PA Civil War > County > Berks History
Civil War History of Berks County PA
Extracted from the book History of Berks County,; Montgomery, Morton L., 1886. pp.186-249.
The Civil War in our country broke out in April, 1861. The direct cause was the agitation of the great subject which related to slavery. In 1620 religion started the movement for freedom in the northern part of our country, and about the same time trade started the movement for slavery in the southern part. These two agents in the development of our people moved, as it were, westwardly from the Atlantic Ocean, side by side in the onward course of time, the one in the northern section and the other in the southern section, without any substantial interference for two hundred years. When independence from the British government was agitated on account of burdensome taxation, all the States north and south united in the one common purpose of establishing a free, representative government, separate and apart by themselves, of, for and by the people, and through this union they were enabled to carry on successfully the Revolutionary War, which, after a severe trial of eight years, resulted in their favor.
In 1787 delegates from these several States assembled together for the purpose of formulating a Constitution for their general government and protection as a nation, and in this, they were entirely successful. In the interest of harmony and progress, large concessions were made to the Southern States on the subject of slavery. The two agents, religion and slavery, were able to move along successfully side by side for a number of years afterward by reason of their separation. But as education developed greater notions of liberty and equality, and as steam brought the people of the several sections of the country closer together, and as manufactures and traffic induced them to trade with one another more intimately and more frequently, these two agents began to antagonize each other more and more, and statesmen of the north and of the South anticipated the danger of an inevitable conflict between them. Increasing liberality in religion introduced many improvements, directly and indirectly, amongst the people of the North. Population and wealth increased rapidly over an enlarging area of territory, and these gave the northern section more States and a stronger political influence and power. But slavery was stationary in the South, new political rights were not awakened, progress in any direction was not developed, though new States were erected and political representation was increased to preserve the balance of power between the two agents. After 1850 the extension of slavery on the one hand, and its restriction on the other, became thoroughly national questions and their animated discussion resulted in a terrible struggle for the supremacy. Till this time the South had the general control of political affairs through leadership and legislation. But the Southern statesmen then saw that their political power was in reality passing away through the wonderful growth of the North in population and wealth, and in political representation in the national government. A similar growth could not be effected in the South; so its leaders desired to extend the rights of slavery. This was particularly apparent upon the admission of Kansas as a State. The Republican party - the exponent of restricting slavery to territory then occupied - became an active political factor in the country in 1856; but its Presidential candidate was defeated. Threats of secession by the Southern States had been made about that time, and it was thought that if the Republican party had been successful, secession would have been attempted.
For four years this question was prominent above all other questions. Buchanan preserved the peace during his administration, but he could not preserve the balance of power. Public opinion grew more favorable towards the Republican party, and in 1860 this party appeared before the people with renewed strength. During that time the Democratic party agitated the question of slavery to such an extent that two branches of the party were created, - one, the Douglas branch, for submitting the question to the people of a new State upon its erection; and the other, the Breckenridge branch, for submitting it to the Supreme Court for adjudication under the national Constitution, - and in the Presidential campaign of 1860 their political power was divided. The party was still strong enough, as a whole, to elect a candidate; but it was not strong enough to bear a division, especially such a division as Douglas was able to create by the support which he had won through public discussion. Lincoln, the Republican candidate, was elected. From the sentiments of his party - especially from the sentiments of its ultra-leaders, who were styled "Abolitionists" - the Southern leaders felt constrained to take earnest steps towards secession; and these steps were taken between the day of the election, in November, and the day of Lincoln's inauguration, in March, not only vigorously, but successfully, without the slightest hinderance on the part of the national government. Prominent Cabinet officials, Senators and Representatives withdrew from their respective positions and caused their several States to pass ordinances of secession, declaring the contract between them and the national government broken. When Lincoln took possession of the government, the status was not only discouraging but very alarming. In his inaugural address, he stated that apprehension seemed to exist among the people of the Southern States that, by the accession of a Republican administration, their property, peace and personal security were to be endangered, but that there never had been any reasonable cause for such apprehension; and he declared that he had no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it existed. He had no inclination to do so on the one hand, and on the other he had no lawful right. Those who had nominated and elected him did so with the full knowledge that he had made these declarations, which he had never recanted; and, besides, his party had placed in their platform the clear and emphatic resolution:
"That the maintenance, inviolate, of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions, according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion of the soil of any State or territory by armed force, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."
