September 26, 2011

Better Know an Officer: Henry A. Hambright

Location: 226 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA
Henry A. Hambright, presumably as Captain of the Jackson Rifles
Robert Diem Collection, USAMHI

Name:  Henry Augustus Hambright
Rank:  Colonel, Captain in Regular Army, later Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers
Born:  March 24, 1819, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Died:  February 19, 1893, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Buried in Lancaster Cemetery.
Pre-war Life:  1st Lieut. in Co. G, 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, during Mexican War; public works contractor; supervisor of operations in Lancaster for the Pennsylvania Railroad; Captain of the Jackson Rifles militia company
Post-war Life:  Major in U.S. Army, various posts including Texas and Louisiana.  Retired in 1879. 
Political Affiliation:  Democrat
Key Events: Battles of Perryville and Chickamauaga. Wounded at Battle of Buzzard's Roost. 

September 25, 2011

Images, Maps, and a Research Wish List

Prepare for a little bit of a shift away from this month's emphasis
on Quakers, Mennonites, and teetotaling Presbyterians as the
regiment leaves Lancaster for the war's western theater.

CDV of unidentified men from Reading (vws)

As schoolwork has prevented me of late from posting on my treasure trove of news items about Col. Hambright's regiment from September 1861, please browse some of the static pages which have been recently published or updated:
 Expect to see a couple more posts over the next two weeks about highlights from the recruiting process, but once the regiment leaves for the seat of war I'll fast forward to catch up with them.  Two weeks and counting until Elias H. Witmer's first letter to the Daily Evening Express...

September 23, 2011

Recruiting Update: "Now or never is the time"

From What a Boy Saw in the Army

Our best views into the 79th Pennsylvania's recruiting process--how and why men enlisted--come from contemporary newspaper appeals.  We've already seen some about how they enlisted.  Basically, men with some military or business or educational background (or, perhaps just some plain ambition) arranged with Col. Hambright to recruit a company for his regiment.  These soon-to-be captains set up recruiting offices in Lancaster city or villages in the county, and appointed soon-to-be lieutenants to help them in the process.  As a result, many of the companies tended to have clusters of men from the same hometown (group of men from Marietta in Co. F, Mountville/West Hempfield/Millersville in Co. E, Gap in Co. C, etc.)  We also see accounts of captains traveling to patriotic events across the county, say a flag raising, and giving speeches to attract men to join the ranks.  As we'll see below, a young man could even all-but-enlist just by sending his name to the Daily Evening Express office. 

September 14, 2011

Research Surprises:
Millersville University and the "Normal Rifles"

Location: State Route 3009, Drumore, PA 17518, USA
Upon receiving the photograph album that was the subject of yesterday's post, curiosity about the people in the album led to simple Google searches of names penciled beneath the photographs.  I expected to find simple genealogical information, but, much to my surprise, upon querying "Sallie Eva Bolton" I found a collection of letters Sallie wrote to her mother while working basically as a teaching assistant in the formative years (1855-1858) of the institution we now know as Millersville University.  Exploring her letters and the album further, we also encounter connections to the 79th Pennsylvania's most literate company, Company E--the "Normal Rifles"--recruited mainly from the teacher's college (i.e., the "normal school") at Millersville. 

Cartes-de-visite of Sallie (Bolton) Pyle
Image by Bishop's Photographic Gallery, Philadelphia, c. 1861-4 (vws)

Sarah "Sallie" Eva (Bolton) Pyle

Born in 1836, Sallie was raised by Quaker parents in nearby Chester County, home of her mother's extended family (Brosius).  Her father, Evan Bolton, grew up in Liberty Square, Drumore Township.  In 1855, Sallie found herself in the village of Millersville, where the Lancaster County Teacher's Institute had located and established the Lancaster County Teacher's Institute.  Under the leadership of education proponent J. P. Wickersham, this became the Millersville State Normal School in 1859, the first of many such schools for teachers in the state. Upon the war's outbreak, Wickersham helped raise Company E, 79th Pennsylvania, and his brother Morris D. Wickersham took its captaincy. 

