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A SHORT TRUCE IN THE (UN)CIVIL WAR

In April 1865 the Confederate Army surrendered to the Union. The Confederate newspaper in Santa Rosa did not.

Over the four horrific years of the Civil War, the Sonoma Democrat remained steadfast in its support of the South and opposed to the Union and everything it stood for, including freedom for the slaves. This article covers what happened in Sonoma county at the end of the war and mirrors the earlier story of how the Democrat reacted to Lincoln’s 1860 election (“THAT TERRIBLE MAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT“).

A devil’s advocate might defend the Democrat by arguing the paper only reflected its readership – Sonoma was the only county in the state which didn’t vote for either Lincoln’s election or re-election. But the Democrat went way, way beyond simply standing as the loyal opposition.

For starters, the paper consistently lied to its readers about how the war was going. Victory for the South was always just around the corner because the Union troops were in disarray, cowardly or unwilling to fight. In 1863 the Sonoma Democrat reported, “The battle of Gettysburg was, on our part, a triumphant success an overwhelming victory…General Lee had won the ground and could have held it, but he chose, for military reasons, to fall back, after he had utterly broken the backbone of the Yankee army.” That was a reprint from the Confederate paper in Richmond, Virginia – enemy propaganda, in other words, the alt-facts about the South’s critical defeat.

The Sonoma Democrat was edited and published by Thomas L. Thompson. Although there was no Civil War combat in California, of course, week after week Thompson battled Samuel Cassiday, editor of the Argus in Petaluma, the only major town in the county supporting the Union.

Each of them denounced the other as a misguided fool and hypocrite. To the Argus, the Santa Rosa paper was deceitful by insisting the Rebels were only defending their constitutional right to govern themselves, while they actually wanted to hold on to their slaves. To the Democrat, the Petaluma paper was dishonest in stating the Yankees only wanted to preserve the Union, while they actually wanted to take away the South’s slaves.

This was no temperate political debate; it was a blood feud, each editor reacting to the other’s latest outrage – and often reacting to the other’s reaction to their reaction. These guys would have loved Twitter.

Their pages are full of fightin’ words which reflect the passions of the Civil War quite clearly, and could provide enough material for a series of articles (maybe even a book) – but historians rarely discuss the feud. The reason why: Thompson’s Sonoma Democrat also quite clearly reflected the Confederacy’s racist malignancy.

I defy anyone with a measure of basic empathy to read through the 1860s Sonoma Democrat and not come away sickened. The problem goes far beyond merely the use of “the n-word,” although that appeared hundreds of times in the Santa Rosa paper (along with every other racist epithet imaginable). It’s that the Democrat smothers the reader with its unceasing and pathological hatred and loathing for the entire black population of America. Sometimes the paper published a speech or sermon trying to justify slavery on historical, legal or biblical grounds, but mostly Thompson didn’t bother and preached to his Confederate-fan choir as if it were a settled matter – everyone with any smarts just knew blacks were inferior, the abolition of slavery would never work and the South was winning the war. Today we have a term to describe such delusional thinking: The Dunning–Kruger effect, meaning the smug over-confidence of the ignorant.

Then suddenly, Thompson’s favorite soapbox was taken away when the South surrendered.

Petaluma, joined by like-minded Union patriots in Marin, held a nine-hour celebration with a marching band, fireworks and a mock battle. There were three parades, all featuring banners with the artwork of a local man “whose patriotism is only equalled by his ingenuity in caricaturing treason and traitors.” What impressed most was a float 14 feet high and nine feet wide depicting “the Goddess of Liberty, holding in her hands the Stars and Stripes, and supported on both sides, by two ‘recording angels.'”

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa sulked and the Democrat – true to form – lied to its readers, claiming the displays seen at the Petaluma parade “were devoted almost entirely to the abolition of slavery and the elevation of the black race” (none had any reference to slavery or race). Editor Thompson, who did not yet know the details of the surrender at Appomattox, held out the hope that General Grant’s terms would roll back the clock to the good ol’ days before Lincoln: “…it has always been understood that he, like George B. McClellan, is for the ‘Union as it was.’”

Petaluma did not have long to celebrate, nor Santa Rosa long to grump. Three days after the parade came news of Lincoln’s assassination. From the Argus:


…All that we could learn was that Lincoln had been shot dead, in Ford’s Theatre, and that Seward had been stabbed several times, while in his bed, and was yet alive. At length the boat arrived, and to Mr. Charles Yeomans we were indebted for a [San Francisco] Bulletin Extra, giving the details. This was read from the Journal and Argus office to the throng outside. We soon had the sad particulars in type, passing extras, to those outside clamorous for the news, at the rate of 1,200 an hour…

The Petaluma newspaper continued: “…To render still more intense the excitement, a dispatch came announcing that the people of San Francisco had literally sacked five Secession newspaper offices, and that the Military and Police force was powerless to restrain them.”

In another article on the same page, the Argus reprinted an item from a San Francisco paper reporting that the assassination news led to mobs destroying the printing presses and type cabinets of all pro-Confederacy newspapers in the city. (It’s said the De Young brothers founded the Chronicle using the lead type they swept up in the street.) Soldiers at the Presidio were called out to assist the police, and the combined armed force patrolled the streets until the next day, quelling the only Civil War-related riot in California.

The San Francisco “Lincoln Riot,” April 15, 1865, destroyed the presses of pro-Confederate newspapers and journals. Photo: Lincoln Museum, Ft. Wayne, Indiana via foundsf.org

 

You can bet Thomas L. Thompson was nervously peeking out the windows at the Democrat once word reached Sonoma county that angry patriots were busting up the offices of disloyal newspapers. And given his years of snarkily taunting Petaluma, should he also fear being tarred and Petaluma-chicken feathered?

Luckily for Thompson, nothing happened – but both Petaluma and Santa Rosa papers suggested it was a close call.

Writing of Petaluma’s reaction to news of the San Francisco “Lincoln Riot,” the Argus stated, “This deed of righteous vengeance gave birth to dark thoughts and significant murmurs which required the combined efforts, cool heads to keep in restraint. The remotest semblance of exultation, over the fall of Lincoln, either by word or act, would have called forth swift and summary vengeance…it was a critical time and we felt rejoiced when night drew its curtains about our city and the people had dispersed to their homes…”

A couple of days later, Thompson wrote that someone in Petaluma was spreading rumors: “We have heard that some worse than brute in human shape, circulated a report at Petaluma [that Santa Rosa was not in mourning] and we deem it due to our people, as well as those in other portions of the State, to denounce the originator of the slander a wilful and malicious liar.”

