The Pennsylvania Memorial contains bronze standing sculptures of President Lincoln, Pennsylvania war-time Governor Andrew Curtin, Major Generals George G. Meade, John F. Reynolds, Winfield Scott Hancock, David B. Birney, and Alfred Pleasonton, and Brigadier General David McM. Gregg. I can understand why Lincoln is on the monument even though he was not a Pennsylvanian. Curtin grew up in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Meade and Birney were from Philadelphia. Hancock was from Norristown. Gregg came from Huntington, Pennsylvania. Pleasonton lived his life before and after the army in the District of Columbia. How did he end up on the monument? A search through our files in the park library offered not a clue. But his family offers some circumstantial evidence that might explain it.
Pleasonton did have a Pennsylvania connection through his mother, Mary Hopkins, who was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and whose father, besides being a successful farmer had served in the state senate. Mary married Stephen Pleasonton and the couple resided in the District. It was Stephen, by the way, who saved the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, Articles of Confederation and other priceless documents of the early Republic from being burned by the British in 1814. Stephen and Mary spent their lives together in the District and it was here that Alfred and his older brother (by 23 years) Augustus were born. Both sons attended West Point. Augustus graduated in 1826, when Alfred was 2, served four years and resigned his commission. He moved to Philadelphia and became an attorney. But he continued his involvement in things military by serving in the state militia for many years. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was recalled to service by the state and promoted to brigadier general in the militia. In June 1863, during the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania, he was placed in command of the defenses of Philadelphia. Augustus may also have had a son for Francis Heitman’s Historical Register of the United States Army lists an Augustus Pleasonton from Pennsylvania who was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons on April 26, 1861, promoted to 1st Lieutenant on May 14 that same year, transferred to the 1st U.S. Cavalry in August, and was retired August 16, 1862 for reasons not explained.
Given Augustus’s long service to the state of Pennsylvania, it seems likely that there is some connection between it and his brother Alfred ending up on the Pennsylvania Memorial. Augustus died in 1894 so he was not the one behind it. It has even been suggested that the Pleasonton on the Memorial is Augustus and not Alfred. This is unlikely. Although Augustus had a connection to the campaign he was not present at the battle and Philadelphia was never threatened. Secondly, at the dedication of the Memorial the references made in dedication speeches to the bronze sculpture are clearly to Alfred, not Augustus.
Who then was behind getting Alfred Pleasonton on the Pennsylvania Memorial? To any of our readers who are interested in tackling this question, we are interested in what you learn.
D. Scott Hartwig