Patriotism or Greed? More to the Story?

“Undoubtedly many of the citizens of Gettysburgh and vicinity are patriotic and generous, but they had a queer manner of showing it.”

By Sean Parke

July-24_crounse_articleThis blog post is a continuation of a topic first introduced in my earlier post entitled “Patriotism or Greed? Damage Claims after the Battle of Gettysburg.”

The adjacent artifact is a newspaper article by Lorenzo L. Crounse , a reporter for The New York Times. The  first post in this series cited an article that he wrote on July 7 and (published on the 9th) about the lack of patriotism among the citizens of Gettysburg (Click here to view Crounse’s July 7 article). The above article was written on July 21 and published on the 24th. This report is in response to a piece in the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel which defended the reputation of Gettysburg civilians and was signed by over twenty clerics and businessmen.

The most interesting part of the article is the beginning of the fifth paragraph which reads, “Undoubtedly many of the citizens of Gettysburgh and vicinity are patriotic and generous, but they had a queer manner of showing it.” This is a significant change from his first article. While his original report was careful not to make his accusations against all citizens of Gettysburg, he implied that the vast majority were “not worthy of being defended.” This change in tone most likely reflects the impact of time. While he claims, “I do not speak hastily” in his first article, the truth is that his frustrations and anger from the experience most likely came out in his writing. After a couple of weeks Crounse was able to calm down a bit and reflect more accurately on the situation. In fact, he admits that “Nobody doubts that, since the battle, the people of Gettysburg have been tender and kind to our wounded,” although he does counter that this same outreach of kindness is provided by “our bitterest enemies in Virginia.”

While his tone has changed since the battle, Crounse’s position still maintains that the people of Gettysburg generally acted inappropriately and in a non-patriotic manner. He cites the constant claims filed to recover money for damages and services, as well as a resistance to helping themselves. As discussed in the previous post in this series, , the recovery of damages does not necessarily reflect greed or a lack of patriotism; it could simply demonstrate an interest in self-preservation and an exercise of legal rights. This artifact sheds a different light on this issue.   It is interesting that Crounse compares his experiences in Pennsylvania to his experiences in Virginia. With this perspective, it would make sense for Crounse to be surprised by civilians’ request for money. Outside of Antietam, this was the first time that a major battle occurred on Union soil, and not in a state in rebellion. Virginians certainly did not try to file claims to a government against which their state was currently rebelling. However, Unionists in Virginia did file claims after the war in 1865. Therefore, this article can be used to explain some of the shock, not only from Crounse but from other reporters and the Union army, who had never fought a battle on Union ground surrounded by Union citizens. In addition, it further demonstrates that Gettysburg citizens should not be exceptionally considered greedy for asking for money from the government, for Unionists in the South did the same thing as soon as they had the chance.

On the other hand, Crounse brings forward some intriguing questions. Why were citizens hesitant to help or sacrifice for their country? Why did the town not celebrate the Union victory and welcome the troops with great displays of patriotism? These are questions that will be explored in future posts.

Leave a Reply