“Another War Governor Gone,” New York Times, October 8, 1894, p. 5: 3.
ANOTHER WAR GOVERNOR GONE
ANDREW G. CURTIN PASSES AWAY AT HIS PENNSYLVANIA HOME.
His Influence Had Much to Do with the First Nomination for President of Abraham Lincoln—His Troops Were the First to Reach Washington After the Call, and His Reserves Saved the Capital After the Battle of Bull Run.
BELLEFONTE, Penn., Oct. 7—Andrew Gregg Curtin, War Governor of Pennsylvania, died at his home here at 5 o’clock this morning. He had been near death’s door for several days, and had been in feeble health for a long time.
The arrangements for the funeral are so far perfected that, at the urgent solicitation of Gov. Pattison, the family has consented to a funeral with military honors. Ex-Gov. Beaver will have full charge, and there will be an escort of a regiment of infantry, a troop of cavalry, and a battery of artillery with the Grand Army of the Republic, under command of the brigade commander. Gov. Pattison will attend with his staff.
Gov. Pattison issued a proclamation tonight in which he announced ex-Gov. Curtin’s death. After reviewing his distinguished services to his State and country, the proclamation concludes as follows:
In honor of his memory and in recognition of his eminent public service, I invoke for his bereaved family the sympathy of the people of Pennsylvania, and I recommend and order that on the day of his funeral the flags upon the public buildings be displayed at half mast and that the several departments of the State Government within executive control be closed upon that day.
Andrew Gregg Curtin was born April 22, 1817, at Bellefonte, Penn., where his father, Roland Curtin, an Irishman of wealth and education, in 1800, had settled as a manufacturer of iron, building one of the first, if not the first, of the State’s iron furnaces. His mother was the daughter of Andrew Gregg, who had been United States Senator, member of Congress, and Secretary of State. Mr. Curtin was educated in private schools of Bellefonte, at Harrisburg, and in Milton Academy.
He began the study of the law with William W. Potter, who afterward became a member of Congress, and finished with Judge Reed, one of the great attorneys of the State, after he was graduated from the law department of Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Penn. He was admitted to the bar at Bellefonte, and began the practice of the profession, in which he soon became famous, in 1837. At twenty-three years of age he was celebrated as an orator, having done much active canvassing in the Whig interest. Four years later he made in favor of Henry Clay a canvass so brilliant that his political future was at once assured.
In 1848 he was a Presidential Elector, doing effective work for Gen. Taylor; in 1852, in the same office, he was again a leader in national politics; in 1854 he could decline to be a candidate for Governor, and obtain the nomination for his former schoolmate and intimate friend, James Pollock, who appointed him Secretary of State. In this office he was ex official Superintendent of the Public Schools, and reformed their entire management. It was Mr. Curtin who secured, among other innovations, the adoption of the prevailing system of County Superintendents of Schools in Pennsylvania.
In 1860, when the election of a Republican for President depended absolutely, apparently, on the doubtful States of Pennsylvania and Indiana, wherein State elections occurred in October, the month preceding that of the national elections, Mr. Curtin received the Republican nomination for Governor. He knew that Pennsylvania could not be carried by Seward, against whom the charge was violently made that he had been elected Governor of New-York as a Whig, after an understanding with Bishop Hughes that the State School fund was to be shared with the Catholics schools, and he went to Chicago to secure, at the Republican Convention, the nomination of Lincoln. He was not a member of the Pennsylvania delegation, which Thaddeus Stevens and David Wilmot led, and which was instructed for Simon Cameron. He was accompanied by Col. A. K. McClure, who was Chairman of the Republican State Committee. He went in defense of his canvass that the nomination of Seward, he was persuaded, would seriously imperil; he pleaded earnestly with the delegates that defeat to the Republican Party in the State in October would entail its defeat in the Nation in November; and to his exertions, pre-eminently, the nomination of Lincoln was due.
He returned immediately to Pennsylvania with the energy, the faith, and the ability to conduct the most brilliant person canvass that his State had ever known. His election was made by a large majority. Its wisdom was immediately apparent. He was inaugurated and sent to the Legislature a message declaring in an admirable tone that “The Government is based upon a compact to which all the people of the United States are parties. It is the result of mutual concessions, which were made for the purpose of securing reciprocal benefits. Its acts directly upon the people and they owe it a personal allegiance. No part of the people, no State nor combination of States can voluntarily secede from the Union nor absolve themselves from their obligations. To permit a State to withdraw at pleasure from the Union without the consent of the rest is to confess that our Government is a failure.”
In the lower house of the Legislature a bill was instantly introduced investing the Governor with power to raise and equip troops, and appropriating $500,000 for this purpose. In forty-eight hours the bill became a law. Its authority was used by the Governor so promptly that when the President issued his call for 75,000 men for 100 days the Pennsylvania soldiers were the first to reach the capital.
The Governor foresaw t hat the war would be long, called an extra session of the Legislature, asked for authority to raise not less than fifteen nor more than thirty regiments, enlisted for three years, or until the end of the war, and obtained all that he requested and an appropriation of $3,500,000.
The reserves equipped with this fund saved the capital of the United States from capture after the battle of Bull Run. At the most trying point of Mr. Curtin’s career as War Governor of Pennsylvania, when the battle of Chancellorsville was fought and lost, his acuteness was brilliantly exercised. Col. Thomas A. Scott, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was Assistant Secretary of War. He knew Pennsylvania as well as Mr. Curtin, and the latter, knowing that he could appreciate the peril of the situation, made a personal requisition upon him for the appointment of Gen. Couch of Connecticut, in command of the forced defending Harrisburg. Gen. Cough was at once placed in defense of the entire southern line from Philadelphia to Pittsburg.
After the fall of Sumter, in an eloquent speech he promised that Pennsylvanians who enlisted should not be buried in other soil than theirs, that wives and children should be the wards of the State, and that widows and orphans should be protected. The promise was faithfully kept. Commissioners were placed in every corps of the army, and orphan asylums were established in various parts of the State for the redeeming of his promise. The Governor labored incessantly; he seemed indefatigable, but before the end of his terms of office his health failed. Then Gen. Simon Cameron, Col. John W. Forney, and Col. A. K. McClure, who were never in accord, united in a conference at Washington that a mission might be given to him, but there was none vacant. “Whose mission shall I give him?” said Mr. Lincoln, and then he related the story of the young man who when his father advised him to take a wife asked: “Whose wife shall I take?” The Governor finished his term, was renominated, and in 1868 became Minister to Russia.
In 1872 he returned to Bellefonte, and was the choice of the Pennsylvania delegation for the second place on the ticket of the convention which nominated Horace Greeley. He took an influential part in the proceedings of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, which sat for a year and included among its members Jeremiah S. Black, William M. Meredith, Wayne MacVeagh, Charles R. Buckalew, and George W. Woodward.
He kept out of politics until 1881, when he was elected as a Democrat for six years to the lower house of Congress. At the close of the Forty-ninth Congress he retired permanently from public office. He lived at Bellefonte, in his stone house which has the air of a castle, among the books of his library. He was a tall, slim, and straight as an Indian. His eyes were dark gray, his hair was silvery, and when he went to Washington his affability attracted around him a circle of eminent men, to whom he related his career and innumerable stories.