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Emmitsburg Area In the Civil War

Wayde Chrismer

Part 4 of 4

Emmitsburg’s Attitude as Expressed at the Polls

Understanding the significance of Emmitsburg’s voting record in prewar years demands some knowledge of the national political issues involved. 1850 through 1860 were among the most important years in the nations history. Political step by political step, the country was led to ‘‘the irrepressible conflict.’’ Some of these issues were: the Compromise of 1830. the Fugitive Slave Act of the same year, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1834 and the consequent Kansas struggle; the Lecompton Constitution, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, the Crittenden Compromise and the penultimate Peace Convention, more commonly referred to as "The Old Gentlemen’s Convention." This, when it failed, led to the final and irrevocable breach the secession of the first six southern states (most people think there were seven) which, on Feb. 4, 1861, formed the Confederacy. Meantime, political parties of all sorts dying, others being formed to live briefly, such as the Americans (the "Know-Nothings’) and the Liberty Party. Others were to exist throughout the war under one title or another. The latter included Free Soilers, the Northern Democrats, the Southern Democrats, the Constitutional Unionists (later the Republicans), the Unconditional Unionists, the Constitutional Unionists (the Democrats) etc. When war broke out, various shades of these groups battled within themselves and against all others. These events and parties have been the subject of thousands of books, but interested readers can find them well summarized in The Concise Dictionary of American History. edited by Cochran and Andrews (N.Y. 1962), or is Welcome to consult the writer’s 5,000 volumes of Civil War books, pamphlets, original manuscripts and letters.

Emmitsburg’s prewar and wartime voting record is the best barometer (If its vacillating North-South feelings. An Emmitsburgian could talk or write one way or another, his opinions changing daily, but the chips were down when election day came, for he bad no recall from his ballot. It can be said now that from 1850 through 1865, the town was mostly Democrats one name or another, though not always free to vote its true feelings. This is equivalent to saying that it favored the south, for the Democratic Parts’ was the unquestioned champion of that region. In the first election to be covered here (that of Nov. 5, 1831) Emmitsburg preferred Southern minded Democrats to Union minded Whigs. It gave majorities to six Democrats for the legislature and to five county commissioners, and preferred Democrats for all state-wide offices then contested. Balloting averaged about 300 to 185. Two Whigs, Thomas G. Pratt of Annapolis and James A. Pearce of Chestertown, were representing the State in the U. S. Senate at that time, but the district’s congressman was Democrat Win. T. Hamilton of Hagerstown. Enoch Louis Lowe, a

Frederick Democrat who later defected to the Confederacy, was governor. Millard Fillmore, a Whig, was the president.

In the presidential election of 1852, Emmitsburg again preferred Democrat Franklin Pierce over Whig Winfield Scott, 280 to 211, but also cast a surprising six votes for John P. Hale, the Free Soiler precursor of the later-day Republicans. The county also went narrowly for Pierce, as did Maryland.59 Voting for governor and other state offices in 1853, Emmitsburg preferred Democrats to a man. In a purely Emmitsburg contest, it voted as follows: for its three Justices of the Peace, James Knoff, 293; George W. Troxell, 245; William Mooney, 241; Andrew Eyster (sic) 187; and M. Adelsburger, 161. For Constable : J. Adelsburger, 310; David Agnew, 282; John Martin, 221, and John F. Hughes, 124.60 This election was almost the final one for the dying Whigs. The Examiner was still ardently championing them, though probably realizing it was whipping a dead horse, proclaiming that "A party founded upon principle cannot die.

The paper berated the embryonic "Americans’ (or Know Nothings) little realizing that a bit later its beloved Fillmore would be that party’s presidential standard bearer. It must certainly have never guessed that it would itself unleash an incident that assumed national proportions involving the Know Nothings with all Catholics in the area and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, particularly their Mother House at Emmitsburg. Briefly and bluntly put, the "Americans" opposed what they called "Papism", as well as all those who were not native born Americans, and Abolitionists of every shade. It tried at first not to offend such famous onetime countians as Archbishop Hughes of New York, the ex-Mountaineer who was the best known and most influential Catholic of the times; nor Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, the former Frederick lawyer and county native, Roger Brooke Taney, also an ardent Catholic. There must have been hundreds of Catholic readers of its paper whom it would not wish to offend, plus many other friends of those Catholics who professed Protestant faiths. Not till Nov. 29, 1854, did it bring local Catholics directly into the picture. It printed then for the first time anywhere a story that the Know Nothings were quick to spread all over the country. This was a wild tale about Miss Josephine M. Bunkley, a novice at St. Joseph’s, who claimed that she had been held captive at the convent and been forced to escape by leaping a high wall behind which she had been imprisoned, fleeing to the protection of a Presbyterian clergyman in Ernmitsburg, one Rev. Mr. Greer. The story was denied instantly by, among others, Sister S. NI. Etienne Hall, Mother Superior at the convent. Later, however, Miss Bunkley published it in a Know Nothing subsidized book, The Testimony of An Escaped Novice from the Sisterhood of St. Joseph’s. Emmitsburg, Md., the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity in the United States.’

