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Civil War Voices: Part 2 – First shots at Fort Sumter bring war’s reality to county (continued)

– Excerpted from ‘Civil War Voices from York County’

Harry I. Gladfelter was 10 years old when the war began.

“Alongside of my infant and school age days,” the resident of Seven Valleys in south-central York County later recalled, “strode the Ghost of the oncoming war between the north and the south, on the question of slavery.”

Gladfelter deemed the publication of the controversial book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” “a powerful agitation” that portrayed “the horrors and inhumanities the colored race had to endure at the hands of taskmasters throughout the south.”

It was a view shared by many in the North and denounced widely in the Southern states, exacerbating the political divisions between the Republicans and Democrats.

“Wherever men belonging to the two parties existed,” Gladfelter wrote, “arguments, disputes, controversies, arose over the fallacy of going to war, and neighbors were not quite as amiable as they used to be.”

Democrats referred to Republicans as “Black Republicans,” and Republicans derisively called Democrats who opposed the war or sought a negotiated peace “Copperheads.”

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Warrington Township housewife Phebe Angeline Smith also held strong political opinions.

“Father says he don’t want to have anything to do with eny that belong to sutch a party,” the Quaker woman from northwestern York County said of the Copperheads.

“I don’t want you to think that I am so partial to one party. For thare is good democrats as Americans but I do think it is a sin to turn traters to ones own country and wish our country to be destroyed and our men all cutup.”

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Three days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Abraham Lincoln called for a massive army of 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion.

In response, four more Southern states seceded, bringing the fledgling Confederacy to 11 states.

David Small’s York Gazette, a Democratic newspaper, trumpeted, “The news of the attack upon, and capture of Ft. Sumter, and that the President had called for 75,000 troops, caused a feeling of the most intense excitement, and the pervading topic of the community was, War! War!! War!!!”

Citizens eager for news crowded York’s telegraph office and gathered in public places in towns throughout York County.

York residents put up flags, and those with sewing skills made even more.

“At the present writing,” The Gazette reported,”flags innumerable are floating beautifully and gracefully at various points. They are so numerous that nothing of the kind was seen in York before, and none can look upon the beautiful sight without a feeling of love and admiration for the flag which has so long protected them, and which has been outrageously insulted, not by a foreign foe, but by those who like ourselves, have grown up and prospered beneath its ‘bright stars and broad stripes.'”

– Scott Mingus and James McClure