Harrisburg's Civil War importance as a transportation center and state capital became strikingly clear upon the fall of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, in April of 1861 when President Abraham Lincoln and Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin issued a call for volunteers to take up arms against the Confederacy. New recruits would converge on hastily established Union camps from which troops would be dispatched. The largest of these camps throughout the entire course of the War, in both the North and the South, with over 300,000 enlistments passing through its gates, was Harrisburg's Camp Curtin, located just north of Maclay Street between present-day N. 7th and N. 5th Streets. the area, which had been the grounds of the Dauphin County Agricultural Society, were commandeered by Governor Curtin for the establishment of the Camp, initially named Camp Union, that came to bear his name. Regiments not just from Pennsylvania, but from Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, were mustered into service here. The Camp held Confederate prisoners-of-war and its various wooden buildings included a hospital. At the end of the War, the Camp became a major point for the discharge of the victorious Union troops. Closed on November 11, 1865, the Camp was torn down and the land was eventually absorbed into the northward-moving urbanization of Harrisburg. In recognizing the importance of Camp Curtin to the War effort, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania erected the present statue of Curtin in October 1922, on the plot of land that had been part of the Camp at N. Sixth and Woodbine Streets and on what is the smallest State Park in Pennsylvania. The neighboring Camp Curtin Memorial-Mitchell United Methodist Church houses various Civil War artifacts and commemorative artwork. Harrisburg was twice the military objective of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the Northern invasions. The first foray ended with the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Maryland, in September, 1862, the bloodiest day in U.S. history with 24,000 casualties. the second Northern thrust became entangled at Gettysburg, two days before Confederate forces could have reached Harrisburg. For three days, July 1-3, 1863, the most pivotal battle were fought in North America ensued, producing nearly 58,000 casualties and a repulse of the Confederate second invasion. Camp Curtin's presence in Harrisburg was one of the reasons this city was a military target. The National Civil War Museum in Reservoir Park, largest museum in the world related to the American Civil War, opened in Harrisburg in 2001 and includes exhibits about Camp Curtin.
Period engraving of mustered troops being drilled at Camp Curtin.
View of Camp Curtin's General Hospital, the only-known photograph taken at the Camp.