However, according to Williams in his History of Frederick County, ‘The Mother Superior correctly described the reason why Miss Bunkley left St. Joseph’s as she did." He adds that the lurid details of forced detention, ill-treatment, beatings and exorcisms that The Examiner had described were nothing but malicious fabrications of the Know Nothings. He says that: "In May 1859, she [the Bunkley Woman] made a recantation, that is to sax’ she admitted that the narration of events at St. Joseph in her book and the charges she had made against the Priests were false."

Many persons throughout the country believed every word of the Bunkley woman’s story. Not so with most Emmitsburgians, apparently Catholic’s and Protestant friends alike as was fairly well proven by the community s vote in the next election. Though the county gave Know Nothing majorities to all state and county candidates as opposed to their Democratic rivals (whom The Examiner was disdainfully calling "The Foreigners’ (the vote in Emmitsburg was precisely opposite. Every Know Nothing candidate was here defeated by majorities averaging 300 to 175, or there about, in all cases. Whether this was just another expression of the town s naturally strong pro-Democratic feeling or was evidence that the towns Protestants were sticking by their Catholic friends and neighbors cannot be said with certainty. There were of course many Catholics in the area who would naturally have opposed the Know Nothings, but a nearly two-to-one majority could never have been achieved without lavish Protestant support.

The Examiner gave as its excuse for its political chicanery that it was "defending the State and the Country against the spread of Slavery which the Democrats of the State were seeking." In this, it conveniently over­looked the fact that the Americanisms it so loved were just as bitterly op­posed to Blacks as they were to all non-native-born citizens and those who professed Catholicism.

No better descriptions of the Know Nothings can probably be given than to quote Lincoln and one other. The president-to-be wrote: "We began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now practically read it: ‘all men are created equal except Negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings obtain control, it will read, ‘All men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners and Catholics’." Rufus Choate, a Massachusetts lawyer-politician, wrote this as their belated epitaph: "Anything more low, obscene, feculent, the manifold heavings of history have not cast up!"

The tide was ebbing for the Know Nothings in 1856 when the Presidential election was held, but The Examiner was still championing Fillmore, the Know Nothing standard bearer. Other candidates were James Buchanan, Democrat, and John C. Fremont, Free Soiler. Buchanan beat Fremont by a majority so slender it scared the Deomcrat’s half to death. Maryland was the only state that went for Fillmore—an embarrassing fact that still causes conscientious Marylanders to wince. He car­ried the county by a scant 3,724 to Buchanan’s 3,304 and Fremont 21— seven of which last surprisingly came from Emmitsburg. The town gave a thumping 307 to Buchanan but could still cast 179 for Fillmore.

Though its death rattle was being heard all over the nation, the Know Nothing party was fully conscious in Maryland when, on Nov. 5, 1857, it elected Thomas Holliday Hicks as governor over the Democrat John C. Groome. The County went Know Nothing but Emmitsburg backed Groome 326 to 164, a nearly two to one plurality. It also gave Democratic majorities averaging about 327 to 163 to all other State and County Democrats.

Now serious national political party disintegration began—much too complicated to go into here. The Examiner quickly became disenchanted with Hicks "for having seen proper to pass over Frederick County without giving her a single state-wide appointment." Certain local political offices were required by law to go to men of that particular community, and in Emmitsburg Hicks named apparently Know Nothing Emmitsburgians to these offices: Solomon Krise, Coroner; and Jacob Motter, Samuel Maxwell and Joseph Martin of John, Judges of Election.