September 13, 2011

A Quaker Family Album

Location: 1466 Susquehannock Dr, Drumore, PA 17518, USA
Cross-posted on my wife's blog, Adventures of a Costumer.

Yesterday's post recounted what we know about how William T. Clark left his family's farm near Chestnut Level, Drumore Township, Lancaster County, to join Col. Hambright's regiment in Lancaster on September 12, 1861.  That very same day  less than a mile away in Chestnut Level village, a daughter was born to Edwin and Margaret Shoemaker, and they named her Anne Kensel.  Fifteen years later in 1876, Annie's uncle presented her with an album, which she filled (or he had filled for her) with twenty-seven family photographs from the 1860s.

Over 130 years later, the album was listed on Ebay, and I purchased it as a Christmas present for my girlfriend (now wife).  I didn't really know what I was getting, but it has turned out to be a very interesting photographic documentation of an extended Quaker family in southern Lancaster County.

Family album belonging to Annie K. Shoemaker

September 12, 2011

Better Know a Soldier: William T. Clark

Location: 1175 Silver Spring Rd, Holtwood, PA 17532, USA
Sgt. William T. Clark, Co. B, 79th Pennsylvania
Richard Abel Collection, USAMHI
Name: William Thompson Clark (Sergeant, Company B)
Birth: July 18, 1836, Chestnut Level, Lancaster County
Education: Chestnut Level Academy
Occupation: Farmer
Church/Religion: Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church
Political Beliefs: Republican
Term of Service: September 12, 1861, to July 18, 1865
Notable Events: Wounded three times at Battle of Perryville, Tried to recruit company in response to 1863 Invasion of Pennsylvania
Post-war: Farmer
Death: May 22, 1911. Buried at Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church cemetery.
Other Notes: Biography from Thompson family genealogy.

September 11, 2011

160th Anniversary of the Christiana Riot

Location: 76 Lower Valley Rd, Christiana, PA 17509, USA
An artist's recreation of the Christiana incident from Still Under Ground Railroad Records, 1886.

On September 11, 1851, wealthy and well-respected Maryland farmer Edward Gorsuch, a small armed posse of his supporters, and a deputy federal marshal arrived in Christiana, a small town in Lancaster County near the Chester County border.  Gorsuch and company were acting on intelligence that three of his slaves who had escaped two years ago were hiding out near Christiana, and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 gave them pretty broad authority to kidnap blacks they claimed were fugitive slaves.

They proceeded to the farm of William Parker, a mulatto man who had been leading efforts of free blacks in the area to defend themselves from kidnappers and white thugs and who was harboring the fugitive slaves Gorsuch sought.  Alerted to Gorsuch's plans, perhaps in advance or perhaps as they unfolded, blacks converged on Parker's farmer to prevent Gorsuch from carrying out those plans.  The confrontation ended violently, with Gorsuch killed and others in his party wounded.

The nation was shocked.  Southerners and seemingly most Northerners were outraged at that a prominent citizen like Gorsuch could be killed, and demanded their killers be brought to justice.  Parker and the other blacks fled, and county and federal authorities responded rather severely, arresting several white men for their alleged involvement in the incident.  Those men were tried and found not-guilty in a well-publicized trial later that year. 

Looking at the immediate reaction in Lancaster, both Democrats and Whig newspapers condemned the killing, but their response is interesting for how far they missed their mark on who was responsible.  They identified white abolitionists as the culprits, presumably because their worldview prevented them from giving any agency--any credit--to blacks.  Plus, the more they talked about blacks' roles, the more they would actually have to think about the horror of being taken from freedom to slavery.