He then reiterated these sentiments and pressed upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case was susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section were to be in any wise endangered by his administration. Notwithstanding his plain and direct language, to perform the duties of his office according to the Constitution and laws, without any mental reservations or any purposes to construe them by hypercritical rules, and his expressed sentiments for peace and inseparable union of the States, the Southern leaders persisted in secession and disunion; and when he endeavored to protect national property they rose up in arms and committed positive acts of treason.
In April, 1861, Fort Sumter was bombarded from the fortresses and batteries at Charleston in such a furious manner that the commander was forced to surrender it. This was the signal for war, and the people in the North rose with a grand, patriotic impulse to punish the outrage. The President issued a requisition for seventy-five thousand troops, in order to quell the disturbance in the insurrectionary States, and the response was prompt and noble. The national government had not, as yet, done anything to cause the South to feel alarmed, but this hostile demonstration required it to show some positive action towards defending its property and enforcing its laws. The excitement at Reading, as everywhere else in the North, was intense. Captain James McKnight offered his company of Ringgold Light Artillery, and it was the first military organization that responded to the call and moved to the defense of the country. This historical fact is worthy of especial mention, for in it our people take a just, patriotic pride, and it is a distinction in this great crisis of our country which no other community enjoys. It was hoped that this simple manifestation of executive authority would restore peace; but the organization at the South was too thorough, and its purpose to establish, if possible, a confederation by itself, was too premeditated. Men rushed to arms and were forced into dreadful warfare, call after call for troops was made, and thousands of lives were sacrificed, and millions of dollars were expended, in the two sections, for a right, which each claimed, - the one to establish a confederation and the other to maintain constituted authority, - and this terrible contest continued four years before peace was restored.
It is not my purpose to write a history of the war. I simply desire to record the patriotism which our county displayed upon this occasion by narrating the more prominent events which transpired in our community during this period.
PATRIOTISM OF COUNTY.
The feeling here for maintaining the Union and upholding the Constitution was strong and continuous during the entire period from the beginning to the close of the war; and this was exhibited by Democrats and Republicans alike. Breckenridge had received a majority over Lincoln, exceeding two thousand votes, but the sentiment for the Union was general in all our districts, especially at Reading. Companies were raised rapidly and mustered into service - numbering eighty-seven, almost entirely enlisted in and from the county. They went to the rescue freely, moved by the highest patriotic impulse. Public meetings were numerous and earnest sympathy for the cause was manifested at all of them. The prominent men took the lead. Our judges, lawyers and merchants, and business men generally, without respect to party affiliations, united to encourage and sustain the national administration. Their pronounced opinion in the matter created and preserved a proper spirit in the community. The county and city governments were constantly liberal in appropriations of money towards encouraging volunteer enlistments. But the methods of conducting the war received a degree of criticism amounting to condemnation. This was natural from partisans who entertained political opinions opposed to those of the administration in power. A disposition to criticise and condemn was shown even in small local matters; how much more was it to be expected in national matters of such enormous proportions, involving the appropriation of millions of dollars and the exercise of extreme legislative and executive authority over the people! Certain measures, which were resorted to during the progress of the war, such as the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the issue of paper money, the conscription of men for military service, the proclamation of emancipation, the enlistment and enfranchisement of negroes, etc., were particularly objectionable, but they were consequences that were unavoidable under the trying circumstances in which the country was placed; and, if they were not exactly within the letter of the Constitution, the preservation of the country, its property, its government and its people justified them entirely. A national Constitution and all the laws growing out of it could not be paramount, in such an extreme emergency, to national existence, inasmuch as they were particularly designed to preserve it; and this was certainly no time for "sympathizers," - a class of individuals which prevailed here as elsewhere. Further indulgence of the South - after it had taken national property and carried on destructive warfare, and especially after its army had invaded Pennsylvania, not for the purpose of defending its property and political rights, but for the purposes of vengeance, of destroying our property and of jeopardizing the peace and security of our political existence - ceased to be a virtue; and those who were not for the Government were against the Union. These two were one and inseparable. For them extraordinary measures were enacted, not promptly and hastily, but only after much discussion and delay. They were forced upon the people as justifiable war measures.
