|Date(s):||April 18, 1861|
|Location(s):||CENTRE, Pennsylvania | CHARLESTON, South Carolina|
|Tag(s):||Civil War, Republicans, Fort Sumter, Flag, Democrats|
|Course:||“Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
Upon the end of the siege on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, The Democratic Watchman of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania reflected a disappointment with the Lincoln Administration, but gave support for the Union war cause. The Union lost the fort for the remainder of the war during the first battle of the American Civil War, but the newspaper was more concerned with the fact that the North was going to be under control of the Republican Party because the war had officially started.
During the battle, not a single life on either side was lost to hostile fire, but in the eyes of the northern Democrats the real loss was the representation of Democrats in Congress, according to the newspaper. The political unrest, such as outlined in the Democratic-leaning Watchman, occurred as a result of the war starting to spread throughout the country. Citizens had many new worries including the length and cost of the war, and whether the states would unite under again.
Despite the many different reactions to the attack on Fort Sumter, the one aspect that was commemorated was the flag. The flag of the United States, a symbol of freedom and democracy in the Union was taken down after the battle and replaced with the Confederate national flag. In the article, the tone changed when the flag was discussed. Historian Mark E. Neely commented about the flag at the fort, “the first prints of Sumter were quickly supplanted by those depicting the American flag under attack. These constituted the earliest manifestations of the Union image…” As Neely points out, the tone of the Watchman piece was hardly unique in expressing fervor for the Union despite opposing Republican leadership in general. As the Watchman article stated, “We can have no government on any other terms, but it has often been found in the world’s history that a bad government is better than none at all.” The statement exemplifies that the Democratic northern citizens know that they need the government to win the War Between the States and without it there would be not be a chance.
The article portrays a negative connotation towards all government bodies, but the rally-around-the-flag cry had a larger impact because the people know that they need the government to win the war.