It's also worth thinking about the Christiana Riot from the perspective of the generation that would enlist in the Union army ten years later, especially because Company C, 79th Pennsylvania, was largely recruited in Sadsbury Township, where the incident took place.  Looking back, many scholars see the Christiana Riot as a key event in the sequence of events that put the nation on a collision course with civil war, as it suggested the compromise the produced the Fugitive Slave Act was untenable.  It's hard to tell how the incident   affected the feelings and opinions of boys who would become soldiers ten years later--whether it produced sympathy or antipathy towards Southern slaveholders--but either way it became much easier to envision a future of violence.

Here are some primary and secondary sources related to the Christiana Riot, listed from oldest to newest.  Both the incident and the trial were dramatic events and make for interesting history.

Local Newspaper Reaction
Democrat: Intelligencer (browse issues here)
Whig: Examiner and Herald 9/17/1851, 9/24/1851

Sympthetic to blacks and Quakers:
William Parker, "The Freedman's Story: In Two Parts." The Atlantic Monthly, vol. XVII, Feb. 1866, pp. 152-166; Mar. 1866, pp. 276-295.
Still's underground rail road records by William Still (1886)
A true story of the Christiana riot by David R. Forbes (1898)

Sympathetic to Gorsuch:
A review of the political conflict in America by Alexander Harris (1876).   Harris was a Lancaster lawyer and outspoken critic of the war. 

Other Histories
The Christiana riot and the treason trials of 1851: an historical sketch by William Uhler Hensel (1911)
Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North by Thomas P. Slaughter (1991)

September 10, 2011

John and Mary: A tale of south-eastern Pennsylvania

Location: Little Britain Township, Lancaster County
It is fairly well known that Lancaster County was a hot spot for underground railroad activity due to
  1. its proximity to Philadelphia and Baltimore,
  2. a large free black community in places like the Susquehanna River town of Columbia, and
  3. farms of sympathetic Quakers in the southern part of the county, from the Susquehanna River near the Maryland Line that also extended into Chester County. 
In spite of some semi-primary sources like R. C. Smedley's 1883 History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania and research efforts like Charles Spotts' 1966 pamphlet The Pilgrim's Pathway: The Underground Railroad in Lancaster County, which named seventeen "stations" in Lancaster County, our knowledge of the fugitive slave activity in Lancaster is fairly limited. 

What might actually be our best glimpse into what was going on in the minds of fugitive slaves and the people who harbored them is an 1873 novel by Ellwood Griest entitled John and Mary: or, The fugitive slaves. A tale of south-eastern Pennsylvania (click on link to view the book).

Maj. Ellwood Griest (1824-1900) was born to a Quaker family just across the Octoraro Creek from Lancaster County in West Nottingham, Chester County.  He learned blacksmithing, moved to Christiana, and became very active in Republican politics and abolitionism.  The Lancaster Intelligencer even accused him during the 1860 election campaign of "figuring somewhat prominently" in the Christiana Riot, although I haven't seen evidence.  Griest also served with the Union army as a Sixth Corps commissary officer (a Quaker compromise?), and stayed in the army until 1866 witnessing early Reconstruction in Florida.  After the war, he ran a newspaper in Lancaster and stayed active in politics.  Lancaster's 1920s skyscraper, the Griest Building, is named after Ellwood Griest's son, Congressman William Walton Griest. 

This remarkable novel is actually a rather interesting read, and combines fiction and fact (some autobiographical) to tell two stories.

Detail of Little Britain Township from 1864 Bridgens' Atlas (source)
The story was set very specifically along the Octoraro Creek in this area.

The first is set in 1830 along the banks of the Octoraro Creek in Little Britain Township, Lancaster County, near the Maryland line.  A Quaker family, the Browns, get involved for the first time in hosting fugitive slaves--John and Mary and their infant, Charley--but the plan for their northward journey is thwarted, resulting in a semi-dramatic nighttime confrontation with the slaveowner's posse.

