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Gettysburg unveils statue of Mt. Pleasant-native general

By Michael Cope
Monday, Aug. 13, 2007
 

Brig. Gen. John White Geary -- a Mt. Pleasant native, Civil War general and governor of Pennsylvania -- was honored in a dedication Saturday that was nearly 100 years in the making.

"He was known as the most romantic figure in Pennsylvania history," said Sheldon Munn, the president of the Harrisburg Civil War Round Table, said of a man who was a general in two wars and played major roles in the history of three states.

Munn welcomed speakers and guests including 26 members of the Mt. Pleasant Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution to Gettysburg on Saturday for a dedication program for Geary at Culp's Hill, a crucial part of the battlefield.

That former governor was honored by Gov. Edward Rendell at the dedication.

"This is something that should have been done 100 years ago," Rendell said of the Geary monument, which was erected 92 years ago without a dedication ceremony.

"He truly was a man who gave his all to the United States of America and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Rendell said, adding that it was also a good day to honor the current members of the military serving overseas as Pennsylvania is rich in military history as far back as when the Marine Corps and the Navy were both formed in Philadelphia.

"We should all be proud of men like Gen. Geary," Rendell said.

Charles Fennell Jr., a Gettysburg licensed battlefield guide and historian, said Culp's Hill was where Geary fought on July 3, 1863, leading his 1,400 men against 5,000 Confederate soldiers.

"Geary's men held the hill," Fennell said, adding that Geary's account stated that 277,000 bullets were shot during that battle from 3,000 rifles and 900 Confederates were buried by Geary's men.

"Those men fought longer on the front lines than any other man wearing blue," Fennell said.

Brig. Gen. John White Geary was born in Mt. Pleasant on Dec. 30, 1819.

The significant events in his life included his role in the founding of the American Highlanders, C. B. 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, which he commanded during the Mexican War. He was the first United States commandant of Mexico City, the first postmaster and then the first mayor of San Francisco in 1850, and led in the formation of the California Constitution. He served as territorial governor of the Kansas Territory in 1856 but resigned because of his unpopular anti-slavery beliefs before returning to Pennsylvania.

Wounded more than six times during the Civil War, Geary went on to serve two terms as governor of Pennsylvania from 1867 to 1873.

As governor, Geary invested heavily in education, social programs, a war orphan's system, compensation assistance to citizens who lost property during the Confederate invasion, mine safety legislation and began the fight for compulsory school education.

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