Our county contained a large majority of people who were against the war, if we interpret their opinion from the exercise of their political suffrage at elections; but they were submissive - they caused no trouble, no riotous demonstration. This reflects great credit upon them as a law abiding community. Our national and State governments, by enactments, required these things of them, and therefore they bore them. They went to the war by the thousand, they endured conscription without opposition and they permitted the assessment of burdensome taxation. They encouraged appropriations of money, amounting to nearly a million of dollars, expressly for the enlistment of men, and they invested large sums of money in the national securities. These, taken together, truly constitute significant evidence of devotion to their country and to the administration of its affairs by an opposite party, - a party whose principles were not only different from theirs, but, in fact, objectionable, if not repulsive, to them. Their general conduct of cooperation under such circumstances is therefore commendable and worthy of this prominent mention.
During this period, the excitement throughout the county was ever active, and several times, when the State was invaded by the revengeful, destructive rebels, and our own county was threatened with the horrors of war, it became alarming. This was particularly the case at Reading. Penn Square was daily, more or less in commotion with the enlistment of men, the formation and exercise of companies and their departure to the seat of war or their return from it. The music of fife and drum and the marching of men - father's, husbands, brothers and sons - thrilled the entire community time and again. These were, indeed, events that made a lasting impression upon that generation. Two encampments - one in the northern part of Reading in 1862, and another in the, eastern part in 1863 - attracted much attention. They afforded the people an opportunity of forming a proper conception of camp-life and military discipline. If our peaceful inhabitants did not realize the actual terrors and horrors of warfare by the booming of cannon, the explosion of shells and the destruction of property in their midst; if they did not see blood and death in their highways and upon their fields as the evidence of bitter opposition and revenge, they saw officers and soldiers in uniforms and witnessed military exercises with the weapons of war, and they knew by their own personal observations that earnest preparations were made for encounters with the enemy. How they looked at these military cities, with tents and streets under strict regulation! how they watched the men in drill, by platoons and companies and battalions! how they pointed out generals and colonels and captains as the men who had been in war and passed safely through the jaws of death! But when the wounded, the dying and the dead were brought home to them, then they felt that the curse of rebellion was in the land. Did they catch the true spirit with these things about them? Yes; they sprang to the rescue, - they either went themselves or urged others to go to preserve the Union, - they raised money and endured burdensome taxation, amounting to the millions; their mothers, wives, and daughters prepared flags for the men, and said, "Go, defend these banners; let not a star be torn away. You have our prayers. Your patriotism must win the crown of victory." With such inspirations our men, as men everywhere, throughout the North, went to this war.
The religious services during this time were intensely interesting. Oh, what praise, what sermons, what tears, what prayers! The souls of this great community in the numerous churches were as one in earnest efforts to win the favor of God, - the God of our fathers who had been blessed in their Revolution and struggle for independence and freedom, - so that the Union could he preserved as it had been transmitted unto them. Every minister was eloquent, and he could well be eloquent upon such a subject with an excited audience before him.
The "Union League," a Republican association at Reading, organized after the great "Union League" at Philadelphia, was very active in enlisting men for military service; and so were the various secret societies, especially the "Junior Sons of America."
In the midst of the great excitement incident to the general feelings for war and the necessary preparations to carry it on successfully, our local energy displayed itself to a remarkable degree in every department of business. Trade was both active and profitable, and it stimulated various enterprises. Railroads were projected and substantial improvements were made in every section of the county, especially at Reading; and matters pertaining to education and religion were directed with earnestness and success, The prices of all kinds of material were high; but money was abundant and a spirit of increased liberality kept it moving about actively from hand to hand, from store to store, from bank to bank and from place to place.