Of course, Thompson being Thompson, he could not write a single paragraph without including some provocative remark. He now claimed the Sonoma Democrat was always respectful to Lincoln despite everything: “…as the great head of the Nation, which we have been taught to love and respect from our infancy, we have ever been willing to accord to him that respect which is properly due to the Chief Magistrate of the country.” Maybe Thompson bumped his head and forgot the barrels of ink he had used over the previous four years denouncing Lincoln as a dishonest, incompetent, lying, cowardly, deformed, witless tyrant – and that’s not even the rough stuff, where the president was accused of being a race traitor.

The history of those days cannot be written without mentioning “The Battle of Washoe House.” For those unfamiliar, there’s a story that a mob of Petaluma men did start to ride towards Santa Rosa but got no further than the famous roadhouse, drowning their indignant anger in suds. (A variant says their wives had to fetch the drunks home the next morning.) There’s no proof the story is even partially true; it was not mentioned in any period newspaper or book that can be found and as commented above, the local papers suggest there was nothing more than grumbling in Petaluma. Should something turn up I’ll correct it here, but after a long search I’m ready to file it away as a tall tale.*

A few days later, both Santa Rosa and Petaluma had funeral obsequies for Lincoln. Petaluma went all out, as might be expected. A rifle salute was fired every thirty minutes from sunrise to sundown; a cortège, complete with hearse, traced a route through all the main streets with church bells tolling the entire time. In Santa Rosa the procession went from the Fourth street courthouse to the Methodist church a block over, then back to the Plaza. “Nearly all the business houses in town were draped in mourning,” the Democrat reported. Nearly.

There followed a brief and uneasy truce in their (un)civil war. at least in the sense Thompson temporarily dialed back his attacks on the government and black people – perhaps he feared those buckets of hot tar and sacks of chicken feathers were still sitting in the back of Petaluma wagons. The Democrat reported, without comment, about residents of other counties being arrested for rejoicing over Lincoln’s death, and meekly protested the Democrats now felt like strangers in their own country.

Cassiday, on the other hand, kept hammering away, writing that the national Democratic party, the Sonoma county Democrats and the Santa Rosa paper were all guilty of treason. He took to calling Thompson “Limberback” for reasons unknown, although apparently it was a pretty good insult.

That truce lasted only a month after the war. Thompson wrote an obnoxious (but tame, for him) op/ed stating abolition was just a Yankee social experiment that may fail. “We the whole people of the United States, who have paid the price in blood and treasure for this little experiment in New England ideas, will endeavor patiently to await the result.”

The Argus shot back angrily: “We rather think you won’t have long to wait. Have you heard from Jeff. [Davis] lately? By the way, Limberback, where was your blood and treasure expended? On which side of the line did you invest? Didn’t you lose most of your cash on the Confederacy?”

And then they were off again. Soon the Democrat was relitigating the war, insisting the South had the higher moral ground and a right to secede in order to maintain its slave economy. Thompson was back to flinging “the n-word” in nearly every issue and the newspaper’s racism was as bad as ever – no, actually worse.

I’m sure I’ll have to mention again their epic feud; any researcher looking at Sonoma county during the Civil War (and following years) can’t go very far without stumbling over their quarrels. And some of it is great fun in its own right; later in 1865 the Democrat offered a parody endorsement for “Dr. Gunny Bags’ Extract of Butternut Sap” which “cured political maladies, especially that peculiar type called fanaticism.” A fake testimonial declared, “I poured a little on the wheels of the Petaluma Journal and Argus, and it acted like magic. It immediately expelled the flatulency which had so long inflated the editorials of that paper.”

But like so much of what appeared in the Sonoma Democrat at that time, “Dr. Gunny Bags” is ruined by Thompson’s compulsive need to insert racial slurs. That shift in the article changes it from satire to white supremacist pornography, so I’ll never transcribe that item or write more about it than what appears right here. It’s enough to point out that a cesspool stinks without offering a scratch ‘n’ sniff card to prove it.

 


* “The Battle of Washoe House” first appeared in print in Adair Lara’s 1982 “History of Petaluma: A California River Town.” On pg. 50 she quoted Ed Mannion, an Argus-Courier columnist and local history buff per the fable of the “Petaluma Navy” which was poised to attack Santa Rosa once there was “an extremely high tide” (in other words, once the entire county flooded, yuk, yuk, yuk). In the next paragraph, Lara introduced the Washoe House story, stating, “…LOCAL HISTORIANS say that these guardians of the national honor got as far as the Washoe House…” (emphasis mine). Adair does not recall her source but agrees it could have been Mannion. Perhaps it was an old saloon tale or the sort of spoof which Mark Twain called a “quaint” which appeared in some non-local newspaper now lost. My personal theory is that it was either born or gained traction in 1958, the year of Petaluma’s centennial. That was also the 99th birthday for the Washoe House and members of E. Clampus Vitus mounted a plaque at the roadhouse in celebration. The Clampers were up to their usual hijinks that day, including trying to push an old fire engine into the lobby of the Hotel Petaluma. The events ended with a group dinner at the hotel (“A whole chicken for each man, and served on pitchforks” – Pet. A-C, April 14 1958) where the Clampers heard the “vigilante bell” story and other old tales.

 

Petaluma Argus, April 20, 1865
REJOICING!

