One of the classroom assignments I recall as a child growing up in southeastern Ohio was a task to write a brief letter to the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. I penned a few lines, but I honestly don’t recall what I said — probably something along the lines of “have a nice day, Mr. President,” and “greetings from Ohio.” I have no clue if our teacher even mailed the letters, as we never heard anything back from the White House.
Back in the spring of 1863, a group of patients and staff members at the U.S. Army Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, got together and passed a series of resolutions avowing their support for the war effort. The cover letter was signed by the three-man executive committee. However, due to military protocol, it could not be mailed until endorsed by the senior post commander and sent up the command chain.
Here is the text of that letter from York sent so long ago to a man who at the time was embroiled in controversy as the “Copperhead” movement gained momentum, threatening to forever split the Union.
On Saturday April 4, 1863, an executive committee of patients at the U.S. Army Military Hospital on Penn Commons in York drafted a letter to the President of the United States. They outlined a series of resolutions the men had passed, declaring their allegiance to the war policies and general course of the war. Endorsed two days later by Dr. Henry Palmer, the surgeon in charge of the facility, the letter was delivered to Lincoln. It now resides in the Library of Congress’s collection of images of Lincoln’s letters and correspondence. It is the only letter I have found written to the President from York’s hospital, although there may be more.
The text follows:
His Excellency Abraham Lincoln
President of the United States
Enclosed we send to your Excellency a copy of the proceedings and resolutions passed and adopted by a Union meeting held in the Mess Room of the United States Military Hospital York, Penn. On Thursday evening April 2nd. We congratulate your Excellency and through you the country at large upon the continued and unbroken Union feeling prevailing among our gallant soldiers notwithstanding the exertions made on the North by corrupt and unscrupulous politicians to divide them in sentiment. With the expression of the sincere hope that this wicked and unprovoked rebellion may soon be brought to an termination and peace, happiness, and prosperity speedily restored we subscribe ourselves your Excellency’s obedient servants.
Geo. W. McElroy
Back of page
U.S. A. General Hospital
April 6, 1863
Approved and respectfully forwarded.
Surgeon, U.S. A.
in charge of hospital
George W. McElroy likely was a patient in the hospital. Several men by that name served in Union regiments that were known to have sent patients to the hospital, although I have not positively identified which was this G. W. McElroy.
Victor Rudloff was a veteran soldier, a Regular Army man who served as a steward in the hospital reporting to Dr. Palmer. Information on him is sketchy.
Alexander F. McCrone was a 35-year-old lieutenant in McGowan’s Independent Company, Patapsco Guards, which was a Maryland infantry unit that served for most of the war as the provost guards for the York hospital. A native of Ellicott Mills, Maryland, McCrone worked with his father in a foundry along the Patapsco River before the war. Married with seven children, after the war he moved to Harrisburg and worked in a nail factory. He died in 1909 at the age of 81 and is buried in East Harrisburg Cemetery.
These men were among the guards and staff members who were present during the Gettysburg Campaign less than three months after the letter was mailed. On Saturday, June 27, the guards and more than 100 ambulatory patients were taken by train to Wrightsville where they served in the southern-facing trenches. There, they dueled with some of John Gordon’s Georgians in the Skirmish of Wrightsville.