George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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-speaking of the civil war, but if it was so then, it is none the less, historically, so
flow, and in giving Allegheny County's history during that period it is proper to
<;onsider it just as the mass of citizens of the county regarded it then, otherwise
the record would not be historic, for history should not only give the acts, but the
|)revailing opinions which caused the action of the time.

While the people of Allegheny County regarded the attempt of the Southern
States to secede from the Union as rebellion, they sympathized with the people of
those States as individuals, in the suffering into which they were plunged by the
sophistries and ambitions of their leaders. They had but one feeling, however,
toward the act of secession itself. They regarded it as a political crime of great
caagnitude, inasmuch as it not only contemplated the dissolution of the Union,
l)ut intended as a means to perpetuate the great national sin of slavery. In the
light of subsequent events, there is no question as to the violation of the spirit of
the Bill of Rights and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence in the
continuation of the individual bondage in which the African race was held, and
the outrages enacted on humanity through its existence.

For many years before the sentiment of Allegheny County had been opposed
to the sin, and when for its continuance the crime of dissolving the Union was to
be resorted to, the voice of the people could have but one expression, to be loyal
to their own convictions.

It was not, however, toward the individual citizens of the Southern States that
their indignation was aroused, but against the political crime in itself and those
who, to further their own ambitions, led the masses into the miseries of the war.
However kindly they felt toward the people of the South in their individualities,
or deplored the breaking of personal friendships or business relations, they were
too decided in their loyalty toward the Union, too clear in their convictions as to
the political crime the Southern leaders contemplated, to have any hesitation as
to their duty to the Federal government, without regard to any previous party
affiliations. This representation of the sentiment of the people of Allegheny
County at that time is not drawn from a review of the occurrences of that day,
but is an expression of one who, from position, was well informed of nearly all,
and probably all, the public and private movements in Allegheny County dur-
ing the civil war, and, consequently, cognizant of the general public sentiment
•of the day.

While the public mind was in that intense anxiety subsequent to the stopping
of the cannon, the news of the firing on Fort Sumter was received at Pittsburgh,
on Monday, April 15th, 1861.



An immense mass meeting was held at City Hall, at which the following reso-
lutions, prepared by John W. Kidell, City Solicitor, were read by Thomas J^
Bigham •

Whereas, The national governnent is now seriously menaced by traitors in
arms, who have defied its just authority, raised the standard of revolt, and by
hostile acts of war disturbed the public tranquility, and endangered the public
peace; and

Whereas, In an exigency like the present it is the duty of all loyal and patri-
otic American citizens, casting aside the trammels of party, to aid the constituted
authorities in maintaining inviolate the supremacy of the constitution and the
laws, therefore

Resolved, By the people of Allegheny County in general mass meeting assem-
bled, that we deem the present a fit occasion to renew our obligations of undying
fealty to that government and that union which we have been taught to regard
and revere as the palladium of our liberties at home and our honor abroad ; and
in their defence and support, by whomsoever assailed, we will endeavor to prove
ourselves worthy sons of patriotic sires.

Resolved, That we specially approve of the course of the Legislature and ex-
ecutive branches of our State government, in promptly responding to the call of
the President of the United States for men and means to sustain and protect the
National Government at this crisis in its history, and that Allegheny County will
contribute her full quota of both to vindicate its authority.

Resolved, That discarding all political or partizan considerations in this hour of
our country's danger, we mutually pledge to each other as American citizens for
the common defence, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honors.

Resolved, That a committee of one hundred citizens be appointed by the Chair
as a Committee of Public Safety to see that the patriot cause receives no detriment
in this region, and to convene the people whenever in their judgment such a step
is necessary.

The Committee of Public Safety called for in the resolutions was appointed as
follows :

William Wilkins,

Wm. J. Morrison,
James P. Barr,
Wm. F. Johnston,
Dr. Geo. McCook,
John Marshall,
T. J. Bigham,
Joseph Dilworth,
Charles Barnes,
David Fitzsimmons,
C. L. Magee,
John Harper,
Andrew Miller,
James Park, Jr.,
C. H. Paulson,
Alexander Nimick,
N. P. Fetterman,
John D. Scully,
Dr. Geo. S. Hays,
Benjamin Coursin,

Eussell Errett,
J. H. Foster,
Charles McKnight,
William Neeb,
John D. Bailey,
John W. Bidden,
James A. Sewell,
William M. Lyon,
Thomas Bakewell,
W. J. Howard,
Sol. Schoyer, Jr.,
J. P. Pears,
E. Miller, Jr.,
H. L. Bingwalt,
George W. Wilson,
James Reese,
J. W. Barker,
E. H. Patterson,
W. K. Nimick,
George Gallop,
A. Nicholson,

