you going to allow this people to be unjustly dealt with? Are you going to allow them to bear this great burden alone, and then expect them to be as loyal to your government in the future as in the past? Are you going to deny them this relief and still continue to collect your tithes of taxes out of the sweat and blood of their faces--out of their broken hearts and dying bodies. Do it if you can, gentlemen; as for myself I shall take no part or lot in such an unjust deed. Here upon this spot, at this hour I shift the responsibility of the defeat of this bill, if such is to be its fate, to your shoulders.
Sneak Thieves Arrested
(Column 02)Summary: Wyll Alfred and Andrew W. Collins, two young men who had registered at the Montgomery House, were arrested for entering the room of Enos Engle and stealing a hair brush, travelling bag, and clothes. Justice Armstrong committed them to jail.Go to Hear Miss Dickinson
(Names in announcement: Wyll Alfred, Andrew W. Collins, Enos Engle, Justice Armstrong)
(Column 02)Summary: Anna E. Dickinson will speak at Repository Hall on Tuesday. "She is not surpassed in eloquence by any woman in the Union." Tickets are 75 cents and will go to benefit the Monumental Association.Married
(Names in announcement: Anna E. Dickinson)
(Column 04)Summary: Rev. B. G. Huber of Ickesburg Circuit and Miss Naomi J. Cormany were married on March 31st at the residence of the bride's parents near Pleasant Hall by the Rev. H. W. Rebok.Died
(Names in announcement: Rev. B. G. Huber, Naomi J. Cormany, Rev. H. W. Rebok)
(Column 04)Summary: Miss Hellie M. Seibert, daughter of P. W. and Catharine Seibert, died in Chambersburg on April 1st after a lingering illness. She was 22 years old.Died
(Names in announcement: Hellie M. Seibert, P. W. Seibert, Catharine Seibert)
(Column 04)Summary: Mrs. Ann E. Wallace Middlecoff, wife of Gen. D. Middlecoff, died on March 19th. She was 69 years old.Died
(Names in announcement: Ann E. Wallace Midddlecoff, Gen. D. Middlecoff)
(Column 04)Summary: Mary Wigfall, wife of T. B. Wigfall and daughter of the late Joseph Chambers, died in Chambersburg on April 2nd.
(Names in announcement: Mary Wigfall, T. B. Wigfall, Joseph Chambers)