Tuesday, December 25, 2012

News: Pennsylvania Reserve Divisions' Grand Army of the Republic Medal

Pennsylvania Reserve Corps Medal

When the commonwealth of Pennsylvania found itself with more volunteers than needed to meet its Federal quota, Governor Curtin decided to retain the extra men and organized, trained, and equipped them at state expense. The creation of the special division was approved by the Pennsylvania legislature on May 15, 1861. Fifteen regiments were formed, known as the 1st through 15th Pennsylvania Reserves (they were later designated the 30th through 44th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but generally retained the label of the Pennsylvania Reserves). 

At the time of the re-designation, many of these units used their designations into middle and late 1862, much confusion arose over the naming convention. Additional naming confusion occurred within the ranks of the reserves. The 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (42nd Pennsylvania Volunteers) was additionally named the 1st Pennsylvania Rifles. Although better known as the "Bucktails," this regiment became officially known as the First Rifles. T he same can be said regarding the 14th and 15th Pennsylvania Reserves (43rd and 44th Pennsylvania Volunteers), which officially were designated as the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery and the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, respectively.

The regiments were grouped into a division of three brigades, and the entire unit normally fought together until the initial enlistments expired in 1864. The exceptions to this include the 2nd Brigade, most of which did not take part at Gettysburg, as it was assigned to the Washington, D.C., defenses, and the detachment of several artillery batteries and cavalry troops to other divisions.

Additionally, upon the muster out of service of the regiments composing the Reserve Corps, a large number of veterans and recruits, whose term had not expired, still remained. These were collected and organized into two new regiments, designated as the 190th and 191st Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers.

A number of the surviving members met in Philadelphia on July 3, 1866, and resolved to form a permanent organization, calling a meeting for that purpose at Lancaster, Pa,. September 11, 1866, when they formally organized and elected Governor Andrew G. Curtin, President. The object of the Society is: "To cherish the memories, perpetuate the friendships, and continue the associations formed in the field."  This medal was created after the war by the veterans of this organization.

Only two original Pennsylvania Reserve Corps medals are know to exist. One is on display at the US ARMY Heritage Center in Carlisle, PA and the other is in the possession of a Past National Commander-in-Chief, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. This medal belonged to his great-grandfather, Corporal William Henry Harrison Ogden, Sr., Company B, 4th PA Reserve, and this recreation is inscribed on the back in memory of Corporal Ogden.

This recreation of an authentic period piece was done by Civil War Recreations.

Text and image is provided by Marty Neaman, a member of the Ninth Pennsylvania Reservers reenactment unit.  Neaman received the reproduction medal for supervising the raising of $16,000 in 2012 for the replacement of ACW veterans' gravestones in the Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, Pennsylvania.

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