February 25, 2012

The 79th Pa and the Mayor's Race of 1862, Part I

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
Mayor George Sanderson
Going along with the theme of battlefield-home front connections, the 79th Pennsylvania consistently played rather remarkable roles in elections back home in Lancaster throughout the war.  It began as the regiment left Lancaster in October 1861 with some companies voting on the train while heading west toward Pittsburgh.  (Their votes actually influenced the outcome of two row offices, but were thrown out for process irregularities after a legal battle.)  It continued in early February 1862 as part of Lancaster City's annual elections for various local positions, the most important of which was the mayoralty.

The incumbent was Mayor George Sanderson, who add on to his three successive terms as mayor (since 1859).  I think we can describe Sanderson as an old-fashioned Democratic party boss, but he definitely was the editor/owner of the Lancaster Intelligencer and a borderline peace Democrat (sometimes probably crossing the line).  His main talking points were a brand of Constitutionalism that might be recognized as a cousin of today's libertarianism and a bitter conservatism on matters of race that apparently played well with Lancaster City's German and Irish immigrant community.  By bitter conservatism, I mean that a direct and severe stance against the equality of African-Americans dominates many of Sanderson's speeches and editorials.

Republicans especially loathed Sanderson for his fierce criticism of President Lincoln and the war effort.  They remembered the controversy over peace resolutions passed in August 1861 at a Democratic meeting in Drumore Township, which I had reported on this blog in a post on September 2.  To defeat Sanderson, they actually joined with war Democrats to actually nominate a old-school Democrat and respected physician, Dr. Patrick Cassidy, whom they deemed a suitable supporter of the war.  The Philadelphia Press ran an article on the day of the election (2/4: click here for link), describing Cassidy as faithful, loyal, and patriotic, and Sanderson as a traitor who "avails himself of all opportunities he can conveniently and safely embrace to assail defenders [of the Union]."  The article concluded:
We await the result of the election with no little interest.  In times like these, the indomitable spirit of our people should be displayed on every election ground, and in every contest, by the election of men whose loyalty is above suspicion, and whose patriotism is of an unquestionable stamp.  The people of Lancaster should, in vindication of their own character, rebuke George Sanderson, and they will find in Dr. Cassiday a true exponent of their sentiments.      

Up Next...
  • A shocking smear campaign involving a deceased 79th Pennsylvania soldier
  • Results of the election
See also:
  • Digitized Lancaster Intelligencer (Democratic point of view)
  • Digitized Examiner and Herald (Republican point of view)
  • A 2004 LCHS Journal article by Mike Smith: "The Intelligencer : the voice of Lincoln’s Lancaster County tormentors"

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