February and March, 1863, was a slow period in the Civil War. In the east, the Army of the Potomac waited for the mud to dry after January’s disastrous “mud march.” Besides, new commander Joe Hooker had to get his staff in place and make plans for the spring campaign.
In the West, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was now the theater commander and he was concentrating on finding a way to attack Vicksburg.
And in Middle Tennessee, Gen. William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland was doing his best McClellan imitation. It would be June before he began the Tullahoma Campaign that forced Gen. Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee out of Chattanooga.
There were small skirmishes and rumors, as usual, but no big news, so Lecky Harper filled his paper with politics: More tirades against abolitionists being the cause of the war, attacks on administration policies, and many letters, purportedly from soldiers complaining about abolition becoming a war aim.
Under headlines that proclaimed “What the Soldiers Think of Lincoln’s Abolition Proclamation,” “The Soldiers are Patriots, but not Abolitionists!” and “The Soldiers are Sick and Tired of the War, and Wish to be Home!” Harper wrote in the Feb. 21 issue:
“We have before us a mass of Army Letters, received within the last few days, sufficient to fill several pages of the Banner — written from every division of the Army, and published in every section of the country. They all breathe the same spirit, and speak the same sentiments — eternal opposition to Lincoln’s infernal Abolition Proclamation, and undying hatred of the Abolition Party, and their diabolical schemes to destroy the Union. The soldiers are patriots and not abolitionists. They enlisted, not to free the Negroes of the South and to bring them to live here amongst us in a state of social and political equality, but to uphold the Union and the Constitution, maintain the laws and restore the Old Flag to every foot of American soil, where once it waved, in all its beauty and glory. These objects having been lost sight of by Lincoln and his party, and the war converted into an abolition war, for base and wicked party purposes, the soldiers feel they have been grossly deceived and outrageously betrayed. It is no wonder, therefore, that they write letters home, and utter denunciations and cursings “loud and deep” against the sectional and corrupt party that is now ruling and ruining this once prosperous and happy country.”
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