Maryland Know Nothings fought over political spoils and split wide open on both slavery and state rights. A local Baltimore party, The Reformists, started their downfall. Though losing an election in 1858, they later sent George William Brown into the mayor’s seat in the bloodiest of the bloody elections which made Baltimore world famous. Hicks was still in Annapolis, where scores of Know Nothings were riding shotgun for him in the legislature. Because of the abuses of the present state constitution, a new one was badly needed, but when a state convention to rewrite it was called for, the measure was defeated. Most people believed the Know Nothings in the legislature would only make it worse. Emmitsburg was soundly opposed to a convention, 248 to 91. The Examiner, which had supported the calling, said that "apathy is the manifest cause of the defeat and the amazingly small statewide turnout (of only 36,339) lends credence to the claim.

The paper was still so deeply committed to the Know Nothings in State and County elections of 1859 that it was "with much chagrin" that it told its readers on Nov. 9 that the Democratic "Foreigners" had won out overwhelmingly, though not totally. Emmitsburg went Democratic in all eases by about 350 to 180, even voting against the Know Nothing Emmitsburgian, Dr. Robert L. Annan, for the House of Delegates. Annan wound up ninth among the twelve who sought the six offices.

It was on May 16, 1860, that The Examiner finally threw its support be­hind the organizing Constitutional Unionists as mongrelize a party as was ever created. Now came the political Super Bowl the presidential election of 1860, That contest pitted these parties: the Constitutional Unionists, led by John Bell of Tennessee; the Republicans, headed by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois; and two slates of Democrats. The Southern Democrats had for their standard bearer John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The Northern Democrats, formed after convention splits at Charleston and Baltimore, were led by Stephen A. Douglas, also of Illinois, whose strong Unionist and lukewarm pro-Slavery sentiments the Southerners could not stomach.

This was the national outcome: the winner, Lincoln, with 1,865,593 popular and 180 electoral votes; Bell 592,906 and 39; Breckinridge, 848,356 and 72; and Douglas 1,382,713 and 12.71 Maryland voted as follows: for Breckinridge 42,497; for Bell 41,777; for Douglas 5,873; and for Lincoln 2,294. Frederick County went for Bell 3,617; for Breckinridge 3,170; for Douglas 439; and for Lincoln 103. Emmitsburg’s plurality went to Breckinridge by 323 to Bell’s 152—a better than two-to-one majority for the Southern Democrat, his Northern counterpart, Douglas, getting a mere 18 and Lincoln a pathetic seven.

Emmitsburg’s overwhelming 323 for Breckinridge as opposed to Douglas’s 18, proves beyond question that the town was not merely Democratic but that it was overwhelmingly Southern Democratic. It can be reasoned that, had it wished to express neutrality in the coming military conflict, it could have given greater support to Bell, but the Constitutional Unionists bore on their feathers (rightly or not) much of the tar that had besmeared the Know Nothings, many of whom were its members. It should also he known that many misguided souls believed that a vote for a Southern Democrat was not necessarily a vote for secession. It can he supposed that Emmitsburg for once agreed with The Examiner when it wrote that "Secession is neither a right or a remedy for any of the evils complained of hy the Southern States." Later, when Mary­land was seemingly on the verge of leaving the Union, it stated that "Secession is treason" and that "divested of pretexts, which feign a patriotic purpose, its criminality would he palpable."

Its significance is dubious, hut a large delegation of countians, called to attend a January convention designed to "drag Maryland into Secession con tamed no Ernmitsburgians. Its purpose was to persuade the reluctant Hicks to call a special session of the legislature, which Hicks refused. As he later put it, he feared such an assembly would pass an Ordinance of Secession. When ultimately he did call the group into special session, it met in Frederick (not Annapolis) and Federal troops were present to keep peace in the legislative family.

What one would not give to know the majority reaction of Emmitsburg to an Examiner editorial on April 10 (two days before Sumter) stating: "We are ‘Unconditional Union’ men and will not submit to the tyranny and usurpation of Secession (which means) Abolition, Anarchy and Ruin." This, it claimed, its opponent The Republican (actually Democratic) Citizen was loudly advocating. All we know is that Joseph Culbertson of Emmitsburg was a Vice President at a "Union Committee Convention" in Frederick March 26, designed to "stand by the Union ... and to oppose Secession for any past or present cause.’ ‘ Two groups of Emmitsburg men, one to serve as delegates, the other on a Union Central Committee attended a Union State Convention in Baltimore May 23. The first contained Joshua Motter, James Dween, Joshua Stokes, William Gardner and Joseph Culhertson. The latter was made up of Solomon Krise, Joseph Byns, Samuel Maxwell, David Agnew and William Hockensmith.

