Pennsylvanians who made a difference at Gettysburg
Gov. Andrew Curtin
Born in Bellefonte, Curtin served two terms as Pennsylvania governor from 1861 to 1867. During the Civil War, he organized state reserves into combat units and assisted in building the first Union training camp for soldiers. Curtin strategized with military leaders to delay Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's advance into Pennsylvania. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Curtin worked to establish the national cemetery at the battlefield. A friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln, he was on the platform with the president during the cemetery's Nov. 19, 1863, dedication.
Brig. Gen. John White Geary
Born in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Geary stood 6 feet, 5 inches tall and lived a life just as large. He began his military career during the Mexican War. In 1850, he became San Francisco's first mayor after serving as postmaster. He served as the governor of Kansas Territory. He joined the Union Army as colonel of the 28th Infantry Regiment. Promoted to brigadier general, he commanded the White Star Division of the 12th Army Corps at Gettysburg. After the Civil War, he was elected as the governor of Pennsylvania for two terms.
Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays
A graduate of West Point, Hays served as commander of the Union Army's Third Division, Second Corps at Gettysburg. His men helped break Pickett's Charge on the climactic third day of the battle. Born in Franklin, Hays was a veteran of the Mexican War and served as a civil engineer for the city of Pittsburgh from 1854 to 1860. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Hays became captain in the 16th Pennsylvania and later colonel of the 63rd Pennsylvania.
Maj. Gen. George Meade
Born in Cadiz, Spain, to a Philadelphia family, Meade graduated from West Point and served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican War. At the onset of the Civil War, Meade became brigadier general of Pennsylvania volunteer troops. He took command of the Union Army of the Potomac just three days before the battle of Gettysburg. Though Gettysburg was a Union victory, Lincoln criticized Meade for allowing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to retreat to Virginia after his defeat.
Brig. Gen. Strong Vincent
Born in Erie County, Vincent joined the Union Army with a local regiment and advanced to colonel to command a brigade. On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1862, Vincent learned that Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles, without permission, removed his troops from Little Round Top, leaving the Union left flank undefended. Without receiving official orders, Vincent moved his brigade, which included the fabled 20th Maine, to Little Round Top just before Confederate troops attacked. Vincent suffered a mortal wound. Before he died July 7, he was promoted to brigadier general.
— by Christina Gallagher