From Plymouth Rock to where the Pacific’s waves lave [sic] shores of California, Oregon and Washington, the capture of the Rebel army under Lee, by the conquering hero, Lieut.-Gen. U. S. Grant, has called forth demonstrations of unbounded enthusiasm and rejoicing. The mountains echo back the shouts from the vallies, and to the outermost verge of civilization, bonfires have been kindled to herald the downfall of one of the most wicked and uncalled for rebellions that ever blotted the pages history. On Wednesday the loyal people of Sonoma and Marin counties assembled in this city, to exchange congratulations upon the encouraging prospect of a speedy restoration of our Union and termination of the further effusion of blood. Our city was filled to repletion with the inhabitants of the surrounding country. About noon the Lincoln Cavalry, Lieut. Causland, and Bloomfield Guards, Capt. C. R. Arthur, led by the Bloomfield Brass Band, entered our city with flying banners. About the same time the Washington Guards, Capt. W. A. Eliason, from Santa Rosa cheered us with their presence. At 1 1/2 o’clock, P. M. the above named Companies, with the Petaluma Guards. Emmet Rifles and City Guards, Major Jas. Armstrong, commanding, preliminary to a grand review on Union square, East Petaluma, escorted the patriotic boys of our Fire Department, comprised of Sonoma, No. 2, through several streets. The review at Union Square was witnessed by a vast concourse of ladies and gentlemen, and reflected great credit upon our citizen soldiers. A sham battle, in which the Lincoln Cavalry made repeated charges upon the Infantry drawn up in battle array, was the most exciting feature of the review. The clash and clatter of the cavalry, so they swept down upon the serried lines bristling bayonets, followed by the rattle of musketry as volley after volley of brank cartridges greeted the assailants, on a small scale, gave a fair representation of a battle scene. Nobody was hurt, however, and at 4 o’clock the Military was dismissed. At 7 1/2 o’clock in the evening a procession was formed on Main street, headed with the military, led by the Bloomfield Brass Band, and marched through the principle streets with a good display of fireworks, torches, transparencies and banners. The houses of the loyal people throughout the city were illuminated. As the procession moved along, cheer upon cheer answered the waving of handkerchiefs by the patriotic ladies along the route. God bless our mothers and sisters for the noble self-sacrificing spirit which has prompted them to buckle the armor upon sons and brothers, and bid them strike for their country, in its hour of peril! Their heart’s treasure has strewn a thousand fields; but they can today rejoice that their noble slain repose beneath their Country’s Banner. A large number of transparencies and banners, painted by Mr. Samuel Dearborn, of this city, whose patriotism is only equalled by his ingenuity in caricaturing treason and traitors, was a prominent feature of the procession. The following are a few of the inscriptions and devices:

Representation of the Goddess of Liberty, holding in her hands the Stars and Stripes, and supported on both sides, by two “recording angels.” This was a splendidly executed device, being fourteen feet high and nine wide, and was drawn on a wagon through the streets, to the admiration of everyone.

“The Angel of Peace.” (Picture of Gilmore’s ‘Swamp Angel.'”)

“The rebel Hill; the difference between his place and name is all in your ‘eye,’ (i)”

Picture of Johnny Crapeaud in Mexico. Johnny is represented as a frog, under the iron heel of Brother Johnathan [sic].

“Steel Bayonets, Yankee Shoe pegs.”

“Long may he wave.” (A picture of Jeff. Davis suspended by a rope around his neck.)

Sam’s large transparency, the one used in the last campaign, was changed to suit the occasion, and was carried on an omnibus.

“Blessed are the Peace Makers–Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas and Porter.”

“The Rebellion shipwrecked on a ‘LEE’ shore.”

“Sound the tocsin, beat the drum, the year of Jubi-‘Lee’ has come!”

At about 9 o’clock the procession was disbanded on Main street, when a platform was erected in front of the American Hotel, and the meeting organized with I. G. Wickersham, Esq., as Chairman. Prof. E. S. Lippitt addressed the vast assemblage present for over an hour, after which the Glee Club sang a patriotic song, and the Band played several spirited pieces. So ended the jubilee over the capture of Lee’s army.

– Petaluma Argus, April 13, 1865
 
Treason and Hypocrisy.

We can endure with a good deal of patience the rebels in their revolt, for although it is one of the most henious crimes known to our laws, yet it is true, the great mass of them, from habit, education, and their entire surroundings, have been honestly led to believe they are justifiable in fighting against the Government, for what they term their independence. In fact we cannot refrain from respecting an open and manly enemy. One may contend for a principle, amid many trials and through sacrifices, the principle for which he is striving may be most pernicious and dangerous in its tendencies. And while we insist that the rebels should be punished, for the good of society and the well-being of future generations, yet we deeply commiserate them and painfully regret they had not received a better and more correct education.

But there is a class of men in the North, for whom we neither can have respect or feelings of pity. They occupy a position so perfectly inexcusable, and without excuse, that patriotic men cannot help but feel that the severest penalty known to our laws would, at best, very inadequately punish them for the crimes of which they are guilty.

We refer to that hypocritical and treasonable portion of the Democratic party, which cover itself with a flimsy mantle of loyalty, just sufficiently heavy to save them from being banished beyond our lines, or from imprisonments in the cells of our military prisons–some of them, even then, only avoiding the latter by the nimbleness of their heels. Men who belie their early education, stultify their judgements, an go contrary to the clearest promptings of their consciences; who remain under the Government; claim and receive its protection, which they are constantly scheming for its overthrow; who for the sake of saving their necks will urge men to enlist, while with the next breath they proclaim that the guilt and entire responsibility for the war, in the first place, and for its further continuance, rests upon the North.

Now, in the name of all that is sacred and solemn, if the rebels are right in this struggle, and are willing to lay down their arms just as soon as they have the promise and security that they will be protected in their just and constitutional rights, but can any one believing this, aid the Government in the further prosecution of the war? If we held such views we would not stop under such a government a single day, but would join our destiny with the party battling for the right; and so would every man who is worthy of the name. Those who hold that on Mr. Lincoln rests “the odium, the blood, the guilt of a further prosecution of the war,” while at the same time they are urging men to enlist, demonstrate to the public, as clear as the noon-day sun, that they are both hypocrites and traitors, and although personally they may be very insignificant and beneath the notice of the military authorities, yet some of them occupy positions which places a lever in their hands by which they may accomplish much mischief. And the community which patronizes and sustains such persons, will be very likely ultimately to find, that they have been warming a viper into life, which will turn on them and fasten its envenomed fangs into their quivering flesh.

– Petaluma Argus, April 13, 1865

From the San Francisco Dispatch
Great outburst of Popular Feeling.

WHOLESOME DESTRUCTION OF COPPERHEAD NEWSPAPERS.

This afternoon between the hour of two and three o’clock, P. M. the loyal people of San Francisca, paid their respects to the office of the Democratic Pres, which they at once proceeded to demolish without ceremony. The types and other printing material were cast out of the windows and down the stairs, the stands and cases were smashed into fragments, the papers were distributed on the viewless wings of wind, much more expeditiously than the carrier ould have done it, the window frames were bodily torn out of the fastenings, and thrown down upon the pavement, where all the debris was gathered in a pile–the office, in fact, completely destroyed and gutted.

An immense multitude gathered in the streets and watched the proceeding with interest. Not the least attempt at resistance or rescue was made, showing that this prepeeding met with universal approbation.

