As tens of thousands of Confederates threatened to invade southern Pennsylvania in mid-June 1863, Republican Governor Andrew G. Gregg, a staunch ally of President Lincoln, issued a proclamation seeking volunteers to join several proposed regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia for the duration of the emergency. Known colloquially as “Emergency Men,” more than 7,000 volunteers flooded into Harrisburg, enough recruits to form seven full regiments of state militia.
The problem was that the governor had called for 50,000 men, more than seven times the number that actually showed up to serve. Part of the unexpectedly weak turnout was confusion over whether the volunteers would really only serve during the emergency and then would be mustered out back into civilian life, or would they be forced into 3-year regiments? Another factor was the season of the year. It was summer harvest time, and many Pennsylvania farmers and farm workers wanted to stay home and gather their crops and hay. Others had already served in the military and figured they had performed their duty. And, finally, anti-war sentiment was growing in Pennsylvania. Judge George Woodward, a “Copperhead” pro-peace Democrat was gaining support in southern Pennsylvania.
A company of the new 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia had been raised in Hanover from men from the surrounding area as far south as Union Mills, Maryland. They traveled to Harrisburg, mustered in, received their weapons and training, and were soon on a train heading back through Hanover to defend Gettysburg. On a rainy, dismal June 26, west of Gettysburg, they retreated in the face of Jubal Early’ oncoming veteran Rebels. At least 175 of their number, including more than a dozen York Countians, were taken prisoner in separate skirmishes at Marsh Creek, Gettysburg, and the Henry Witmer farm. They were eventually paroled, minus their shoes and equipment.
Years later, the surviving emergency men sought formal pensions as Civil War veterans, much like their counterparts in the longer-term regiments. Here is an article on the subject from the February 6, 1908, issue of the York Daily.