ECW welcomes back guest author Jon Tracey
As seen in Part One and Part Two, Gettysburg was a border town caught directly in the midst of national debates on emancipation during the Civil War. In early July 1863, the small town became national news as the Union and Confederate armies dueled over the fate of the nation from the 1st to the 3rd. As the town struggled to put itself back together in the aftermath of the battle, the political duel continued. Now, however, the town had changed. On July 4th, Stahle was arrested by Union soldiers as a presumed spy charged with pointing out hidden troops to Confederates. As the editor of the Democrat paper, he was one of the most influential Democrats in Adams County, and his fiery rhetoric may have caused some to doubt his loyalty. Though Stahle had likely been accused by a politically motivated Republican, this action shows the growing frustration against what some had called a “noted organ of treason.” After signing a parole, Stahle was released as no charges were sent with him. Stahle returned to town and continued to serve as the editor of the Compiler. Though not punished militarily, his reputation remained damaged. The anti-Lincoln and anti-emancipation rhetoric continued through the war, and the Compiler continued to serve as the major Democrat paper. Yet, it no longer held the same power over the community as it once did as opposing papers grew more and more established.
The Sentinel began to more openly express ideas of racialized freedom and liberty. Mere weeks after the battle it returned to press, and printed a letter to the editor that stated “Slavery, in its nature, is the mortal antagonist of Democratic Institutions… Never, never may my eyes behold any country severed or united on the basis of human inequality.” The battle and the realities of war had turned many in the town towards more radical beliefs. In October, it expressed joy that “Delaware, although a Slave State, is wheeling into the line of Freedom,” as it had recently endorsed the Emancipation Proclamation “in resolutions as strong as language can make them.” No longer would the paper carefully avoid attacking slavery or praising emancipation. Instead, the attacks became more pointed against Democrats, slavery, and disloyalty. Formerly, the Sentinel wrote, members of the “so-called Democratic party” had to show “entire subserviency[sic] to the slave interest,” and this was still true even in the North. “No wonder that modern Democracy, with its admiration for slavery, and sympathy for treason, has become almost synonymous with infidelity and disloyalty,” it continued, “No man who values his fair fame should allow his name to be connected with it for a day.” Supporting the Democrat party, supporting slavery, and being disloyal to the Union were seen as one and the same; to do one was to do all the others as well. Continue reading