After the consumation of this act of signal justice, the crowd moved off to the office of Marriot’s News Letter, which was served in a similar manner. Great enthusiasm prevailed. A number of persons secured the latest impressions. One person cried out “here’s the last issue of Marriot’s News Letter. The work of destruction was accomplished when Chief Burke accompanied by two companies of armed police, with bayonets fixed, marched round several squares and up Clay street to the News Letter, where the Chief spoke in favor of moderation, as the crowd began to move away, only, but ever, to rush up to the office of the Monitor (weekly Copperhead,) where they in a manner demolished, or in Secesh parlance, “wiped out.”

The office of the Occidental shared the fate of the Press. During its destruction, the Vox de Mejico, the loyal Mexican paper, took in its flag, but after the occurrence threw it out again amid loud cheers.

The proprietors of all the papers destroyed made good their escape, and no violence was perpetrated at that time.

This act of justice, happening upon the heels of the sad intelligence announcing the double murder in Washington seems most appropriate.

– Petaluma Argus, April 20, 1865

 

Petaluma in Mourning.

…All that we could learn was that Lincoln had been shot dead, in Ford’s Theatre, and that Seward had been stabbed several times, while in his bed, and was yet alive. At length the boat arrived, and to Mr. Charles Yeomans we were indebted for a Bulletin Extra, giving the details. This was read from the JOURNAL AND ARGUS office to the throng outside. We soon had the sad particulars in type, passing extras, to those outside clamarous [sic] for the news, at the rate of 1200, an hour. To render still more intense the excitement, a dispatch came announcing that the people of San Francisco had litterally[sic] sacked five Secession newspaper offices, and that the Military and Police force was powerless to restrain them. This deed of righteous vengeance gave birth to dark thoughts and significant murmers [sic] which required the combined efforts, cool heads to keep in restraint. The remotest semblance of exultation, over the fall of Lincoln, either by word or act, would have called forth swift and summary vengeance. Those of known secession proclivities seemed to fully realize the position of affairs, and deported themselves accordingly. It was a critical time and we felt rejoiced when night drew its curtains about our city and the people had dispersed to their homes…

– Petaluma Argus editorial, April 20, 1865
 
The Death of the President.

The announcement of the sudden and tragic death of President Lincoln reached Santa Rosa on Saturday last at about 11 o’clock. Two dispatches were received from San Francisco bearing the terrible intelligence, and the people stood aghast for a time, loth to believe that such could he true, but the announcement was soon affirmed by other dispatches. The effect upon the minds of the people of every sect, partv and denomination was the same. A truly mournful gloom was soon spread over the entire community.— Business houses were all closed, and the flags upon the public and private buildings were lowered to half mast. We have heard that some worse than brute in human shape, circulated a report at Petaluma to the contrary of what we have stated, and we deem it due to our people, as well as those in other portions of the State, to denounce the originator of the slander a wilful and malicious liar. We have never seen any gloom so generally shared in as that occasioned in our midst by the sad announcement of the brutal and fiendish assassination of the Chief Magistrate of the Nation. We have never been a supporter of Mr. Lincoln’s peculiar policy in administering the government, but as the great head of the Nation, which we have been taught to love and respect from our infancy, we have ever been willing to accord to him that respect which is properly due to the Chief Magistrate of the country. We have heard nothing but the deepest sorrow and regret expressed by all our people at the sad announcement of his death.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 22 1865

THE NEWS–AND HOW IT WAS RECEIVED. —Those who have advocated the war, and accepted and ratified every act of the administration, without hesitating a moment to consider the consequences hereafter, looking forward alone to the subjugation of the South and the liberation of the negro, have had a gay old time this week over the news which has been transmitted across the wires. The intensely loyal had a good pow-wow at Petaluma on Wednesday, and at Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, demonstrations of joy were manifested in various ways. It is not because of the prospects of peace that they celebrate, but rather the triumph of might. We are informed that the transparencies in the procession at Petaluma were devoted almost entirely to the abolition of slavery and the elevation of the black race. It may be that these sticklers for Sambo, celebrate too soon, for Grant has made the terms, and it has always been understood that he, like George B. McClellan, is for the “Union as it was.”

– Sonoma Democrat, April 22 1865

A NUMBER OF ARRESTS.–From our numerous exchanges we see that in almost every portion of the State men have been arrested for rejoicing over the assassination of President Lincoln, and have been sent to prison. Here is a chance for the great Democratic Constitutional expounder, of this city, to declaim against “unconstitutional arrests.”

– Petaluma Argus, April 27, 1865

 

Mob Violence.

San Francisco stands alone in the category of cities which, upon the arrival of the recent dreadful news from Washington, was disgraced by a resort to mob violence, in order to appease the grief and indignation of her people. It is gratifying to hear that even there those who had recourse to such dangerous and unlawful proceedings formed bnt a small portion of the inhabitants, and the outrages committed were condemned and deeply regretted by the more respectable classes of the community. Generally those who give vent to their feelings on such occasions as the present by a resort to unlawful measures are men who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by throwing a community into a state of tumultuous excitement, and in such times it becomes every good citizen to raise his voice in behalf of law and older. Since 1851, San Francisco has been subject to periodical outbreaks of popular excitement, and on this occasion we find in the ranks of the mob men who at other times have sustained the law, and wo can only account for their conduct on this occasion in believing it was instigated by a desire to gratify a spirit of revenge harbored against certain loyal publication offices in that city as well as against Democratic papers. It is a well known fact that had it not been for the timely interference of the military on the 15th inst., the offices of the Alta and Bulletin and the Overland Telegraph Company would have suffered. It is positively asserted by the Flag newspaper, the organ of the disorderly, as well as by citizens of San Francisco who witnessed the proceedings that these establishments were included in the programme laid down for the mob to execute. The military commandant of the coast was appealed to for protection, and did prevent the destruction of these as well as certain Churches in the city which were also threatened, by the establishment of a military guard about them. From the best information we can gather we are fully satisfied that credit is due to Major General McDowell for the prevention of further and more disastrous, destruction of property than did occur. We regret exceedingly that we cannot record that he saved the property of Democrats as well as of other citizens, for to assume that they are not entitled to the protection of law is to ignore the rights of fully one-half the population of the loyal States.

All reports of the destruction of newspapers elsewhere in the State besides San Francisco were without foundation. In every other section the people manifested their grief by more quiet and respectful proceedings. True, in some instances, threats were made by persons who imagined it would be proper for them to imitate the example set at San Francisco, but thanks be to the cooler heads of the more orderly masses, we are spared the necessity of recording any further violation of law. It is to be hoped that every law abiding citizen, be he Democrat or Republican, Abolitionist or Copperhead, will continue to exert himself in behalf of law and order, for surely no good can come of violent demonstrations, be they of what character they may.