The Octoraro Creek, a couple miles downstream from the story's events. (source)

The second story is set in late 1865 or 1866, and takes place during early Reconstruction at an army camp near Gainesville, Florida, where one of the Brown children who witnessed the events of 1830 is now a captain.  An act of racial violence linked to the Ku Klux Klan meant to intimidate the black soldiers stationed there leaves a soldier of the 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops, dangerously wounded.  Capt. Brown meets the ultimately fatally wounded soldier and the soldier's mother, recognizing them as the fugitives he met as a six year-old boy.

Eastland Friends Meeting, Little Britain Township  (Source + info)
Many characters of the story are connected to and presumably buried here.
1st South Carolina Volunteers, later the 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops (USAMHI, Source)
Griest mentioned many free black men from Lancaster and Chester County joined the 33rd USCT.

In spite of attention given to heroism displayed in 1830, the story imparts a rather pessimistic message about Reconstruction.  The fugitive slave baby, whose life was so treasured and precious that so many people in 1830 risked so much to save the baby from slavery, grew to a man whose life was ended rather meaninglessly by random racial violence in the post-war South.  Griest's assessment seems to be that this sort of violence was undermining Southern society.  He might have also been responding to similar sentiments (although not as violent?) in the North--even Lancaster--as the Democratic Party of the late 1860's made a pretty nasty brand of racism into a policy pillar.  Here's an interesting poem from the September 24, 1870, Columbia Spy in which an anonymous (presumably) African-American author expresses deep exhaustion with the grip racism has on society.

If you encounter any interesting passages in John and Mary, or something in the books strikes you, feel free to share in the comments.

See also:

September 9, 2011

Fun with Google Books

Hospital Scenes, a book published by the
Patriot Daughters of Lancaster in 1864
recounting their aid trip to Gettysburg.
The book was sold as a fundraiser.  Original
copies today have sold for over $1,000.
An advantage to studying the Civil War is that essentially all primary sources are part of the public domain, which basically means copyright has expired and the works are available for use by anyone.  Since this includes books published before 1922, it is now possible through Google Books to view and download many books relevant to the 79th Pennsylvania and Lancaster County in the nineteenth century.

Additionally, Google provides full-text searchability which makes research queries possible that probably couldn't have been dreamed of ten years ago.  For instance, by typing in "Henry A. Hambright" and setting a couple search parameters, I can see just about every time the regiment's colonel has appeared in print.

I have begun assembling my own small virtual bookshelf of public domain books related to this blog, so I invite you to check them out here: Google Books: Lancaster at War.

Titles include:

Boyd's Lancaster county business directory ...
William Henry Boyd - 1859 - Reference - Full view
Still's underground rail road records: with a life of the author...
William Still - 1886 - History - Full view
Pennsylvania at Chickamauga and Chattanooga: Ceremonies at the dedication of ...
Pennsylvania. Chickamauga-Chattanooga Battlefields Commission - 1897 - History -
A biographical history of Lancaster County ...: being a history of early ...
Alexander Harris - 1872 - Full view
John and Mary: or, The fugitive slaves. A tale of south-eastern Pennsylvania
Ellwood Griest - 1873 - Full view

An authentic history of Lancaster County: in the state of Pennsylvania
Jacob Isidor Mombert - 1869 - Full view

Hospital scenes after the battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863
Patriot Daughters of Lancaster (Pa.) - 1864 - Full view
History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps: a complete record of the ...
1865 - History - Full view

An authentic history of Lancaster County: in the state of ...
Jacob Isidor Mombert - 1869 - Full view

September 7, 2011

Introducing the Fencibles Band

Band of the 8th New York State Militia, which the Fencibles Band would have resembled.
Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-02779

While the 79th Pennsylvania resembled other three-year volunteer regiments in many regards, a couple things about the regiment made it unique, such as fighting in the Western Theater, having almost all soldiers coming from the same mid-sized city, and possessing various idiosyncrasies related to Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  One other unique attribute was that the regiment had a supposedly really good band, the Lancaster Fencibles Band.  The Fencibles Band had achieved local celebrity status well before the war had started, bringing an air of excitement to all sorts of civic occasions, and traveled with the 79th Pennsylvania to Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond.