WAR-MEETINGS AND APPROPRIATIONS.
After the election of Lincoln, a sentiment of fear for the preservation of the Union of our several States developed more and more rapidly with each passing day. This was more especially caused by the action of certain Southern States on the subject of secession. This fear obtained at Reading; and in order to express the opinion of this community on the subject of "preserving the integrity of the Union," a large meeting, including prominent men of both political parties, was held in the court-house on December 13, 1860. Hon. John Banks was chosen president. Appropriate resolutions were adopted, favorable to the Union, but particularly recommending non-interference with the rights of property in slaves guaranteed by the Constitution to the Southern States. John S. Richards and Hiester Clymer delivered most effective and highly appreciated speeches.
On the 10th of December (three days before) the Democratic City Club had met and reported a "Memorial to Congress on the State of the Union," prepared by a committee of thirty-three prominent Democrats, in which similar sentiments of non-interference and compromise had been expressed.
In July, 1862, when there was a threatened invasion of Pennsylvania, our people became very much alarmed for the safety of their lives and property. Large and enthusiastic meetings were held in the court-house to devise means for protection. They included all the prominent and influential citizens of Reading, such as Hons. W.J. Woodward, J. Pringle Jones, John Banks, J. Glancy Jones, William M. Hiester and George D. Stitzel, Drs. H.H. Muhlenberg, Diller Luther and C.H. Hunter, and Messrs. Jacob Knabb, J. Lawrence Getz, A.F. Boas, John McManus, G.A. Nicolls, John S. Richards, Isaac Eckert, Levi B. Smith and William M. Baird. Their public expressions were thoroughly patriotic; and, in pursuance of their earnest recommendation, the county commissioners - Paul Wendich, George K. Lorah and Jacob Donahower - offered a bounty of fifty dollars to every officer and private mustered into the service from the county. In September following, the commissioners again offered the same bounty for every volunteer soldier; and the City Councils appropriated ten thousand dollars additional for the purpose of encouraging volunteer enlistments; and in June, 1863, similar meetings were held.
The city of Reading appropriated altogether for war purposes, in bounties, relief, etc., $373,-179, as follows: 1861, $500; 1862, $804; 1863, $2,509; 1864, $258,760; 1865, $110,606. And the County of Berks the sum of $452,389, as follows: 1861, $12,319; 1862, $45,082; 1863, $19,788; 1864, $347,750; 1865, $27,450.
The total amount, for the city and county, was $825,568. Besides this sum, the boroughs likewise appropriated and raised moneys for the same purpose: Kutztown, $16,005 -21; Bernville, $6953.81; Boyertown, ----; Hamburg, ----; Womelsdorf, ----.
LADIES' AID SOCIETY.
The men of our community are presented very prominently in this period of our history. But the women are also worthy of respectful mention for their patriotism. They did not enlist in practical military service; but they gave the national administration a moral support, which is truly praiseworthy. Just as the "Ringgold Light Artillery" were preparing to take the Lebanon Valley railroad train on the afternoon of April 16, 1861, to proceed to Harrisburg in answer to the call of President Lincoln for troops, certain influential ladies of Reading assembled in the parlor of Mrs. Dr. Diller Luther, on Penn Street (No. 530), and formed a society, which they entitled "Ladies' Aid Society." Its object was to supply the soldiers with clothing and materials useful whilst in military service away from home. It was actively engaged during the entire period of the war, collecting and forwarding tons of materials. A "depot" was established at Reading, to which all the goods were carried and from which they were consigned. This was in a small frame building situate on North Fifth Street, No. 116. The country districts were encouraged to cooperate in this benevolent work, and the ladies there responded nobly by forwarding materials to Reading. The meetings of the society were held for a time in the "Pearson Building," No. 432 Penn Street, on the second floor, the room for this purpose having been generously given by Mr. John S. Pearson, free of rent; and afterward in the building occupied by the provost-marshal of this district, No. 520 Penn Street.