W. S. Lavely,
Wm. Caldwell,
Ed. Simpson,
Dr. Jas. King,
John J. Dravo,
Jos. E. Hunter,
W. M. Hersh,

C. B. Bostwick,
Nat. Holmes, Jr.,
Samuel Eiddle,
John Scott,
Francis Sellers,

D. S. Stewart,
H. A. Weaver,

E. H. Hartley,
J. E. Murphy,
Geo. W. Irwin,
John M. Irwin,
Wm. C. Barr,
Jas. Floyd,
Alex. Moore,

E. P. Jones,
P. C. Shannon,
E. D. Gazzam,
Geo. P. Hamilton,
Thos. M. Marshall,
J. E. T. Nobb,
Henry McCullough,
Jas. A. Hutchinson,
Joshua Ehodes,
James Verner,
John N. Tiernan,
Thomas S. Blair,
Samuel McKelvy,
John N. McClowry,
G. L. B. Fetterman,
Max. K. Moorhead,
George W. Cass,
Walter H, Lowrie,
Dr. S. Dilworth,
David Irwin,
And. Burke,



John Mackin,
A. G. Lloyd,
John J. Muse,
W. Bagalevj
T. M. Howe,
C. W. Kicketson,
Joseph Kaye,
J. B. Poor,
T. S. Rowley,
James Herdman,
Andrew Scott,
S. H. Keller,
David E. Bayard,
J. E. McClintock,
James Kelly,
James Salsbury,
William Martin,

Jas. R. Hartley,
W. G. McCartney,
John Atwell,
M. I. Stewart,
Robert B. Guthrie,
Hugh McAfee,

Wm. Robinson, Jr., Wm. B. Holmes,
William Bishop, D. D, Bruce,
Harry Wainwright, Will A. Lare,
Wm.'H. McGee, Robert Finney,
T. J. Gallagher, , Alex. L Russell,
Thomas Steel, '' N. P. Sawyer,

David F. McKee, Samuel Rodgers,

William Philips, Alfred Slack,

William M. Edgar, C. Zug,

Dr. L. Oldshue, John Birmingham,

Dr. Geo. L. McCook, John Wright,

Robert McElhern, John McDonald,

Frederick Collier, Wm. Barnhill, Jr., Hugh Kane,

Thos. B. Hamilton, William Owens, Samuel Cameron,

Archibald McBride, J. M. Brush,

Andrew Fulton, Robert Morrow,

William Simpson, J. M. Killen,

Alexander Hilands, C. McGee,

George A. Berry, Col. Leopold Sahl,

Dr. Wm. M. Simcox, John Graham,

Alexander Speer, Wm. Holmes,

Henry Hays,

Adams Getty,

Edward Gregg,

John Dunlap,

John C. Dunn,

John Brown,

John E. Parke,

B. F. Jones.

William Carr,
James Bennv, Jr.,
J. B. Canlield,
H. L. Bollman,

R. J. Grace,
Joseph Woodwell,
John McDevitt,
James B. Murray,
James McAuley,

Daniel Negley,
William Woods,
Geo. H. Thurston,
Edw. Campbell, Jr.,
Wm. H.Smith,
A. W. Loom is,
William Wade,
J. P. Penny.

A sub-committee was appointed, consisting of William Wilkins, Thos. Bake-
w^ell & Son, Thos. M. Howe, to prepare an address to the people of Western Penn-
sylvania. On the succeeding day the Committee of Public Safety met for organ-
ization, when Hon. Thos. M. Howe read the following address, which he stated,
had been prepared by his colleague Thos. Bakewell :

" To THE Citizens of Western Pennsylvania :
" Friends and Fellow Citizens :
"An unexpected emergency has arisen. That Constitution foimed ly the
wisdom of our forefathers, that liberty established by their labors, that indepen-
dence sealed and sanctioned by their life blood, are menaced, not by the hos-
tility of foreign enemies, but by the reckless ambition of domestic traitors and
aspiring demngogues, who have long partaken of the blessing of our free gov-
ernment, and enjoyed their full proportion of its emoluments and privileges.
Their unhallowed passions have plunged our beloved country into the horrors
of a civil war, and have in some measure exposed our homes, our families, and
our firesides, to the desecration and ruin of hostile incursions. Under these alarm-
ing circumstances this committee has been organized, not to supercede the
action of ordinary tribunals, not to interfere wiihthe exercise of judicial power,
but to aid the constituted authorities of our land in the preservation of the
public peace, the protection and support of those whose natural defenders may
be absent on the call of patriotic duty ; and if need be (which may God forbid),
to report for judicial action all persons who, false to every dictate of duty and
patriotism, may secretly contribute that aid and comfort to the enemy which they
will not dare publicly to acknowledge.