The Fencibles Band had gone off to war with the Fencibles and Jackson Rifles as part of the Three Months' Campaign in 1861, where it earned a reputation as "the very best in the whole volunteer service" (Intell, 6/25/1861).  A month or so after returning from that campaign, the band--joined by the regiment's glee club--treated the citizens of Lancaster to a performance at Fulton Hall on the evening of August 30, 1861.  From the August 29, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Three weeks later it became official that the Fencibles Band would be joining Col. Hambright's regiment, as the band was sworn in on September 19, 1861.  They accompanied the regiment throughout the war, except for a nine-month period mid-way through the war when army policy temporarily disbanded regimental bands. From that day's Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania often remarked on the band, and I'm sure I'll be posting stories related to the band over the next couple years. It also appears to have been used pretty regularly as outreach to the civilian population near where the regiment was camped. Some sneak peaks from the diary of William T. Clark, Co. B, 79th Pennsylvania:
  • 10/19/1861: At 7 a.m., the fog having disappeared, we again moved down the [Ohio River by steamboat]. In passing Wheeling our band struck up attracting the attention of the people of the town & soon there were several hundred persons upon the shore & upon the splendid wide bridge spanning the Ohio there listening to the music as it echoed on the shore. This is a splendid moonlight night.
  • 9/17/1863: 1st Brig, takes advance at 6 A.M. We are rear guard. Our Regt. rear of all wagon trains. Cross creek at sawmill.. Left camp at 9½ A.M., roads good. March slow. Cross Ala. & Ga. line, band playing Dixie, at 12 M.
  • 3/14/1865: Wrote to Father a brief sketch of our campaign. We have been out 54 days & marched 395 miles. Lieut. James H. Marshall, Major Locher & some Officers from Brig. Hd. Qrs. took the band & serenaded Gen. Sherman, who said, among things, that in 3 days we would connect with Gen. Schofield.

September 6, 2011

Providing for Soldiers' Families

A soldier's family in camp, allegedly with the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves.
Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7983

In reading wartime newspapers and soldiers' letters to their wives, something that has stood out to me is the very precarious existence that many poor and working class soldiers' families often faced.  It appears that many soldiers' going off to war put their families at risk not just financially, but also in terms of basic physical needs (e.g., food, medical care, fuel for winter).  I don't know how soldiers' army pay compared to that of their prewar occupation, but delays in receiving pay and logistical barriers to sending pay home certainly made things difficult.

Although newspapers record a couple tragic stories of 79th Pennsylvania families, most soldiers' families seem to have coped with the war's difficulties through some combination of:
  1. Remote support from the soldiers themselves through letters.  As well as basic emotional support, the letters often contained specific directions for managing finances, procuring necessary goods, and even raising children.  The Lewis H. Jones letters at the Lancaster County Historical Society are fantastic in this regard.  A working class father of several young children with another one on the way, Jones was one of several men from South Queen St. who joined Co. H, 79th Pennsylvania, while the regiment was being recruited.  Besides expressions of devotion, his letters to his wife Elizabeth give instructions for which bills to pay and with which priority, tell her at which stores to get goods and the status of their account there, and give words of support to pass on to children to encourage their good behavior: "Tell josey to be a good boy and go to school." (11/6/1861)  "Tell Washey and Josey that they must not go to the crik [presumably, Conestoga Creek] or I wont give them eney money to buy cakes and ice cream" (6/29/1862)
  2. Support from informal familial and social networks.  Lewis Jones' letters reveal a somewhat strong network among the South Queen Street families and their soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania.  When Jones' friend and wife's brother-in-law died of disease in early 1862, Joseph also tried to help the Maxwell family in many ways, including one note from an 6/25/1862 letter, "Give Josephine [Maxwell] a dollar to buy som things for her childern for the forth of July."  The city's professional class also occasionally worked pro bono on behalf of needy soldiers' families, and one doctor's alleged indifference toward the Maxwells became part of a libelous campaign against the doctor when he ran for mayor in 1862 (another story for a couple months down the road).     
  3. Support from institutions, private and public.  Religiously-oriented aid groups, such as the Union Dorcas Society, had already existed in Lancaster before the war and easily extended their mission to meet the needs of soldiers' families.  The Mennonites, whose wealth (as a group) and pacifism sometimes made them targets of scorn among the war's supporters, appear to have contributed prominently to aid efforts for soldiers' families.  Finally, as the article below indicates, the Lancaster County Commissioners also arranged for public sources of aid for soldiers' families, but I don't know too much about how public aid worked, so I'll be likely to revisit this topic as I learn more about it in the future. 
From the August 27, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link), it's apparent that some soldiers' families faced hardships even before the regiment left Lancaster.  Read on further in the column for an appeal (with some humor) to ladies to knit stockings for soldiers. 