A week later "One of the largest assemblages of persons known in Emmitsburg for a long time" met at a Union Meeting at the hotel of Henry Hoffman. "On motion of Samuel Maxwell, Colonel Robert Annan was called to the chair; Samuel Maxwell and Jacob Motter were appointed Assistant Chairmen, and J. Stewart Annan Secretary." Then, "The object of the meeting being stated, Martin Sweeney, Joseph Troxell, Solomon Krise and Alexander Homer were appointed a Committee which drafted resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. They resolved that this meeting recommend to the serious consideration of the people the evils and horrors that must be entailed upon them by secession without the most remote hope of securing to them any good or increased benefits, but to gratify a hidden purpose not intended for the masses. Therefore we recommend a firm and conciliatory exercise of the powers of Government so far as is consistent with the enforcement of the laws. The meeting has anxiously taxed its utmost ability to find some reason, excuse, or superior plan of government in contemplation of the seceders, to justify them in plunging our country into war, deluging the land with the blood of its citizens; hut we find none." It was, it further stated "of the opinion that any separation of the United States, even in the most peaceful manner, will be detrimental to the interest of the inhabitants of this vast country, because it will burden and lessen the internal commerce of the country. And further, "This meeting looks upon Secession as the work of mad men and not justified by the evils complained of, the effects of which would be in part to destroy all stability of government, because you cannot fix a point at which it must stop. If a State can secede at pleasure from a country, what will prevent a County seceding from a State, or district from a County? The principle is identical." As to the slaveholders of the com­munity, it pointed out that it was "struck with astonishment when it learns that many of the slaveholders of Maryland [carefully avoiding mentioning Emmitsburgians who held slaves in bondage!] advocate secession, because a more effectual mode could not be adopted, if they desire the abolition of slavery." Stating firmly that "We have been nurtured under the Stars and Stripes, and we mean to live and die under them" it added that "this meeting condemns the action of the Legislature in their efforts to deprive the Governor of any portion of his constitutional authority, as in violation of that instrument and consequently of their oath of office, traitorous in its object and meriting the punishment due to the crime." It then named these delegates to the county convention to meet in Frederick May 25th: Joseph Troxell, John Close, J. Stewart Annan, Jacob Motter, Col. Robert Annan, William Gilleran (probably Gillelan), William P. Gardiner, Solomon Krise and Thomas Clabaugh.

Another meeting was held here early in August "to select five members of the Union Central Committee for Frederick County and five delegates to the County Convention". It picked this committee: William G. Gardner, Colonel Robert Annan, Martin Sweeney, Henry Stokes and Dr. Robert L. Annan and these five for the Convention: Joshua Rowe, Jacob Motter, Samuel Maxwell, Sr., Joseph Hays and J. Stewart Annan. The session "Resolved to support the (state) administration in all legitimate efforts to sustain the government of the United States." It also said it wanted the restoration of peace and harmony, but cannot see our approach to that much to be desired object by putting down the administration by resorting to arms, or by destroying the government.

This was only another of the hopeless efforts of almost all Maryland communities to maintain good relations with the Federal government without at the same time being called upon to fight openly with neighbors who they knew were either definitely committed to the Confederacy through service in its armies or who were supporting southern policies as well as possible by membership in so-called peace parties. These latter had various names, usually Conditional Unionist, but were being lumped by opponents under the epithet Copperheads. That such groups existed here is certain. However, issues of the two county papers, The Citizen and The Un ion, which might have named the individuals and reported party arguments are unavailable. That they were being denounced in Emmitsburg, however, is definitely known.

One such denunciation occurred here September 14, when these resolutions were adopted: "That this meeting regards the ‘Peace Party’ as identically the same party defeated . . . in their effort to draw Maryland out of the Union and plunge the State into Civil War . . . The change of name from ‘Southern Rights and Advocates of Secession’ to that of ‘Peace Party’ is a hypocritical effort to deceive the people . . . (we hold) the ‘Peace Party’ to be a grand delusion, for how can sympathizers with the Southern Rebellion be for peace? To put down the Government by force and war, will that be Peace? No; for every succeeding government may be put down in the same way and the legitimate consequence will be strife and interminable war, and not

