A Reading newspaper lambasts the Federal government
“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” so goes the old saying.
A careful study of the Civil War indicates how many military decisions, particularly officer appointments and promotions, were politically motivated. Democratic governors tended to support their own political appointees, as did the Republicans. Within the Army of the Potomac, commander George McClellan was surrounded by fellow Democrats, many of which were swept out of power after McClellan, Hooker, and their crowd lost favor in 1862, although Dan Sickles and other Democrats remained in leadership positions well afterward.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, partisan politics reached new heights in Pennsylvania, as Democratic newspapers voiced their displeasure with the Lincoln administration, and some called for McClellan’s re-ascension to command.
One Reading newspaper early in July issued a rather enlightening editorial blasting the War Department and an unnamed Republican newspaper in Washington about the lack of alacrity in moving Federal troops into Pennsylvania to protect its citizens from the oncoming Confederates.
Interestingly, the letter demands the recall of Pennsylvania troops from the Federal army and darkly hints that perhaps Pennsylvania would be better off as an independent entity.
States rights was not just a Southern topic, and some historians have suggested that, had the South won the Civil War, the North would have fragmented into sections. I’m sure the editor of the Reading paper would have not minded the Country of Pennsylvania.
Here is his editorial…
THE DUTY OF STATE DEFENCE
One of the newspapers published in Washington, reflecting accurately, we have no doubt, the sentiments of the War Department, observes that the most deplorable fact involved in the present situation is, certainly, “The apparent utter in complacency of the people of Pennsylvania to defend themselves, and aid the cause, even to the poor extent of driving their horses and cattle North, and concealing their coveted other goods, before the different little squads of rebel cavalry pounce on them.”
We have not been struck by the alacrity of Pennsylvania farmers –the class whom we find thus impugned–in rushing to arms in the defence of their homes and their country. On the contrary, we have noted with surprise the apathy that seems widely to prevail in some parts of Pennsylvania in the presence of invasion. But, whatever citizens of other States, and civilians generally, may think of it, we cannot help feeling that reproach comes with ill grace from a source ordinarily inspired by the War Department. It does not become Washington, whose precincts and whose inmates are protected by no small proportion of the hundred thousand soldiers that Pennsylvania has sent to the war, to flout and insult that State because it is itself invaded in the absence of its armed sons and champions.
If Pennsylvania, or any other State, is expected to defend itself from the public enemy, let the troops of such State, now in the military service, be returned, and doubtless they will be equal to the duty of protecting their State. Or if Pennsylvania, or any other State, is expected to send out the flower of its manhood to protect Washington, and at the same time to defend its own people from invasion, let such State be timely warned of its duty and its danger. And then if it is unprepared when the enemy comes, let the disgrace be trumpeted through all the land, beginning at Washington. But as the matter now stands, Washington is the last place in the country that should raise the clamor against any State for failing, unarmed and unprepared, to defend itself against sudden and formidable danger.
Pennsylvania, with all the loyal States, has trusted the defence of her soil to the General Government–has given to that Government her soldiers, her moral support and her money. In return, Pennsylvania has been promised peace, security and early victory over the rebellion– the “backbone” of which has been fifty times “broken,” according to the Washington authorities, and its utter demise soon to be celebrated by a f eu de joie in the captured City of Richmond! Was Pennsylvania wrong for believing these Siren notes from Headquarters repeated so recently from the field of Chancellorsville, promising an early resumption of offensive movements against the shattered remains of Lee’s army? Pennsylvania has had from Washington no warning of danger, but has been lulled by official war bulletins into a false security.
The enemy has leaped into their midst as a wolf into a sheep-fold; and the frightened, unarmed, unorganized farmers naturally flee in terror. They seek first their own safety, and that of their wives and little ones. The Washington newspaper thinks it a clear case of poltroonery, and that, neglecting their families, and leaving them to the mercy of rebels, they would be more creditably employed in hiding their treasures, burning their barns, and running off their horses and cattle to places of safety! Possibly frightened wives and children think and feel otherwise.
To sum up the matter, we declare that while the country at large may criticise the people of Pennsylvania for any lack of judgment or ardor manifested on the present trying occasion, it becomes Washington to “put its hand on its mouth and its mouth in the dust.” While Washington monopolizes the military power and resources of the States, it has no right to cast upon the States the duty of self-defence. If Washington is prepared to admit that it is unequal to the work of defending the States, then we doubt not Pennsylvania will address herself with an entirely different spirit and greatly different results, to the expulsion of invading armies. At all events, Washington is a glass house and its newspapers should not throw stones.