We append hereto some very sensible remarks upon this subject taken from the S. F. Bulletin:

“Every intelligent Unionist must perceive that no good can possibly result from lawless bursts of anger at this time. The duty of the hour is a calm adherence to the legal sanctions of order, that society may as soon as possible recover from the disturbing effects of civil war and the passions that follow in the train. Mere brutal violence is an affront to the spirit of the great dead, whose marble serenity still hushes the nation’s capital. We should go through this memorial week–about to be made sacred forever in our history his by obsequies — with dignity and decency worthy of our grief and of his character. Everv good citizen should frown upon all incitements to scenes of disorder, chief among which, and altogether the most reprehensible, are incendiary publications of the character of the American Flag, which should be discouraged and discarded by every friend of sobriety and good government. The civil and military authorities should continue their efforts to preserve the peace, and use every proper means to prevent inflammatory appeals and expressions.”

– Sonoma Democrat, April 29 1865

 

The Opponents of the Administration.

Some people place a poor estimate upon the patriotism, virtue and intelligence of the American people when they endeavor to fix the responsibility of the recent tragic occurrences in our Nation’s history upon those who, in their wisdom, have seen proper to exercise the privileges of citizenship by recording their votes against the peculiar policy of those who administer the Government. The right of freely expressing one’s views and the free exercise of the right of suffrage are privileges which have been guaranteed to the people of this country, not only by the Constitution of the United States, but by that of every individual State in the Union… At the recent Presidential election over fifteen hundred thousand American citizens entered their protest against the peculiar policy of those who were administering the Government. If it were true that these people desired the downfall of the Government or the assassination of its Chief Executive, then, indeed, are we a degenerate nation. We do not believe that the masses of the dominant party attribute any such designs or motives to those who opposed them in the last Presidential contest–but, rather, they stand with the lamented President, who himself spurned to assume such to be the case, and in his last Message administered these fanatics a withering rebuke by taking upon himself the defense of the Democratic party against this senseless cry of disloyalty and treason.

But, we regret, there are some high in authority who see proper to take a different view from Mr. Lincoln, and declare or insinuate that those whom the late President would defend from the foul invectives hurled against them are guilty, as charged by the fanatical press of the country. We have heard nothing from the East of this tirade against Democrats; it appears to be confined alone to the Pacific coast. — And feeling, as we do, that they have cause to and do as deeply mourn the loss of the lamented dead as any who set themselves up to be models of loyalty. we deeply regret that such should be the case here. In the defense of the Democracy by Mr. Lincoln we have another reason Democrats everywhere should deplore his loss; for surely we had a better friend in him than we may ever hope to find in those who rule the country now.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 29 1865

 

Military Arrests.

David James and two sons, Wm. P Durbin and son, Charles Ramsey and son, and John Stilts were arrested by military order in Green Valley, Solano county, on Monday List, lor rejoicing over the death of President Lincoln. — A company of militia were despatched from Benecia to execute the order, and met with resistance from the parties, two soldiers being wounded. After an exchange of several shots, the above named parties surrendered themselves to the militia, and are now confined at San Francisco, where they will be tried by military court for resisting the execution of the order. Four men were arrested at Colusa on Thursday of last week, by a company of soldiers from Sacramento, also charged with rejoicing over the death of the President. The names of the parties so arrested are…

– Sonoma Democrat, April 29 1865
Will Awaken Reflection.

There is scarcely a Copperhead journal in the State but that comes to us clothed in mourning, and filled with lamentations over the untimely fall of Abraham Lincoln, by the hand of an assassin. How sincere they are in their protestations of sorrow is a matter of little or no importance to us; but we are curious to see what effect it will have upon those who had been educated up to an intense degree of fanatical hatred of Lincoln by these same organs. Ignorant men and women whose minds are plastic material in the hands of unscrupulous demagogues, when once thoroughly indoctrinated with sentiments, however brutal, are hard to uneducate; and in the present instance very many of them gave utterance to their joy at the cowardly assassination of President Lincoln, little dreaming that the journals which had always held him up to them as a “monster in human form;” a “tyrant whose iron rule was insufferable,” would exhibit such an agony of grief at his removal. Even the lowest order of intellect can discern that either in the beginning or end they have been dealt falsely by; that if their leaders were sincere at the outset, they have deserted them now; and if sincere now, they willfully deceived and betrayed them into a false position in the beginning. Those who, upon hearing of the assassination of Lincoln, exclaimed, the ‘Abolitionists’ have been rejoicing over the capture of Lee’s army but now it is our turn to rejoice, little dereamed that their leaders would fail to join with them in their origies [sic] over a slain “tyrant.” How chilling must have been the effect upon the patrons of the Santa Rosa Democrat, when upon unfolding its pages expecting to find a ponderous leader under the caption, “Caesar found his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and Lincoln his Booth,” their eyes were greeted with an ostentatious display of mourning, and professions of inconsolable sorrow. However bitter the disappointment to some, it will not be wholly barren of good results. Some minds are so constituted that just such impressive lessons are the only instrumentalities that will arouse them to the perception of new truths. Party leaders, so long as they keep up a semblance of consistency and sincerity, may keep such minds in the grooves of old beaten tracks, but when, as is the case just now, those leaders stand unmasked, shrinking from the position into which they have betrayed their dupes, their misguided followers will be slow to fall into line and follow them into new and unexplored fields. The whole stock in trade of the Democratic leaders, in this county, has been vituperation of Lincoln, By falsehood and misrepresentation they kept men in their party trammels by systematic and unscrupulous appeals to the lowest instincts of brutalized humanity. Like the keeper who shrinks back powerless to command the obedience of animals whose appetites have been whetted by the blood of some hapless victim, these same leaders stand trembling in the presence of the demoniac spirit they have instilled into the hearts of their followers, and which will not down at their bidding. This condition of affairs has awakened reflection in the minds of a small minority in that party, who can lay some claims to intelligence and respectability, and they unhesitatingly renounce their allegiance to it. Oceans of hypocritical tears will not suffice to remove the stain of Lincoln’s blood from the Democratic party; it will adhere to it with the tenacity of the poisoned shirt of Nessus.

– Petaluma Argus, May 4, 1865

 

Beginning to Reap the Penalty.