" Diversified as may be our business avocations, our national predilection,
our religious opinions, or our political sentiments on this momentous subject we
address you, not as farmers or manufacturers, or merchants or lawyers ; not as
Irishmen, or Germans, as Englishmen, or Welshmen ; not as Catholics or Pro-
testants : not as Democrats or Republicans; but as citizens, as Americans and
Pennsylvanians : and as such we call upon you to unite as one man in the sup-
port of those glorious institutions under which our country has attained a
growth and prosperity unequalled in the past history of the world. Let your
young men advance to meet the threatening invaders, your old citizens organize
for the defence of their domestic hearths. Let ample provision be made for the
support of the families of those patriots who may leave home and its pleasures
for the stern duties of the tented field. Let a spirit of mutual forebearance and
charity prevail. Losing sight of all minor differences in the great object of our
country's salvation, and above all, relying on the justice of our cause, let us
unite in the determination to transmit to posterity the inestimable blessing of
liberty received from our ancestors, in calm yet earnest dependence upon the
support and approval of Him who rules the nations with His rod, and without
whose notice not a sparrow falls to the ground."

The hand that penned this admirable appeal has for years been dust. Living
to see transmitted " to posterity the inestimable blessing of liberty received from
our ancestors," he bore his share in the labors and sacrifices of the hour, in the
same spirit that prompted the words of the address.

The address was received with loud demonstrations of applause, unanimously
adopted and ordered published with the names of the whole committee attached, and
to be read from the pulpits of the various churches on the following Sunday, and once
in each of the public schools. The general committee then proceeded to organize
with the following officers and sub-committees : Pesident, Hon. William Wilkins;
Vice Presidents, Thos. M. Howe, Hon. William F. Johnston, William Bagaley,
John Birmingham, James P. Barr, Gen. George W. Cass. Secretaries, William
M. Hersh, John W. Eidell, George H. Thurston, William Woods, Joseph E.
Hunter, Thomas B. Hamilton. Treasurer, James McAuley. Finance Committee,
Eeuben Miller, Jr., B. F. Jones, M. K. Morehead, W. J. Morrison, James A.
Hutchinson, W. S. Bissell. Executive Committee, which was ordered to sit in
permanent session and, by a secretary, keep a record of its proceedings, William
T. Johnston, Thos. M. Howe, Jas. M. Park, Jr., George P. Hamilton, Thos. S,
Blair, Jas. H. Sewell, Jas. McAuley, Jas. B. Murray, William M. Lyon, Thos.
Steele, Wm. R. Brown, Jas. Herdman, John R. McCune, Chas. W. Batchelor, Wm.
M. Shinn, Wm. Phillips, B. C. Sawyer, A. C. Alexander, John Harper, Wm.
Robinson, Jr., W. K. Nimick, Jas. M. Cooper, Francis Felix, Francis Sellers,
Felix R. Brunot, Thos. Bakewell, Jas. A. Hutchinson, Henry McCullough, J. E.
Parke, Reuben Miller, Jr., Edward Gregg, Geo. W. Cass, Wm. J. Morrison, Isaac
Jones, M. Swartzwelder, Wm. Coleman, Dr. Geo. McCook, Sr., P. C. Shannon, E.
H. Stowe, Wm. Wilkins, Jas. P. Barr, B. F. Jones, F. J. Bigham, Geo. H. Thurs-


ton, John Myler, Jas. P. Tanner, Samuel M. Wickersliam, Joseph French, Robert
Ashworth, Samuel Eiddle, John M. Tiernan.

The Executive Committee organized with Hon. Wm. F. Johnston as chairman,
and selected Geo. H. Thurston from its members for its secretary. A committee
of Home Defence was also organized, consisting of P. C. Shannon, chairman ;
John M. Tiernan, secretary ; Jas. Park, Jr., Wm. Phillips, C. L. Magee, T. J,
Bigham, John Birmingham, Samuel Eiddle, Col. Ed. Simpson, Thos. M. Marshall.
John Harper.

Also a committee on Transit of Munitions of War. Joseph Dilworth, chair-
man ; Eobert Finney, secretary ; Dr. E. D. Gazzam, Dr. Geo. McCook, Sr., Dr. J.
R. McClintock, Henry Hays, Dr. Fundenburg, W. H. Smith, W. M. Hersh.

