ECW welcomes back guest author Jon Tracey
Part Two of a series (Part One)
As noted in Part One, Gettysburg was a deeply divided community on the topic of emancipation. Early in the war, support of the controversial topic and preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was often outweighed by opposition. On January 1st, 1863, the Proclamation came into effect, but the war of words continued. The Democrat Gettysburg Compiler, headed by the controversial Henry J. Stahle, vehemently opposed the action, slinging vitriol at Republican-leaning neighbors such as the Adams Sentinel.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation exempted border states such as Maryland who had not seceded, it went further than the preliminary proclamation did in other respects. It allowed the enlistment of African American men into segregated units and, importantly, it moved beyond calling emancipation merely a necessity and called it justice. As the Proclamation came into effect, Democrat’s hopes of delay or repeal were dashed. Instead, they turned to criticism of the Proclamation’s effects – or the lack of any. The spring elections in 1863 served as a chance for voters to voice either their pleasure or displeasure for the Proclamation. The Compiler stirred local Democrats to oppose the “Black-Republican-Abolition party” and “convince the Abolitionists that the people of old Adams are still for the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was.” Similarly, it criticized earlier Republican claims that volunteers would surge with news of Emancipation, and when they did not Stahle wrote that “it is high time our countrymen should see the hypocrisy of Abolitionism,” claiming that radicals did not have the bravery to fight for the cause themselves. Finally, the Compiler often wrote that the Proclamation had no effect on the African American populations, claiming, “the negroes still remain quietly on the southern plantations…[and] the negroes within our lines show no passionate eagerness to fight.” Returning to highly religious language, the Compiler called abolitionists “prophets of Baal” and pointed out that no holy luck had been granted to the nation; “The proclamation was issued- the bull against the comet has gone forth- and lo! as far as human discernment can penetrate, Heaven has not smiled upon their counsels.” Through these claims of failure, Democrats hoped to convince their townspeople that Lincoln was wrong. Continue reading