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History of Camp Curtin


When news of the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter reached Washington on April 14, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. Governor Andrew Curtin also made a plea to the citizens of Pennsylvania to volunteer to help preserve the Union. Almost immediately, men from throughout the state converged on Harrisburg to offer their services and it became apparent that a military camp would have to take control of the grounds of the Dauphin County Agricultural Society, located in what was then the northern outskirts of Harrisburg.

The camp was between Reel's Lane on the north, the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks on the east, Maclay Street on the south and Fifth Street on the west. It was originally to be called Camp Union but when Major (later Brigadier General) Joseph Knipe officially opened the camp on April 18th, he proclaimed it to be Camp Curtin.

Over 300,000 men passed through Camp Curtin, making it the largest federal camp during the Civil War. Harrisburg's location on major railroad lines running east and west, and north and south made it the ideal location for moving men and supplies to the armies in the field. In addition to Pennsylvania regiments, troops from Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and the Regular Army used Camp Curtin.

The camp and surrounding area also saw service as a supply depot, hospital and prisoner of war camp. Harrisburg's strategic importance as a state capital, military camp and railroad center was twice made evident by the Confederacy's attempts to take the city during the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns.

At the end of the war, Camp Curtin was used as a mustering-out point for thousands of troops on their way home. Camp Curtin was officially closed on November 11, 1865, the same date that would become Veterans' Day after the World War I.