Also a committee on Support of Volunteers not yet Accepted by the Govern-
ment. William Holmes, chairman ; Joshua Rhodes, Alex. Speer, W. J. Howard,
E. H. Patterson, John W. Eiddle, Samuel McKelvey, Dr. Gallaher.

Also a committee for the Aid of the Families of Volunteers. Thos. Bakewell,
chairman; G. L. B. Fetterman, secretary; Josiah King, John P. Pears, W. B.
Holmes, John M. Irwin.

The several committees were directed to report daily to the Executive Com-
mittee, and be governed by their advice and directions. For several months the
Executive Committee was in continuous session day and nighty having been divided
into sub-committees of three, who were in session three hours each, reporting each
day to the whole meeting of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee
continued to perform their duties through the war. Those duties were various
and onerous and at times delicate, and the Committee did not finally disolve until
1874 when at a meeting held, March 28th, at the office of Gen. Thos. M. Howe,
for the purpose of disposing of the papers of the committee, and finally closing its
business, Geo. H. Thurston, its secretary, was, by resolution, instructed to examine
its books and papers, and make a report upon the same with any suggestions that
might occur to him. On the 9th of December, Mr. Thurston made a report which
was accepted, and he was directed to seal up such books and papers as were of
record and make some safe disposition of them for posterity, and the Committee
adjourned sine die, the General Committee of Public Safety having ceased to act
at the close of the war. «

From that report the following extract is made, as exhibiting briefly, not
only the scope of the committee's action, but also the spirit that governed them
in the performance of many matters that came before them in the two first
years of the war. Says the report : " There were three divisions to the actions
of the committee. The first extended from April 18th to Sept. 16th, 1861, from
which latter date until Sept. 4th, 1862, no meetings were held, or if held its pro-
ceedings for reasons were not recorded. From September 4th, 1862 until April 28,
] 863, is recorded as the second series of the sessions of the Committee. The third
series of its sessions were from June 15th to July 4th, 1863, held while the city was
being fortified during the invasion of Pennsylvania by the rebel army under Gen.


Lee. The action of these latter sessions were rather those of the Committee of
Public Safety, and the citizens generally, under the direction of the officers of the
-executive committee, and as such their proceedings were daily published in the
papers of the city, instead of being recorded in the minute book of the Executive
Ciommittee, being deemed to be the action of the general public. The records of
the action of the Executive Committee preserved in its minute book, is that of
the two first series of its sessions. The first of those sessions from April 1 8th to
September 16th, 1861, is the period of time in which the more delicate duties of
the Committee were performed, and when the attendance was confined to the im-
mediate and original members. The second series from Sept. 4th, 1862 to April
28th, 1863, were participated in by members of other committees, created by the
General Committee of Public Safety, as the sessions indicate. Its actions were
confined during those sessions within those dates, to the raising of volunteers, the
procuring of arms, the formation of camps, and the organizing of Home Defense
Troops. The last recorded meeting of the Executive Committee as a close com-
mittee, being, as before stated, on April 28th, 1863, when action was taken to for-
ward citizen troops to Brownsville to meet the rebel raid into Morgantown.

" At the period of the formation of the Executive Committee of the Committee
of Public Safety of Allegheny County the people were placed in a position with-
out precedent in the history of the nation.

"It was evidently forecasted in the minds of the members of the Executive
•Committee that there might be duties to perform, actions to be taken, and matters
to consider which it were well should be kept within the knowledge of its own
members, and therefore at its first meeting the following resolution was passed
and adopted:

^^ Resolved, That this committee sit with closed doors, and that its proceedings
shall be secret and confidential until otherwise ordered.

"The resolution remains in force, it never having been otherwise ordered, only
so far as relates to some few resolutions that were thought advisable to publish in
the papers of the day.

" It was the impression among the members when ten years ago the records
were placed in a safe depository by the secretary that there were those records on
the minutes and in the papers of the committee not prudent to be known to the
public, which by injudicious persons or personal enemies might be used to the
injury of fellow-citizens or the members of the committee. This impression
seems to have been derived more from their memory of things not recorded than
from records made, and from recollections of discussions had on questions before
them for decision.

