Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Republicans Who Served in the Civil War and then as Pennsylvania Governor

Richard C. Saylor. Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders. Harrisburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2010.

This book, using many materials not seen by previous researchers, examines the Civil War experiences of those who fought and later became Pennsylvania Governors. War experience was a political benefit, as six of the eight men elected Governor after the Civil War were veterans of that war. This pattern of Governors having been Civil War veterans followed in other states as well.

The postwar attitudes of these veterans who became Governors varied. Governor John Geary wanted Confederate leaders punished. Governors Fitzhugh Lee and James Beaver publicly reached out for reconciliation with former Confederate Generals.

This book examines the wartime correspondences of these future Governors. It is seen that all sought battle fame and each complained when their roles were less significant from what they hoped. Each was a Republican who disliked the pro-slavery and pro-Southern appeasement of many Democrats of that era. Their strong Republican allegiances during the war led to their later participation in Republican politics.

John White Geary was Governor from 1867 to 1873. He served in the Mexican War as a Lieutenant Colonel, was wounded in action by a grape shot to the groin but continued leading his men afterwards. After that war, he was elected Colonel in an election criticized by a Private as being rigged. Geary left the military and was elected Alcade (main administrator and judiciary officer) of San Francisco, served as Governor of the Kansas Territory, and resigned when James Buchanan, who he personally disliked, became President. Geary hated slavery and believed his fellow Pennsylvanian Buchanan was letting slavery continue and expand. Geary, like Buchanan, was a Democrat, yet Geary also did not support Democrat Stephen Douglas for President after Buchanan.

Geary was appointed Colonel for the Civil War and was wounded while leading his regiment to victory. He was promoted to Brigadier General and brigade commander. He was wounded again, this time seriously enough to be sent home to recover. He returned to leave his division and was wounded still again. Geary’s division fought at Gettysburg and successfully held their position against strong assault.

Geary’s son was killed in the war. Geary admits taking vengeance for his son’s death while part of Sherman’s march through Georgia as buildings were burned by Union troops. Geary was Savannah’s Military Governor. Savannah’s Mayor and Aldermen formally recognized Geary’s conduct, judgment, and chivalry.

Geary was wounded six times during the Civil War. He publicized this fact when in the public spotlight. Geary had switched to being a Republican. Simon Cameron and other Republican political leaders recruited Geary to run for Governor in 1866. Geary campaigned on how the Democrats had lost their “old truths”. Geary’s Democratic opponent, Hiester Clymer, had been against entering the Civil War. Clymer also opposed granting the right to vote to African Americans, running as the “white man’s candidate”.

Geary broke with the Republican Party political machine yet was reelected Governor in 1869 without Simon Cameron backing him. As Governor, Geary created a veteran’s home and a home for orphaned children of veterans. He also reduced the state government’s debt by $10 million.

John Frederick Hartranft joined the Montgomery County militia as a Private in 1857. He rose to the rank of Colonel while he and his militia volunteered for the Civil War. The militia fought a skirmish in Alexandria that left one dead on each side. When the militia’s enlistment period ended, only Hartranft and a few others decided to remain as most of the others returned home.

Hartranft gained notice for reorganizing and leading troops bewildered by battle at the first Bull Run. He would later, in 1886, be awarded the Medal of Honor for these actions. At the time, though, his actions were not enough as several promotions were not approved even with the endorsement of his Colonel.

Hartranft fought in several battles. A Minnie ball brushed his wrist at Petersburg, which was his only war injury. Hartranft commanded a division of Pennsylvanians. He was brevetted (temporarily appointed without additional pay) Major General. In that capacity, he read the death warrants before the execution of the people convicted of conspiracy in Lincoln’s assassination.

After the war, Hartranft switched from Democrat to Republican. He was elected two terms as Auditor General. During this time, Governor Geary appointed Hartranft as Major General in the National Guard. Simon Cameron supported Hartranft to be Governor following Geary. Geary defeated Democrat Charles Buckalow. While Governor, Hartranft also became National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans group.

As Governor, Hartranft had the National Guard put down labor strikes and riots. The riots caused more personal property damage within Pennsylvania than did the Civil War. He declined to pardon any of the members of the alleged Molly Maguire coal miners convicted for murder and violence against coal company management. Hartranft was a favorite son candidate for President at the 1876 Republican National Convention.