September 5, 2011

Recruiting Update

"Recruiting in New York, August 1861" Harper's Weekly September 7, 1861
It's been a couple weeks since my last update on recruiting for Colonel Hambright's regiment, so let's go back a little to an update that appeared in the August 26, 1861, Daily Evening Express. (alternate link) For those unfamiliar with how Civil War armies were structured, a regiment was the basic unit of operation on the battlefield with an ideal strength of 1,000 men. It was comprised of ten companies with 100 men each. Companies were the basic unit of recruiting, and men from each company tended to be from the same hometown or from two or three villages.

And from the August 27, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Here are some company-by-company notes about the regiment:
  • As mentioned in the article, Captain Kendrick's company was filled largely with men from the Jackson Rifles.  More on Captain Kendrick in the future and his company, which became Company A.
  • Capt. Seaver never went off to war, but his company of German-speaking men going off to fight under Lieut. Klein as Company F.  According to the article, both of the officers fought in the failed Revolution of 1848 under later Union General Franz Sigel.  Seeing the company described as the "German Sharpshooters," I wonder if they had any connection to popular German shooting clubs of the 1850s and 1860s that occasionally were mentioned in newspapers. 
  • The company mentioned being recruited by Capt. Haines might have ended up going off to war with the 45th Pennsylvania led by Col. Thomas Welsh of Columbia. 
  • Lieut. Michael Locher, operator of a billiard saloon on Centre Square, ended up leading Company H.
  • Capt. Duchman's company later became Company B.
  • The other companies mentioned did not end up joining the 79th Pennsylvania, and that's another story for another time, probably related to the article's last couple paragraphs about the chaotic process of organizing companies and assigning them to regiments.
So, as of August 27, we're looking at the origins of four of the companies of what would become the 79th Pennsylvania being accounted for.  More updates to come.

See also:
It's Official: Raise a Regiment

September 4, 2011

The Situation in Kentucky Deteriorates

Presentation of a flag to Kentucky Volunteers, September 1861
Harper's Weekly October 5, 1861

Today marks an important anniversary in which the national narrative and the story of the 79th Pennsylvania converge to help explain why the regiment fought in the war's Western Theater (i.e., Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, etc.).  On September 3-4, 1861, Confederate forces under Gen. Gideon Pillow marched into the state to seize a strategic position along the Mississippi River, violating its stated position of neutrality.  Until then Kentucky was walking a delicate balance of a pro-Southern governor, an official position of neutrality, a populace sympathizing more and more with the Union, and Northern and Southern armies camped on its doorstep. 

In response to Pillow's invasion, Union forces under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant entered Kentucky a couple days later.  Kentucky's governor wanted everyone out, but the General Assembly basically sided with the Union, setting the stage for a shadow Confederate government.  Overall command of Union forces in the region (the Department of the Cumberland) rested with Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson (hero of Fort Sumter) and later with Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, both of whom seemed overwhelmed by the task before them.  Their pleas for more soldiers presumably influenced the War Department to route the 79th Pennsylvania and a couple other Pennsylvania regiments to Kentucky.