" While Sve come to bury Caesar, not to praise him,' yet I may fitly say without
offence, that the wisdom with which the duties of the various committees were
performed so as to conserve the good of all without injury to any, seems to have
held censorship over its minutes, which show no record of aught injurious to the
reputation or interest of any. Only such action as indicated the precautions taken


to subserve the public good having been recorded, leaving to the burial of forget-
fulness in happier days, any and all criminations and aspersions, arising from the-
unnatural, political, and social relations in which the peculiarities of the times-
temporarily placed citizens of the same community. From the same governing
motives no papers have been preserved, other than those necessary to the explan-
ation of the resolutions adopted, or sub-committees created, all of which are
honorable to those named therein. It had been thought, and it had always been
brooding in the mind of your secretary, that if on examination the records were^
such as rendered it well they should not be left for public criticism and animad-
version, in the days when they who were of the committee should have ceased to
be, that some brief history of the committee and its action should be made for
posterity. One object of the duty which was assigned to your secretary, in March
last, was to this end. An examination of the papers and records of the committee^
shows that they may as they stand fitly, as its best history, pass down to posterity
unchanged and unexpurgated, as a monument of patriotic duties assiduously per-
formed, without a scar to personal reputation, or a suspicion to haunt, like a ghostly
shadow, an individual name. The times in which the committee was created, the
circumstances by which its members were surrounded, the grave duties they were
called upon to perform, renders the action of the body an episode in the history of
the country and of Allegheny County.

" In the records of this committee, and in the journals of the day, will be found
all those proudest of its membership could desire. The records of the committee
fully indicate the part borne by the members in the discharge of its duties. That
record of all records, the newspapers of those days, have frequent and honorable
mention of the names of all the members of this committee serving in prominent
and arduous performance of public duties demanded by the times.

"To what the minutes and the journals of the day bear testimony in the daily
recital of the labors performed by the various members, their reports, their ad-
dresses to the public, their appeals to the patriotism of the people, their speeches
to the troops, their subscriptions to patriotic funds, there is no word to be added,

"It were best there should not be. In themselves the photograph of the hour^
no invidious distinctions are made, no personal partiality swerves the pen, but each
passes down to posterity dressed in that garb of duty, in that attitude of public
service in which the hour found him."

Eecurring to the point of the formation of the Committee of Public Safety^
from whence a digression was necessary to present its history correctly, the records
show that on the 15th of April, 1861, recruiting began for the troops for the
army, and on the 17th a company called "The Turner Guards" left for Harris-

At the second meeting of the Committee of Public Safety Hon. P. C. Shannon
offered a resolution that each ward, borough and township in the county of Alle-
gheny be requested to form a company of not less than fifty men for home de-
fense; that this organization, for the present, be merely a volunteer one, nol


•subject to any other authority than that of the Committee of Public Safety, it
being proposed that this organization "shall be the nucleus for future recruits for
the public service of the country."

Under this plan of action companies were quickly formed. These companies
were armed and equipped from a fund contributed by the banks, through the
efforts of John Harper, president of the Bank of Pittsburgh, and also a member
of the Home Guard Committee. He was the custodian of the fund, and disbursed
it for the purposes for which it was contributed. On the 4th of July, 1861, a
parade of the Home Guard companies, under the command of Major General
William Wilkins, was had for inspection and review, the following companies
ibeing in line : Union Cavalry, thirty-five men ; Mattern Guards, fifty men ; Howe
Infantry, sixty-five men; U. S. Zauave Cadets, twenty-eight men; Koener Guards,
sixty-two men ; Bagaley Guards, forty men ; Kensington Guards, forty-eight men ;
Second Ward Home Guard, sixty-seven men ; Ricketson Guards, fifty men ; East
Xiberty Home Guards, fifty men ; Glenwood Home Guards, forty men ; Swissvale
Home Guards, fifty- three men; Wilkinsburg Home Guards, fifty-eight men;
Braddock's Field Home Guards, fifty-four men ; Oak Hill Guards, forty-eight
men; Oakland Guards, thirty-eight men; Versailles Guards, forty-two men; Penu
Township Home Guards, sixty-six men ; Keystone Rifles, forty men ; Seventh
Ward Home Guards, thirty-two men; Sharpsburg Rifles, eighty-five men; First
Ward Allegheny Rifles, sixty-five men ; Shannon Rifles, forty men ; Arsenal Rifles
thirty men : Allegheny Zouaves, thirty-two men ; Stueben Guards, forty men ; Har-
per Zouaves, fifty men; Fort Pitt Artillery, thirty -six men; Leet Guards, thirty-
eight men ; Allegheny Grays, sixty men ; Anderson Infantry, thirty-six men ;
Twin City Rangers, forty-two men ; Madison Guards, sixty men ; Duquesne Guards,
fifty -six men ; Duquesne Cadets, twenty-eight men ; Shaler Home Guards, sixty
men ; Keystone Home Guards, forty-two men ; Duquesne Home Guards, thirty-
six men ; Third Ward Home Guards, fifty-two men ; Allegheny Zouave Cadets,

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 9 of 43)