This was the first society of the kind organized in the country; and as we take a just pride in having furnished the military company which was the first to respond to the call for troops and to report at Harrisburg for service, so do we take a similar pride in having organized this Ladies' Aid Society, which was the first to take active and successful steps towards providing for the comfort and welfare of the soldiers.
This society participated actively in the matters pertaining to the Sanitary Commission at Philadelphia, and it was represented by a number of ladies at the great "Sanitary Fair," which was held in that city for the purpose of raising funds to relieve the wants of the soldiers.
The officers of the society were Mrs. Rosa C. Nicolls, president; Mrs. Catharine Hause, vice-president; Mrs. Annie H. Muhlenberg, treasurer; Mrs. Maria W. Brooke, secretary.
In July, 1866, a general review of its charitable work was published by the treasurer, Mrs. Annie H. Muhlenberg (widow of the Hon. Henry A. Muhlenberg). It was as follows:
"A statement of money and supplies received and forwarded during the war: -
"Cash received from: -
|Soldiers' Mite Society||181.28|
|State of Pennsylvania for woolen socks||137.32|
|Fairs, exhibitions and concerts||921.47|
|Sanitary Fair for "Berks Co. Kitchen"||305.95|
|" " one day's income||
Estimated donations of clothing, provisions, etc., for Sanitary Fair
|Cash disposed of as follows:|
|To Sanitary Fair||$9,012.00|
|To Soldiers' Orphan Aid Society||683.00|
|To Sanitary Commission||200.00|
|To Christian Commission||200.00|
|To New York Soldiers' Hospital||72.00|
For clothing, provisions; etc., sent to hospitals, etc, whilst armies were in the field
"MRS.: ANNIE H. MUHLENBERG,
"Reading, July 9, 1866."
A "Military Hospital" was fitted up at Reading during the middle of June, 1862, in the main exhibition building of the Agricultural Society, on the "Fair-Ground," with cots sufficient to accommodate one hundred and thirty patients, and successfully conducted till the spring of 1863. The "Ladies' Aid Society" of Reading took an active interest in the welfare of the sick and wounded soldiers, and performed admirable service during the continuance of the hospital. The regularly commissioned surgeons in attendance were Dr. Martin Luther and Dr. John B. Brooke.
DRAFT AND QUOTAS OF BERKS COUNTY. - During the progress of the war, requisitions for troops became so frequent that the government was compelled to resort to the conscription of men for the purpose of enabling it to prosecute the war with success. Numerous volunteers enlisted from Berks County, and the citizens of this district responded nobly to the several calls for troops. But here, as elsewhere, the draft had to be made.
There were four drafts, one in each of the years 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1865. The provost-marshals of this district were, in succession, Henry I. Kupp, Jacob C. Hoff and George W. Durell.
The first draft was conducted in October, 1862. By the following table, the total enrollment of men in the county numbered 17,809; the volunteers, 3,186; and the quota, 2,719. The number of men who volunteered in lieu of draft was 345; and the substitutes who enlisted for three years numbered 146. The total number of men drafted in the county was 1,242. These men were encamped on the "Deininger Farm," adjoining the Evans' Cemetery on the north, formed into companies and placed under the command of Colonel Charles Knoderer. They were mustered into service as the One Hundred and Sixty-seventh Regiment.
A second draft was made August 26 -29, 1863. The quota of men to be furnished by the county was 1,554 - this number having been fifty per cent, in excess to provide against exemptions.
The draft was made on a platform in front of the marshal's office, southwest corner of Fifth and Cherry Streets, Reading, by a blind man (George Phillippi), who was blindfolded in the presence of the following committee of prominent citizens specially appointed to be present upon the occasion:
Charles Kessler, editor of Adler; J. Lawrence Getz, editor of Gazette; Jacob Knabb, editor of Journal; Arnold Puwelle, editor of Beobachter; A.S. Whitman, editor of Times; H.J. Moore, editor of Press; Hon. W.J. Woodward, president judge; H.R. Hawman, county commissioner: Hon. J.S. Hoyer, mayor; Rev. C.A. Pauli; Rev. F.A.M. Keller; Rev. Francis O'Conner; Hon. George D. Stitzel; Hon. S.E. Ancona; Hon. Hiester Clymer; Daniel Ermentrout; Richard Boone; Isaac Eckert; Peter Hoch.