Read more:
Kentucky in the Civil War Wikipedia page
The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass State by Kent Masterson Brown

Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson, initial commander of the Department of the Cumberland
By Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

September 2, 2011

An Introduction to Civil War Newspaper Quarrelling

For better or for worse, much of what we know about wartime beliefs and attitudes comes from bickering, mostly of a partisan political nature, between the various editors of Lancaster's newspapers.  We infer that sometimes people would just roll their eyes when Editor X got his feathers ruffled over something Editor Y said, and I even recently read a soldier's letter published in the Lancaster Daily Inquirer that said to one of the editors not to take the controversies so seriously as Lancaster's reading population basically didn't.

However, sometimes these squabbles really did have significance as they outline the topography of opinions on questions such as: How does one oppose the war without being a traitor?  What was the real purpose of the war?  How does slavery tie into that purpose?  Who was and wasn't pulling their weight when it came to fighting the war?

Vigilance Committee of Memphis accosts Harper's Weekly sketch artist (Harper's Weekly June 22, 1861)

So, as a case study, let's look at a row from August 1861 centered around the unique and interesting character of Josiah Rhinehart Sypher (b. 1832), a man whose wartime occupation could (honestly) best be described as a "gentleman adventurer."  Though independently wealthy, Sypher was trained as a lawyer under Thaddeus Stevens and spent the war mostly traveling with the armies, primarily with the Army of the Potomac, but also occasionally in the West where his brother commanded a section of an artillery battery that actually once went on an expedition with the 79th Pennsylvania.

During occasional stops to Lancaster, Sypher agitated for certain political and social causes, like education reform, the temperance movement, and a pro-Republican agenda for prosecuting the Civil War.  As the war drew to a close in 1865, Sypher published one of the first Civil War unit histories ever written, History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps--a division of Pennsylvanians that fought with the Army of the Potomac--and later wrote other history and education books.  Sypher's correspondence while following the Army of the Potomac also found their way to the pages of the New York Tribune, qualifying him as some sort of war journalist. 

At the war's outbreak, Sypher apparently was either visiting or living in Memphis, Tennessee.  He returned to Lancaster in late June or early July, and published an account in the July 5, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

In mid-August 1861 (maybe 8/11 or 8/12), Democrats held a rally at Drumore Centre, a crossroads in southern Lancaster County.  The Democratic press portrayed them as hardworking laborers now prepared to fight the war that abolitionists had started but were too afraid to fight, and the Republicans portrayed them as traitors who hailed the Confederate victory at First Bull Run.

Anyway, J. R. Sypher showed up and caused a commotion, and later wrote to the Lancaster Union (newspaper did not survive, as far as I know) accusing the whole convention as being orchestrated by the Intelligencer.  The Intelligencer retorted on August 20: (alternate link)

On August 20, the Daily Evening Express jumped in the fray, coming to the defense of J.R. Sypher and attacking Mayor Sanderson (who also published the Intelligencer): (alternate link)

Four days later, on August 24, Sypher replied in his own words: (alternate link)

Mayor Sanderson's next issue on August 27 did not address the issue specifically, so I'll stop here.  There is plenty of good material though from the August 1861 Intelligencer editions (available to browse here) in which the Democratic Party claims an identity as a party of "Peace, Law, and Order" (8/27) and the party that would actually be supplying the soldiers who comprised the Union army. 

As the 79th Pennsylvania goes to war, expect the newspapers editors in Lancaster to find many more trivial and substantial issues over which to quarrel, many of which related directly to the regiment. Soldiers' diaries and letters show that they definitely paid attention to what was going on in Lancaster, and we also know that there was a constant flow of newspapers from printing presses on S. Queen St. to camps in Kentucky and Tennessee.