Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Battle of Gettysburg: behavior of the townspeople

Part 1 in a series of posts on the behavior of the townspeople at the Battle of Gettysburg.

In the July 7, 1863 edition of the New York Times, war correspondent L.L. Crounse wrote a scathing piece regarding the conduct of the people of Gettysburg. Some echoed Crounse's assessment while others disagreed vehemently. Both sides will be represented here in this forum in forthcoming posts. But first, we offer the July 7, 1863 piece by L.L. Crounse. He writes:

....But there is one thing the country cannot have too much of -- sympathy for the fallen -- or cannot give too much -- aid for the wounded, and unstinted praise for the valorous ones, whose steady and unflinching courage have turned the tide of successive disaster into a sweeping and surging victory -- let a nation be truly thankful.

And apropos to this, let me make it a matter of undeniable history that the conduct of the majority of the male citizens of Gettysburg, and the surrounding County of Adams, is such as to stamp them with dishonor and craven-hearted meanness. I do not speak hastily. I write but the unanimous sentiments of the whole army -- an army which now feels that the doors from which they drove a host of robbers, thieves, and cut-throats, were not worthy of being defended. The actions of the people of Gettysburg are so sordidly mean and unpatriotic, as to engender the belief that they were indifferent as to which party was whipped. I will give a few instances.


In the first place the male citizens mostly ran away, and left the women and children to the mercy of their enemies. On their return, instead of lending a helping hand to our wounded, and opening their houses to our famished officers and soldiers, they have only manifested indecent haste to present their bills to the military authorities for payment of losses inflicted by both armies. One man yesterday presented a Captain with a full bill for eighteen rails which his men had burned in cooking their coffee! On the streets the burden of their talk is their losses -- and speculations as to whether the Government can be compelled to pay for this or that. Almost entirely they are uncourteous -- but this is plainly form lack of intelligence and refinement. Their charges, too, were exorbitant -- hotels, $2.50 per day; milk, 10 and 15 cents per quart; bread, $1 and even $1.50 per loaf; twenty cents for a bandage for a wounded soldier! And these are only a few specimens of the sordid meanness and unpatriotic spirit manifested by these people, from whose doors our noble army had driven a hated enemy. I wish it to be understood that the facts I have stated can be fully substantiated by many officers high in rank, as well as by what I personally saw and experienced. This is Adams County -- a neighbor to Copperhead York, which is still nearer to the stupid and stingy Berks.

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