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Andrew Gregg Curtin


AMONG the loyal governors of the Northern States during the rebellion, none were placed in circumstances requiring greater watchfulness, or more prompt and decisive action, than the patriotic Governor of Pennsylvania, and none fulfilled their high trust with greater fidelity and loyalty.

ANDREW GREGG CURTIN was the son of Rowland Curtin, and was born in Bellefonte, Centre county, Pennsylvania, April 2d, 1817. The inhabitants of his native county were mostly engaged in the manufacture of iron, though agriculture was by no means neglected there. The elder Curtin was a noted iron manufacturer for forty years, in Centre county, where he accumulated a large estate, and left his children an ample fortune. The mother of Governor Curtin was a daughter of Andrew Gregg, of British war fame, a Representative in Congress and United States Senate from 1807 to 1813, and one of the supporters of Jefferson and Madison.

Young Curtin was educated in Milton, Northumberland county, where he was one of the pupils at the academy of the Rev. J. Kirkpatrick. After obtaining a good rudimental education he was placed in the law office and law school of Judge Reed, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At this time the school formed a portion of Dickinson college, and Judge Reed was esteemed the best lawyer in Pennsylvania.

During the year 1839, Andrew G. Curtin was admitted to the bar, and began the practice of his profession in Bellefonte. He was very successful, and transacted a large and varied practice in the courts of the neighboring counties. Like most lawyers, he took a great interest in politics, and attached himself to the Whig party of the period. He was actively engaged, during 1840, in promoting the election of General Harrison as President of the United States; and in 1844 stumped the State in support of Henry Clay—being always successful in collecting an audience on the shortest notice.

Mr. Curtin was placed on the electoral ticket for 1848, and again travelled through his native State, advocating the election of General Zachary Taylor. In 1852, he supported the nomination of General Scott, was placed on the electoral ticket, and worked arduously in his behalf. Indeed, in all his political actions, he took the side of what were known as the Pennsylvania Whigs.

During the year 1854, Mr. Curtin was very earnestly requested by the voters of the centre of Pennsylvania to accept the nomination for Governor of the State, but refused, receiving instead, the chairmanship of the State Central Committee. He was afterward appointed, by Governor Pollock, State Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Secretary Curtin devoted a great deal of his attention to common schools, and to the question of public improvements. After his retirement from the State secretaryship, he again devoted himself to the practice of the law, and was very active in the extension of railroad facilities through the centre of the State.

Mr. Curtin accepted the nomination for Governor of the State of Pennsylvania in 1860; was elected in October of that year, and was formally inaugurated January 15th, 1861. The country was then becoming distracted by the first movements of the rebellion, and Governor Curtin soon began to make preparations to support the United States Government. On April 9th, he sent a message to the State Legislature, recommending that measures be immediately adopted to remedy the defects in the militia system of the State. The legislative committee reported a bill for that purpose, and three days after, it became a law.

The excitement attending the fall of Sumter requiring speedy legislative action, the recently adjourned Legislature was again convened, on April 30th, under Governor Curtin's proclamation of April 20th. Volunteers were called for by the United States Government, and through Governor Curtin's energy, the first regiment that entered the national capital, for its defence, was the 25th Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Cake. The Legislature provided for the raising of a reserve corps, and when the three years' volunteers were called for, Pennsylvania was ready to send a full division at once into the field. This Pennsylvania Reserve Corps did great honor to the State and extraordinary service to the nation. General Reynolds, who fell on the first day at Gettysburg, was one of its commanders, and Major-General Meade, afterward commander of the Army of the Potomac, another.

The territory of Pennsylvania was threatened, and its border invaded, in September, 1862, before the battle of Antietam; but the movements of the rebels, in June and July, 1863, when several of its towns were plundered and burned, its capital and its chief city threatened, and one of the bloodiest battles of the war fought, for three days, in one of its towns, created great alarm among its inhabitants, and it required all Governor Curtin's self possession, calmness, and executive ability, to re-assure his people and organize them for resistance to the invaders.

His executive powers were again called into exercise in the summer of 1864, when the south-eastern part of the State was invaded again by the rebels, and great destruction of property resulted. Governor Curtin was re-elected in 1863, and continued in office till January, 1867. After his retirement, he was actively engaged in business, but during campaign of 1867-1868 he did good service for the Republican party as a speaker, in New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut. He was strongly pressed as a candidate for the vice-presidency at the Chicago Convention, in May, 1868, but the current being evidently in favor of Mr. Colfax, he caused his name to be withdrawn.

In 1869, soon after President Grant's inauguration, he was appointed United States Minister to the Russian Court, and has fulfilled the duties of that important mission with great dignity and ability. The Catacazy difficulty at one time threatened to mar the harmony which had so long existed between the two nations, but it was fortunately settled most amicably through the admirable management of the American minister.


Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872  

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