Saturday, August 11, 2007

CWL --- Until Every Traitor Copperhead Kneels Before the Goddess of Liberty: Union Soldiers and the Antiwar Movement

'A Viler Enemy In Our Rear': Pennsylvania Soldiers Confront the North's Antiwar Movement, Timothy J. Orr, in Aaron Sheean-Dean, The View From the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers, University of Kentucky Press, 2007, pp. 171-198.

On May 3, 1863 a sergeant of the 28th PVI happened to view a large political meeting of the 29th OVI; the units were in the same brigade of the Army of the Potomac. The lieutenant colonel of the 29th "spoke of a set of traitors who were plotting against
the government and poisoning the minds of the people." (p. 172)

As a field of study, Civil War history has paid little attention to Union soldiers' camp scuttlebut on partisan politics. Several historians argue that anti-war Democrats had little or no success in obstructing the Republican war effort. Timothy J. Orr contends that the Democratic Party in the North were "hardly the enemies of the Union that the Republicans made them out to be." But the affect among troops of Republican propaganda regarding the degree of loyalty was extensive. Most soldiers from Pennsylvania "identified antiwar Democrats as the arm of the rebellion in the North." (pp., 192, 193)

Orr cites Pennsylvania troops' resolutions which appear in regional newspapers. Descriptive language of these resolution include: traitors of the worst class, fellow conspirators of the South, deserving of unmigated scorn, hatred, contempt and 'the hemp that is due traitors.' Also, the antiwar proponets should be crushed to the earth, suffer a traitor's doom. (pp.188-189)

The author describes how "Pennsylvania regiments contrcuted these resolutions with extreme care". A trend appears in which captains and lieutenants lead discussions among the enlisted men and then compose a letter to an editor. It took three weeks for the 140th Pennsylvania to draft a set of resolutions on which most could agree, with the colonel trying to stiffle the rhetoric. The 150th Pennsylvania wrote a resolutions document under the same conditions. The 100th Pennsylvania voted on each of their resolutions with the assent of each enlisted man in favor being signified by taking 'shoulder arms' and those opposed remaining at 'order arms.' (pp. 183-185)

Pennsylvania soldiers' vote in the 1863 and 1864 elections heavily supported the Republican Party. Committant to the military draft, suspension of habeas corpus, limitations on free speech, support of the federal authority, and a complete aversion to an armistice were the planks of the soldiers' political platform. In the election of 1864, 68% of Pennsylvania soldiers who voted cast votes for Lincoln.

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