So long as there was a remote possibility that the armed rebellion with which our Government was struggling, might ultimately accomplish its end, Norther traitors could hold up their heads with some assurance; but now that the cause which has commanded their entire sympathies, is hopelessly crushed, they beging to have a foretaste of the infamy in store for them and their posterity, for generations to come. Every day is rendering more legible the line of demarkation between loyal men and traitors. Where loyalty and treason have been unequally yoked together in business firs the work of severance and readjusting is rapidly going on. Aiders and abettors of treason are being made to feel that they are regarded as moral lepers who live by the sufferance of the community they infest. As well might they attempt to elude their own shadows as the disgrace which will attend them at every step throughout their lives and brood over their graves after their death.

– Petaluma Argus, May 4, 1865
 
The Day of Reckoning.

What did you with the inheritance bequeathed to you by the founders of our Government? When treason uplifted its bloody hand against the National life, what position did you assume, that of loyalty or disloyalty to your country? These are grave questions, but they are interrogatories which will meet you at every turn in life, and whether you are willing or not, answer to them will be exacted. The antecedents, associations, and records of some of the would-be prominent men of this county have branded their brows with treason, in characters so legible, that even children will recognize them, and shrinking from their path will point after them and say, “there goes a TRAITOR.”

– Petaluma Argus, May 4, 1865

“LET THE GALLED JADE WINCE.”–No wonder Limberback, of Santa Rosa, is afraid that during the coming canvass “Democrats will be denounced as sympathizers with treason and assassination.” Jeff. Davis is certainly a good Democrat. Jacob Thompson, C. C. Clay, Beverly Tucker, and Geo. N. Saunders, dictated the platform which was adopted by the Democratic National Convention at Chicago. They are good Democrats, yet they are directly implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and are supposed to be in sympathy with the  late rebellion. The plot to assassinate the President was doubtless well known in the wigwams of the Golden Circle, or Knights of the Columbian Star, and no sensible person will attempt to deny that the leaders of the Democratic Party of Sonoma County, were members of that organization. Is it strange that the people hold the Democratic Party responsible for the rebellion and the assassination of Mr. Lincoln?

– Petaluma Argus, May 11, 1865

U. S. BONDS–The Santa Rosa treason mill has been selected as one of the papers to advertise the U. S. 7-30 Loan! That is proper and right. The paper has been loyal for two weeks through fear of being destroyed by an outraged people! This brazen-faced hypocritical, teason-breeding tool of Jeff. Davis, after working four years for the Southern Confederacy, now has the impudences to advise loyal men to invest in the Government Loan! Oh, what cheek! Limberback is subjugated! He will be a howling Abolitionist in another month. Advising the people to subscribe for the National Loan! Aint, that funny! He will be advocating negro equality pretty soon. Can’t be subjugated, oh no! Where is the last ditch? Ha, ha, haw-haw!

– Petaluma Argus, May 11, 1865
New England on Trial.

New England chuckles over what she deems the complete success of her blind theories; she has obtained in the hour of national insanity, what she vainly endeavored for half a century to win from the calm judgment of our people, viz: The privilege of testing the the truth or falsity of her Abolition dogma. We the whole people of the United States, who have paid the price in blood and treasure lor this little experiment in New England ideas, will endeavor patiently to await the result. If upon a practical demonstration, Emancipation shall prove a benefit to humanity, white and black, then glory be to New England. Then who would not be an abolitionist? If the negroes and their former masters can inhabit the same soil equal in all things, and nearly equal in numbers, each happy and all things harmonious in their new relation, then New England ideas have triumphed. New England stands or falls by the result. The test of Emancipation is the test of New England, and woe to the disciple of John Brown if after a fair trial we find that we have paid so dearly for their teachings, only to be deceived in the result.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 13 1865

We the whole people of the United States who have paid the price in blood and treasure for this little experiment in New England ideas, will endeavor patiently to await the result.” – Santa Rosa Democrat.

We rather think you won’t have long to wait. Have you heard from Jeff. lately? By the way, Limberback, where was your blood and treasure expended? On which side of the line did you invest? Didn’t you loose [sic] most of your cash on the Confederacy?

– Petaluma Argus, May 18, 1865

 

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THE KLAN IN SONOMA COUNTY

“Did’ya see it?” Was likely the question everyone in Santa Rosa asked that Saturday in 1924. “It” was the car driving through the streets all night with a flaming cross attached to the hood, while the passengers tossed cards announcing the Ku Klux Klan was here and not going away.

In the mid-1920s Sonoma county had the reputation of being the hotspot of Klan activity in the Bay Area – which was a kind of homecoming, as the fledgling KKK would have died on the vine if not for the man who used to be the county’s PR representative.

(RIGHT: The KKK left calling cards to intimidate and lay claim to a presence in the community)

This article really should be titled, “The SECOND Klan in Sonoma County” because an earlier generation of the Boyz n the Hood(s) was active here after the Civil War, and before that the seditious Knights of the Golden Circle were causing trouble during the war itself.

The second Klan was started in 1915 after a handful of men in Georgia were stirred up by D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking film, “The Birth of a Nation,” with its deeply racist portrayal of the Reconstruction era. In that twisted version of history, the “night riders” were not lynching and terrorizing the black populace but restoring justice for southern whites being victimized by former slaves.

During and after WWI the new Klan sputtered along adding only a few thousand members in the Deep South, although conditions were ripe for such a hate group to flourish. National discontent was particularly high during the “Red Summer” of 1919 when whites in about two dozen cities and town rioted, murdering several hundred African-Americans (some war veterans were lynched in their uniforms). There were thousands of labor strikes nationwide amid growing fears that we were on the verge of a Bolshevik-style revolution. Now toss into this kettle of fear and fuming anger a heaping portion of conservative resentment over women gaining the right to vote plus the general misery over the start of Prohibition.

The turnaround came about when the founder of the new Klan met PR agent Edward Young Clarke. A ne’er-do-well member of a prominent Atlanta publishing and newspaper family, Clarke had helped promote a few charities (and was sued by one for embezzling) but his main job reference was as protégé to Mondula “Mon” Leak, who founded the Southeastern Exhibit Association in 1917. The stated objective was to use a warehouse-like exhibit hall in downtown Atlanta to advertise Georgia places, products and services. The initial promotions seemed pretty random – a roofer, a company that made tents and a handful of chambers of commerce, for example. What all of them had in common was a sucker’s readiness to pay membership dues to Leak’s phony association.