Hartranft was the last Governor elected to a second consecutive term due to a new law that prevent Governor from succeeding themselves until that law was changed in 1968 and Milton Shapp was elected to a second consecutive term in 1974.

The next Governor, Henry Martyn Hoyt, appointed Hartranft as the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Division Commander and Major General. Hartranft also serves as Philadelphia’s Postmaster, Port Collector, and President of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. He also worked to established homes for destitute Union as well as Confederate soldiers.

Henry Martyn Hoyt was involved in creating a regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers for the Civil War. He began as its Lieutenant Colonel. The regiment saw action and in 1864, Hoyt became a Colonel. Hoyt argued for a more active role for the regiment as controversy kept it from action even though nearly half its regiment had been killed. Hoyt led his men into an attack at a Confederate fort that took them into the fort. Reinforcements were slow to arrive and Hoyt and his soldiers became prisoners of war. Hoyt would become Pennsylvania’s second prisoner of war to become Governor, after Joseph Hiester who was captured during the Revolutionary War. Hoyt escaped Confederate prison but was captured and returned. Hoyt was part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to service. Afterwards, he was backdates as a brevetted Brigadier General. He became a Judge and Republican State Chairman. He ran for Governor with incumbent Governor Hartranft’s support and guidance. Hoyt won the Republican Primary and then defeated Democrat Andrew Dill.

While Governor, the state’s debt was lowered by $1.5 million, school segregation was prohibition, and the National Guard and state militia were combined with Hartranft in charge. Hoyt opposed the Republican bosses of Simon Cameron and Matt Quay. The Republican bosses’ candidate, James Beaver, lost the primary to Hoyt.

James Beaver though later became the fourth Civil War veteran to become Pennsylvania Governor. Beaver began service as a Private in the militia in 1858. He had been promoted to First Lieutenant was the war began. He rose to Colonel. Beaver was dissatisfied with outpost duty. He disliked being assigned to train African Americans to become soldiers, declaring the job an indignity and a “test of my devotion to my country”. The African American regiment was later nullified out of existence by the War Department.

Beaver was wounded a bullet that missed vital organs. After healing, he returned to duty where he was wounded a second time by a spent ball hitting his hip. A third injury came from a spent bullet that struck him. A fourth injury ed to his leg being amputated and ending his military service. He was brevetted a Brigadier General.

Beaver was nominated by local Republicans for state legislature even though he declared he would not campaign. He was defeated by 141 votes. He became a Major General in the National Guard. He also became President of the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees. Penn State’s sports stadium is named after him.

Beaver declined a Republican nomination for Congress in 1877. He agreed to the party’s backing for Governor in 1882 yet he lost to Democrat Robert Pattison. He ran for Governor again in 1886 and defeated Democrat Chauncey Black.

As Governor, Beaver sent the National Guard to respond to the devastation of the Johnstown Flood in 1889.

William Stone tried to enlist in the Union Army in 1861but at age 15 was too young. In 1864, he attempted to join until his father brought him home, and he was not old enough to serve without a father’s permission. In 1864, he was accepted as a Private with his father’s permission at age 17. He saw action and was promoted to Sergeant. After the war, he was active in the National Guard where he became Assistant Adjutant General and Lieutenant Colonel.

Matt Quay supported Stone for Governor. When another candidate asked of Quay “I’ll do what you tell me, the same as Stone”, Quay replied “I know, but I would have to tell you, and I don’t have to tell him.” Stone won over Democrat George Jenks and Prohibition nominee Silas Swallow in 1898,

As Governor, Stone had the National Guard respond to a mine strike. He was a strong supporter of the Orphan Industrial School and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home. He also paid the state debt.

Samuel Pennypacker volunteered for duty in 1863. He saw action and was paid $19.26. After leaving services, he was drafted. He served after the war on the Philadelphia Board of Education and then as a Common Pleas Judge. His cousin, Republican boss Matt Quay, picked Pennypacker to run for Governor. He defeated Robert Pattison, who had previously served two non-successive terms as Governor. Pennypacker’s war experience helped garner votes against Pattison.

As Govenor, Pennypacker created the State Archives. He was Governor was the State Capitol building was dedicated.