Many At That Time Opposed the War As Do Many Today But the Spirit of Loyalty Ran Rampant.
The other day we happened to run into an old veteran of the Civil War and we soon got into a conversation that covered that period that was of intense interest and he described Marietta at the outbreak of that conflict in an interesting manner.
In telling of the scenes in and about Marietta at that time he said that the people of Marietta went wild with enthusiasm after Fort Sumter was fired upon by the rebel forces and a declaration of hostilities was made by President Lincoln. Lincoln called for 175,000 volunteers to serve for three months at the beginning, and the supply of men was far greater than the demand.
Several companies were recruited here. Around the old court house there were five or six recruiting stations. The crowds around the Court House were tremendous, and excitement ran high. Men were feverish to join one of the companies so that they might assist in preserving the Union. Their wives showed a noble spirit of self-sacrifice and seemed only too glad of the privilege of giving their husbands and their sons to the cause.
After three months the President called for 300,000 more troops and the response was instant. The patriotism of the men of the city and county was not challenged in vain. Farmers left their work in the fields to come to the city to volunteer. Gawky country youths burned with desire to enlist. There was much disappointment expressed by those who could not be accepted because of some disability or because the companies were all too soon filled up. The streets were black with carriages.
The desire to enlist was so keen and the response at first was so large that Marietta and Washington county's quota of men was soon complete. It was not until several years later that it was necessary to resort to conscription in order to get enough men to continue the war.
The whole mind and purpose of Marietta and Washington County was centered upon returning those states to the fold which had seceded. There was no thought at the outset of getting the negroes free. It was not until the war as more than half finished that President Lincoln freed the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was necessary to prolong the struggle a long time before the terms of the proclamation could be actually carried out.
Of course, there were many men who enlisted who did not believe that the Southern states could be brought back through engaging in war. They preferred to exhaust all diplomatic means before throwing down the gauntlet. They were patriotic and true to their ideas of right, but they believed that some settlement between the North and the South could be affected through peaceable means. They had the same purposes as the men who believed that the South could only be brought back by war, but they differed as to the means by which this might be accomplished. Of course they were censured cruelly by the more hot headed and impulsive men, and they were taunted, defiled and called Copperheads. But they were honest in their convictions, at least.
Opinion as to President Lincoln's honesty of purpose differed also. He was not universally admired and worshipped as he is today. No man is beloved of everybody except when he is sleeping his last sleep. It takes martyrdom for a man to be judged for what he really is. Partisanship and prejudice becloud the issue while he is alive.
But there were few men in Marietta who were not willing to stand by the president after the gauge of battle had been accepted. They thronged the streets and cheered while the bands played and the enlisting went on. It was a most impressive scene, one that will never be forgotten. I mention it now because conditions are so different in this present crisis and people seem to be so undemonstrative and serious. Their patriotic fever may be just as strong as it was then, but their feelings are expressed differently. Also there was something very close and near and tangible about the civil war, from the standpoint of the north. To lose that struggle meant the loss of half the country, and the setting up of two republics upon American soil. In this war we fight for a principle and we get nothing tangible, according to President Wilson's message.
After the companies were filled, they were trained in camps located at the Fair grounds and Camp Tupper. Large crowds of visitors visited these camps daily.
Finally the city turned out en masse when the soldiers left the city to begin their warfare. Everything was bright and gay, in spite of the sadness of farewell. It was like celebrating the return of a conquering hero. But thousands of the troops that marched away that day never returned.
That the Marietta and Washington County boys in blue gave a good account of themselves is history. And in talks that we have with a number of them in these days when the country is getting ready for another war, they still maintain their patriotism and many expressed their willingness to again shoulder their gun in defense of their country.