This was a scam Leak had perfected when he was representing Sonoma county and other North Bay counties between 1909 – 1915. He was supported by dues from all our local Chambers and trade groups to promote the region in a traveling exhibit from a custom-made railcar, but the real attraction was another car on the train with a zoo/curiosities show where Leak charged admission. Presenting a little table boasting “the creations of Luther Burbank” and redwood bark gave him enough legitimacy to claim his exhibits were “educational” and avoid the taxes and fees communities usually charged carnival sideshows. In short, he was really a low-rent P.T. Barnum. The whole strange tale was told here earlier in “SONOMA COUNTY, FAMOUS FOR SHARKS AND LUCKY BEANS.”

Part of the genius of that scheme was that Leak didn’t collect dues from each town himself, but had a contract with an umbrella organization – the North Bay Counties Association, which later became the Redwood Empire Association – to do the job for him. That way, when a local chamber of commerce didn’t want to pay and complained they weren’t getting much bang for their buck (here’s looking at you, Healdsburg) their compatriots would shame them for not pulling their weight.

In his Georgia operation, Leak eliminated the middleman by creating his own association. Further, he told newspapers he planned to expand the association to include other southern states, where presumably mini-associations with a Leak director would sign up members, collect dues and funnel that money back to the Atlanta mothership. Essentially, he turned it into a sales network working on commissions.

After a couple of years Leak retired and handed the operation over to Clarke. All the historians seem to dismiss Clarke as something of a nitwit or at best, a lousy con artist, but I disagree. Clarke – or someone close to him – quickly took the Ku Klux Klan from its origins as a small, funky social group to an army of hate-driven zealots, and he did it by weaponizing Mon Leak’s plans.

Just as Leak created the Southeastern Exhibit Association as a front to sell memberships to town chambers and trade groups, Clarke and the national KKK were funded by regional “Realms” pooling contributions from local “Klaverns.” Now to join the Klan you had to pay (er, donate) dues, and it wasn’t cheap – ten dollars, or the equivalent to about $140 today. Of that $10 (which they called a “klectoken”), the largest chunk ($4) went to the local organizer, so he could work fulltime enrolling new members. His supervisor received another buck from the dues; the two of them were called, respectively, the Kleagle and King Kleagle. The regional manager was the Grand Goblin who was given fifty cents, and $2.00 went to the national organization. The rest went to Clarke personally, as he was now the Imperial Kleagle. In the hierarchy were also the Klokards, Kludds, Kladds, Kligrapps, Klaliffs, Klabees, Klexters and I swear I am not making up any of this krap.

That was at the end of 1920. In the months that followed Klan membership snowballed, as did the coffers of the organization. And it wasn’t just from membership dues; you were required to buy all your Klan swag from headquarters, including the robe, books, pamphlets, cardboard red crosses and little cards to scatter around your town announcing the Klan was there, plus other awful goodies. Soon Klan HQ was pulling in million$ a year and growth was exponential, with about four million guys wearing hoods by 1924.

Like most Americans, our local newspapers didn’t quite know what to make of the Ku Kluxers, but were definitely Klan curious. On its face the KKK was not much different than other fraternal orders like the Elks or Odd Fellows (sorry, gents) with a costume, secret handshakes and other silly rituals. Without explaining the real aims of the organization, the papers uncritically printed stories about their gatherings. This 1923 item from the Petaluma Argus announced the Klan had a North Bay presence:


NAPA, April 4 – More than 1000 hooded figures of the Ku Klux Klan gathered somewhere in the hills of Napa county, participated in a strange ceremony round a fitfully flickering fire, silently and swiftly gathered their robes about them and disappeared into the night, as mysteriously as they appeared…

Then before Hallowe’en, the Press Democrat ran a screamer headline, “104 JOIN KU KLUX ORDER.” The front page article similarly pushed a idealized view of the KKK and their “awe-inspiring” ritual:


…Two hundred hooded klansmen, seeming phantoms in the pale moonlight of the evening, participated in the initiatory ceremony. Prior to the exercises only one or two of the masked klansmen, attired completely in white, were seen on the grounds. As if from nowhere, the 200 robe-clad figures marched from behind a small hill…ghost-like figures walked across the field while the figure of a klansman on horse back was silhouetted against the sky. A short time before the initiatory ceremony started, a huge cross, approximately 20 feet in height and situated in back of the American flag, was lighted, its rays shining on the line of hooded klansmen who walked to the small knoll…
Undated photo not in Sonoma county, but matching the 1923 ceremony described

 

The PD estimated there were about 300 cars of spectators watching the event. Among those swearing allegiance to the KKK were sixteen from Mare Island wearing their Navy uniforms.

About three weeks later was the first ceremony held in Sonoma County, on a hillside off Petaluma Hill Road. An estimated 2,000 people came to the invitation-only event. There were so many cars that afterwards, the PD said, “…traffic congestion at the exit gate for a time resembled the worst congestions of the old Cotati speedway days.”

Sonoma county’s widespread interest in the Klan in 1923 might be surprising, since a Klan organizer held a couple of meetings in Santa Rosa in 1922 but couldn’t draw much interest. And earlier that year, the PD had a scare headline “KU KLUX THREAT IN SONOMA COUNTY?” hyping news that a deputy had received an anonymous threat warning him to stop arresting troublemakers at Forestville dances. The deputy didn’t take it seriously and presumed it was written by the selfsame jerks. There were at least two other hoax KKK threats reported that year.

The splashy 1923 ceremonies were the peak of the Klan’s public events in Sonoma county, with a smaller initiation on Bennett Valley Road in June 1924 (the cross this time illuminated with light bulbs) and later in November, 25 women were initiated as members of the “Kamelias” in Santa Rosa.

(RIGHT: 1925 cartoon from The Rocky Mountain American, a KKK newspaper in Colorado)

But the KKK was quickly worming its way into everyday life. They donated food and other items to families with ill Klan members in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and they presented a bible (“valued at $50”) to the Calistoga library. They held a “Ku Klux Klan funeral” for Santa Rosa resident William J. Reno, complete with reading from the book of Revelations and “vocal music of a hidden chorus.” And after a defense attorney accused the District Attorney of being in cahoots with the Klan to railroad his client, a prospective member of the jury volunteered he was also a klansman.

None of the Santa Rosa and Petaluma newspapers editorialized against the KKK, as far as I can tell, but all gave front page coverage to negative stories about Klan confrontations, legal and political, happening elsewhere in the nation. They also reported positive stories as well; one of the oddest photo captions I have ever read appeared in the Petaluma Argus: “Jew is Honored by Ku Klux Klan,” describing how dozens of hooded klansmen showed up uninvited to a tribute for an elderly shopkeeper in Fairfield, Illinois, handing him a basket of roses.

