MS – 076: George C. Wynkoop, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Dept. of Pennsylvania
(2 boxes, .54 cubic feet)
Inclusive Date: 1861
Processed by: Christopher Gwinn
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George Campbell Wynkoop was born on February 27th, 1806 near Brookford, Montgomery County, Maryland to Nicholas and Sara H. Campbell Wynkoop. Residing in Pennsylvania for the majority of his life, he was married to Mary Ann Walker on March 24, 1831 at Orwigsburg, PA. Together they had some thirteen children, the oldest Nicholas, was born in 1831, the youngest, William, was born in 1858.
At the time of the outbreak of the American Civil War his residence was listed at Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Being involved in the pre-war militia his military experience got him a commission as a Brigadier General of Pennsylvania Volunteers, awarded to him by Governor Andrew Curtin of that state. Thereafter he took command of a brigade of Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, officially designated as the 2nd Brigade of General William Keim’s division in Major General Robert Patterson’s Department of Pennsylvania. These early regiments, the first to answer Lincoln’s call for volunteers, agreed to serve for a period of three months and then be mustered out. Due to the inexperience of both the volunteers and the commanders the three month enlistments did not result in the culmination of the war or the defeat of the Confederate army, in all accomplishing very little. The government soon abandoned the three month enlistments in favor of ones which extended for three years or for the duration of the war.
Wynkoop’s service as a Brigadier General was as short and fruitless as the three month enlistments which he commanded. The majority of his time, as attested to by his collected papers, was spent in trying to obtain for his command proper clothing and equipment. With the exception of a brief foray in Virginia most of the three month enlistments spent their army service in training camps in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The three month enlistments of most men expired in July and early August, 1861. Many of the men in Wynkoop’s former command volunteered for service in the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. William Sipes, one of the men responsible for the recruitment of the regiment lobbied for the commissioning of George Wynkoop as Colonel. The placement was granted, Wynkoop receiving a Colonelcy in the United States Volunteers, commanding the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry with William Sipes as his second in command.
The 7th Pennsylvania was mustered in over a three month period beginning in September of 1861 and continuing on until November of that year at Camp Cameron, outside of Harrisburg. The 7th received its colors from Gov. Curtin on December 8th and left the next day for the Department of the Ohio, stationed at that time in Louisville, Kentucky. In January of 1862 Wynkoop led the regiment to Nashville where it was divided into three battalions and spread out through that portion of the state. Wynkoop was involved in a number of skirmishes and engagements mostly with the Confederate cavalry of Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. His son, Battalion Adjutant Nicholas Wynkoop was killed in action at Gallatin, Tennessee on August 21, 1862.
Wynkoop spent the remainder of his career in the Union army serving in this capacity. He was honorably discharged for disability on June 25, 1863, Lt. Col. William Sipes taking over command of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Wynkoop spent the remainder of his life in Pottsville, PA with his wife and family. He was elected town sheriff in 1867 on the republican ticket. The regimental history of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry states that Wynkoop died in 1885. This however is in disagreement with his family Bible which records his death as being on September 29th, 1882 at 4 O’clock in the morning at his home, Morris Addition. He was buried in Pottsville, PA on October 2nd, 1882.
Scope and Content
The George Wynkoop Papers housed in Special Collections at Gettysburg College date from the period of Wynkoop’s service as a Brigadier General in the three month Pennsylvania Volunteers. The earliest piece in the collection is dated April 14th, 1861 the last is from July 20, 1861 with the exception of an October 15th, 1861 letter regarding Wynkoop’s time as Brigadier General. Over three hundred pieces of correspondence, orders, forms, and daily reports make up the collection. The correspondence and reports come from a variety of locals at which the Department of Pennsylvania set up camp. Locations include Camp Scott and Camp Chambers, Pennsylvania, Hagerstown, Maryland and Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (Today West Virginia). Taken as a whole, the collection attests to the routine of army life and the logistical minutia that goes along with waging a war.
Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF