Wellington Ent Project Update

I have been reasearching the role of patronage in Civil War era Pennsylvania politics in order to determine whether the situation surrounding Col. Ent’s appointment was really about Copperheads or politics as usual.  I came across two letters written by Gov. Curtin to PA Republican Senator Simon Cameron during his gubernatorial campaign in 1860 in an online archive from the University of Virginia.  In one letter, Curtin stated about a certain supporter that “he can be of great service to our party and we must take care of him.”  In another, he states that while he wanted someone to be appointed to a certain position, he didn’t want the appointment to be made, since he feared it would be controversial and “excite a little fight.”  From the secondary sources I have encountered, it appears that patronage dominated the politics of America and Pennsylvania at the time.  Therefore, the most likely explaination for the opposition to Col. Ent’s appointment is that Republicans believed that Curtin would only appoint his supporters to state jobs.  Therefore, the fact that a Democrat was appointed to be a Commissioner of Soldier Voting, whether or not he was in fact a Copperhead, was likely to enfuriate such individuals.  The fact that Curtin appeared to be concerned with the optics of appointments implies that he may have appointed some Democrats as voting commssioners out of fears that Democrats would accuse him of voter fraud if he only appointed Repubilcans and the Republicans carried the state.  I am coming to the conclusion that what I am encountering with the letters is not about Copperheads but rather political patronage and the political climate as a whole in Civil War Pennsylvania.

Project update

In an effort to focus my topic further and gain a greater context of black soldiers during the civil war, ive been reading James McPherson the Negro’s Civil War. I appreciate his style of writing in that he intersperses several letters, legislative documents and transcripts from key figures during the era amongst his blocks of writing. In order for me to profile John C. Brock, the focus of my project, im using McPherson’s book to understand how blacks felt about the different political parties and their different views on the abolition of slavery and the commitment to the union, even if that meant keeping slavery instituted. There was even mention of certain areas in the south where black soldiers volunteered to fight for the confederacy.

Here is an updated rough thesis

War is often most traumatic for the innocent civilians such as women and children who become engulfed by its unyielding course.  The American Civil War was no exception to this unfortunate truth. However, the majority of fighting occurred on confederate soil and it was the southerners who were more directly affected by the brutality of warfare. The shelling of Carlisle Pennsylvania, during the confederate Gettysburg Campaign of 1863, was one of the unique exceptions when Union women and children were caught in the crossfire of bombardment.  Though Carlisle was never occupied, the shelling of the town proved profoundly traumatic to Carlisle’s citizens who feared for their lives, their loved ones and their homes. Three upper-middle class Carlisle natives depicted their experiences during the event through written letters. Margaret Fleming Murray and Marry Murray were two teenagers who wrote to their brother Harmer Denny explicitly detailing the confederate bombardment. Sarah Meyers, and elderly widow living by herself, wrote a thank you letter to General Smith’s wife in the aftermath of the shelling. The Murray sisters and Sarah Meyers were from different age groups, and their letters concerned different elements of the event. Additionally, the letters were written at different points of the shelling. While the Murray sisters wrote during the few days following the battle and depicted certain specific details, Sarah Meyer’s letter was written a few days later and offers a reflection.  Regardless of these minor differences, all three women present the common themes of fear for their homes, and gratitude for General Smith’s bravery. Their writing offers small but precise personal incite into the traumatic shelling. More importantly, the women’s depictions of first-hand contact with the confederate army are incredibly unique as very few Union women were exposed to confederate bombardment during the war.