The state-wide election of November 6, 1861, was highly important and most significant. There were then in Maryland two recognizable parties: the Unconditional Unionists (or Republicans) and the Conditional Unionists (the so-called Peace Party almost solely composed of former Democrats) which The Examiner unequivocally called the Southern Party. The Unconditional candidate for Governor was Augustus W. Bradford; General Benjamin (I Howard opposed him. Only for Governor did Emmitsburg vote an Unconditional Union plurality; it gave Bradford 236 votes to Howard’s 89. For every other office its vote was in favor of the Conditional (or Democratic) candidate. And in almost every case the vote was about 260 for the Democrats to about 237 for the Unconditional candidates. This means that, while 497 votes were cast for all other offices, only 325 Emmitsburgians balloted for Governor. There are several possibilities: it is possible, but highly unlikely, that. of the 497 who cast votes, only 89 of them liked Howard well enough to vote for him while casting 260 for his running mates. The alternative is that those who voted Democratic for other offices were somehow restrainer1 from voting for Howard. But, if so, why were they free to vote as they pleased for the others? Maryland’s Confederate sympathizers to this day contend that Bradford was elected by fraudulent methods and that the entire election was rigged. This is given credence in a letter to The Examiner from an Emmitsburgian signing himself "Union". He wrote: Union supporters here were most agreeably surprised to behold about sixty troopers marching up the street’’ to help maintain order in the town. He added that "Our judge of Elections required every man suspected of disloyalty to swear ‘that he would support the Government of the United States and under no circumstances take up arms against it.’

Lincoln and many others, prior to the war, felt that few Southerners and this must include Emmitsburgians wanted to secede, hut rather that they hoped the threat on their Northern opponents would extort con­cessions to increase waning southern power in the Federal Government. Now, in 1863. Conditional Unionists were working for a peace between the sections. Everyone wanted that, of course, but it was the Peace Party hope that the Confederacy, by the peace, would be permitted to exist with slavery intact. That, of course, the Unconditional Unionists would never permit. This was the main cause of dispute when the parties clashed at the polls in November 1863. Then all Unconditional candidates carried both the county and Emmitsburg, with the exception of the candidate for Congress. The county plurality averaged about six to one Emmitsburg’s being only about two to one.

By 1864, even the Democrats were ready to admit that slavery in Maryland was doomed, hut not without a tremendous struggle. First the State had to go through an election to call for a Constitutional Convention. It did so, with the Democrats screaming their "Copper Heads" off that anyone of even the most limited Southern affection would not he let vote. When the issue was voted on in April, Emmitsburg was for the convention by 182 to 80, only 262 votes as against 497 it had cast in 1861. One must again ask the question: was there election interference? The measure passed the state, .3 1,593 to 19,524, with The Maryland Union of Frederick claiming that "the convention would have been defeated by 20 to 30 thousand had the election been free and fair."

It took 89 days of legislative bickering before the Convention agreed on the phrasing of the new law. Next, it had to he submitted to the voters. On October 12 and 13 it was passed by them by a mere 375 votes 30,174 for to 29,799 against. But that slender majority would not have been possible without the preponderantly heavy for vote cast by Maryland soldiers in the field, the purely home vote having been against it. Emmitsburg’s vote was a narrow 177 for to 150 against. But slavery in Maryland was dead forever

The final war-time election of Nov. 8, 1864, pitted Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, a former Tennessee Democrat turned Unconditional Unionist. against General George B. McClellan and George H. Pendleton, Conditional Unionists. This despite McClellan’s refusal to endorse the Peace Party platform calling for immediate peace with all rights allowed the Confederacy including both slavery and peaceful separation from the union, The Examiner supported Lincoln, with The (Frederick) Maryland Union backing McClellan. The former Democratic champion, The Citizen, had been put out of business by Federal authority for too ardent southern support, and its editor had been exiled to the Confederacy.

As everyone knows, Lincoln won handily, but with scant thanks to Emmitsburg which gave him only 211 votes to McClellan’s 169. Surprisingly. however, it also backed the Unconditional Union candidates for governor, state senator and all Unconditional Union candidates for the House of Delegates.

This means, however, that, even as the war was ending and in spite of all the Federal pressures which must have been brought to bear upon it in one way or another Emmitsburg still had 35% of its voters who favored a reluctant southern minded candidate for President as against Lincoln.

A Summation

No positive conclusion can be reached as to how the town actually felt about the war. It is this writer’s guess, inspired it must be admitted by genuine affection for the place of his birth, that Emmitsburg from the be­ginning to the end would have preferred to stay out of the entire horrible holocaust not out of physical fear, but from a genuine love for a nationwide peaceful existence. Instead, like most of Maryland, it was a beleaguered, bewildered, misguided, would be neutral of the Civil War southern out of native sentiment and an innate sympathy for an underdog, hut northern from political necessity and military pressure. Thank God, it suffered no more than it did.

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