The third draft proposed in March, 1864, for Berks County, was postponed for a time. The quota in the call for two hundred thousand men was 767; the deficiency of the county under former drafts was 298; total number required, 1,065, and the credit of the county on April 15, 1864, for men supplied to the government, 1036. This deficiency of 29 men was more than supplied by re-enlisted veterans. Subsequently, however, in May, a draft was ordered, upon finding a deficiency in certain sub-districts in the county. Each sub-district was required to fill its own quota. The total number drawn was 172.
A call for 500,000 men was made on July 18, 1864. The quota for Berks County was 1887 - for Reading, 450. On August 1st, the deficiency in the county was 1,625 - in Reading 212. A draft was made on September 22nd, but only for one sub-district - Ruscomb-manor, fifty-two men - all the other sub-districts having supplied their deficiencies.
A fourth draft was made February 23 -25, 1865. Reading, Upper Bern, Bernville, Cumru, Douglass, Spring, Upper Tulpehocken, and Womelsdorf had supplied their quota of men by volunteers. The call was made in December, 1864, for 300,000, the quota of which for Pennsylvania was 49,563, and of Berks County, 1560.
NORTHERN MEN IN SERVICE.
The calls, periods of service and number of men obtained during the Civil War from the Northern States were as follows:
Date of Call.
Period of Service.
|April 15, 1861||75,000||3 months||93,326|
|May and July, 1861||582,748||3 years||714,231|
|May and June, 1862||----||3 months||15,007|
|July 2, 1862||300,000||3 years||431,958|
|August 4, 1862||300,000||9 months||87,588|
|June 15, 1863||100,000||6 months||16,361|
|October 17, 1863||300,000||3 years||374,807|
|February 1, 1864||200,000||3 years|
|March 14, 1864||200,000||3 years||284,021|
|April 23, 1864||85,000||100 days||83,652|
|July 18, 1864||500,000||1, 2 and 3 yrs.||384,882|
|December 19, 1864||300,000||1, 2 and 3 yrs.||204,568|
The aggregate number of men furnished by Pennsylvania was three hundred and sixty-six thousand three hundred and twenty-six; reduced to three years' standard, two hundred and sixty-seven thousand five hundred and fifty-eight. It is estimated that during the war fifty-six thousand national soldiers were killed in battle, and about thirty-five thousand died in hospitals of wounds, and one hundred and eighty-four thousand by disease. The total casualties, if we include those who died subsequent to their discharge, were about three hundred thousand. The loss of the Confederates was less in battle, owing to the defensive character of their struggle; but they lost more from wounds and by disease, on account of inferior sanitary arrangements. The total loss of life caused by the Rebellion exceeded half a million of men, and nearly as many more were disabled.
SUMMARY OF BATTLES.
In the four years of service, the armies of the Union -
counting every form of conflict, great and small - had been in twenty-two hundred and sixty-five engagements with the Confederate troops. From the time when active hostilities began until the last gun of the war was fired, a fight of some kind - a raid, a skirmish or a pitched battle - occurred at some point on our widely-extended front nearly eleven times a week, upon an average. Counting only those engagements in which the Union loss, in killed, wounded and missing, exceeded one hundred, the total number was three hundred and thirty. From the northernmost point of contact to the southern-most, the distance by any practicable line of communication was more than two thousand miles. From East to West the extremes were fifteen hundred miles apart. During the first year of hostilities - one of preparation on both sides - the battles were naturally fewer in number and less decisive in character than afterwards, when discipline had been imparted to the troops by drill, and when the materiel of war had been collected and stored for prolonged campaigns. The engagements of all kinds in 1861 were thirty-five in number, of which the most serious was the Union defeat at Bull Run. In 1862 the war had greatly increased in magnitude and intensity, as is shown by the eighty-four engagements between the armies. The net result of the year's operations was highly favorable to the Rebellion. In 1863 the battles were one hundred and ten in number, - among them some of the most significant and important victories for the Union. In 1864 there were seventy-three engagements, and in the winter and early spring of 1865 there were twenty-eight.*
Before the Civil War, it had been the uniform practice of the different States to allow banks to be established for the issue of notes, payable in specie on demand. These banks were established by acts of the local Legislature, which limited the liability of the shareholders. Banking then was quite free, and all individuals could carry it on, provided they pursued the requirements of the law. But under this system there was great fluctuation in value, which produced an unprecedented amount of bankruptcy and ruin. Between 1811 and 1820 many banks became bankrupt; and twenty years afterward another financial panic occurred. The inflation of the bank-notes was wonderful between 1830 and 1837. But just as the amount had then increased, so it decreased during the following six years till 1843; and this caused the ruin of many moneyed institutions. Among them was the Bank of the United States, the renewal of whose charter had been denied by President Jackson.
The loss in the value of stocks and property of all kinds was enormous. But great as the loss was, it was trifling compared with the injury which resulted to society in disturbing the elements of social order and in causing the utter demoralization of men by the irresistible temptation to speculation which it afforded and by swindling to retain riches dishonestly obtained. Another crash took place in 1857.
At the beginning of the war the paper money in circulation amounted to $200,000,000, of which three-fourths had been issued in the Northern or loyal States; and the coin amounted to $275,000,000. The early necessities of the national treasury in this trying period compelled the government to borrow money, and in this behalf, in February, 1862, Congress authorized the issue of treasury notes amounting to $150,000,000, and declared them to be legal tender except for customs duties and for interest on the national debt. This action was taken after a full, if not a bitter, discussion of the question. Its constitutionality was contested vigorously, but unsuccessfully.
A premium on gold naturally followed, causing it to be drawn entirely from circulation, and this increased as the treasury notes multiplied. Then the National Banking system was introduced to supply a circulating medium. This was created on February 25, 1863, and amended June 3, 1864, whereby a Bureau and Comptroller of Currency were appointed in the Treasury Department, with power to authorize banking associations, under certain provisions, for public security. The existing State banks were rapidly transformed into national banks under this system and their previous notes were withdrawn from circulation. The currency of the country in this manner came to consist of treasury demand notes, which in 1865 amounted to $450,000,000, and of national bank notes, which approached the limit of $300,000,000. The latter circulated as freely as the former, because their ultimate redemption was assured by the deposit of an adequate amount in United States bonds at the national treasury. This system was found superior in the protection against loss which it afforded; but it could not prevent a financial crisis from sweeping over the country, especially when other causes, such as excessive manufactures and enormous losses from fire, contributed greatly towards the result.
Congress also authorized small notes for five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents to be issued for the purpose of supplying the loss of the small denominations of coin money from circulation. This was commonly known as "currency." It was all redeemed after the war.
During this period our merchants at Reading issued and circulated for a time their own fractional demand notes for the purpose of encouraging trade amongst one another. But it was gradually redeemed as the national currency was supplied.
"HARRISBURG, April 16, 1861.
"'To Captain James McKnight:
"'Bring your command to Harrisburg by first train. If any of the men need equipments and arms they will be provided here by the General Government. Lose no time.
"By order of the Governor.
"At noon of the same day, forty minutes after the receipt of the order, the command declared itself ready to move at one o'clock P.M.
"A committee having been appointed to make all arrangements for transportation, reported that after conferring with G.A. Nicolls, general superintendent of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, they were advised by him to take the regular passenger train at six o'clock P.M., as a special, being subject to unavoidable delay, would in all probability not reach Harrisburg until after the arrival of the regular train.
"Acting upon this advice, I left Reading with my command, numbering one hundred and one men, fully armed and equipped, on the evening of April 16, 1861, at six o'clock, reaching Harrisburg at eight o'clock."