And neither did the local papers explain to readers everything the KKK really stood for. Describing the big Petaluma Hill Road ceremony, the PD mentioned in passing that new members were told support “supremacy for the white race, separation of church and state, and rigid law enforcement.” Of the same event the Petaluma Courier said the Klan pledge was about “Americanism” and law and order.

The most information came the Petaluma Argus, which offered a lengthy account of a late 1924 Klan recruitment speech given at the high school. “It is a white, native born, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, patriotic fraternity. Orthodox Jews cannot join because they do not believe in the divinity of Christ.” (The speaker apparently forgot to mention Catholics were a main target of the hate group.)

The Klan was also a militia, he told the packed auditorium. “All Klansmen may be called upon by the governor at any time to keep law and order; the sheriff may call on them. In case of emergency, the governor may call on the Klansmen of California and over 350,000 would be ready to march at sunrise.” The speaker did not say what they expected to be called upon to defend, but did mention they wanted “to see that the immigration law is enforced.” He said they were currently “fighting appalling condition in the negro sections in many large cities,” according to the Courier, while noting there were over three million “half-breeds” in America. He stated the Klan “does not practice acts of violence,” but added “flagrant law violators should be hanged twice.” And there, Gentle Reader, was the dog whistle to those in the audience who thought it might be kinda fun to wear a disguise and act out as a homicidal vigilante.

The speaker even flashed some Klan humor by pointing out their hoods only had holes for the “watchful eye” because a klansman was supposed to stay silent. “How many of you husbands in Petaluma would like for your wife to have a silent tongue?” The newspaper felt compelled to add that he said it “jokingly.” There were also local nods: “It is just an necessary to raise good children as it is to raise good chickens,” he said, inviting boys to join their group for kids called the “Kluckers.”

Klan activity declined quickly after that in Sonoma county, as it did elsewhere in the nation. In 1925 there were only two ceremonies reported in the papers, one across the road from the Vallejo Adobe in Petaluma and another in a field south of Barham avenue in Santa Rosa, which is presumably the CostCo shopping center today. Attendance was lower because Napa and Vallejo klansmen “were reported to have become confused on the road and failed to arrive.”

The last mention of the KKK locally came in 1930, when a motorcade stopped in Petaluma after a ceremony somewhere in Napa. While the Klan’s first ceremony there in 1923 drew a thousand people, the best they could now muster was a hundred. The klansmen and their family had supper in Petaluma and left, but not before scattering everywhere their little cardboard red crosses. Once intended to express power and incur fear, it was now only trash littering the streets.

“Sooner or Later” cartoon from the African-American newspaper The Chicago Defender, 1923

 

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THAT TERRIBLE MAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT

As the presidential election approaches, the Santa Rosa paper is relentlessly attacking the Republican candidate. Readers are told he lies about his past to impress voters and he won’t listen to others because he foolishly believes he’s always right. His own party wants nothing to do with him. His proposals are simplistic as well as unworkable and unconstitutional (a document he’s obviously never read) and he will destroy the country if he gets within a mile of the White House. Plus, he looks funny.

The newspaper is the Sonoma Democrat. The Republican is Abraham Lincoln. The year is 1860.

The Sonoma Democrat was the direct ancestor of the Press Democrat and before, during and after the Civil War was relentlessly pro-Confederate. Most of Sonoma County shared those sentiments to some degree – this was the only place in the state which did not vote for Lincoln either time. But editor Thomas L. Thompson shaped the Santa Rosa newspaper into the sort of rag that might have been published in the Deep South at that time, not only pro-slavery but astonishingly racist. Now that the Democrat is online we can search it and find there were at least 330 uses of the “n-word” between 1857 and 1886. To squeeze that many hateful slurs into a four-page weekly reveals Thompson to be an awful person and probably a little crazy. There’s no question he was certifiably nuts when he committed suicide in 1898; the coroner’s jury ruled he was “mentally deranged” after ranting that the Odd Fellows’ Lodge was out to get him.

(RIGHT: Abraham Lincoln May 20, 1860, two days after winning the Republican party nomination)

In the run-up to the election, sample items from the paper transcribed below show Thompson fed his readers a steady diet of anti-Lincoln, anti-abolitionist bile. To make sense of some of these articles it’s important to know this was an odd four-way election with both Northern and Southern Democrats in the running. Besides Lincoln, the official Democratic Party candidate was Stephen A. Douglas, who thought he could somehow forge a grand compromise to keep the United States patched together; Southern Democrat Breckinridge, who wanted to uphold slavery as an absolute Constitutional right; and third-party candidate Bell, who wanted to appease the South by ignoring the slavery issue altogether.

The Sonoma Democrat introduced readers to Lincoln that summer with ad hominem attacks. Lincoln had “neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye” and lied about being a rail-splitter in his youth, as people in that part of Illinois made their fences from pieces of wood picked up in swamps (having grown up near there, I can attest there are no prairie swamps). During his service in the Black Hawk war, the paper claimed he forgot to untether his horse and fell with the animal when he tried to ride away; believing his horse had been brought down by an ambush, “Old Abe” tried to surrender to the non-existant Indians.

Sonoma county readers were told that some delegates at the Republican convention were “mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln.” Items reprinted from like-minded journals insisted he was a dead weight on the ballot and could not possibly win – although his inevitable loss in New York state would cause chaos, as the outcome would then be decided by the House of Representatives (he won New York by nearly eight points).

But more than anything else, Thompson kept hammering that Lincoln was a “Black Republican.” In Thompson’s argot, this was the worst thing he could call someone because it meant they believed African-Americans were human beings with legal rights. Whatever lip service Thompson and his ilk gave to state’s rights and the constitutionality of slave-holding, its rotten core was always racist hatred.

On election day Lincoln got 1,236 votes in Sonoma county, behind Breckinridge’s 1,466. Petaluma was the only town Lincoln won, with 375 voting for him. Santa Rosa cast 91 ballots for Lincoln and 205 for Breckinridge.

Thompson hunkered down in the final weeks of 1860, bitterly spinning a story of gloom and doom. Stock markets were in a “panic” and banks in two southern states were expecting to be closed. The “free negroes, their aiders and abettors” were plotting to avenge John Brown’s death with help from the Republicans. There was a recurrent theme in the dispatches from the pro-southern papers that the South was keeping a steady keel while the North was falling apart. Charleston supposedly would not allow steerage passengers on steamboats coming from the North to disembark unless there was a guarantee they would not become vagrants.

Thompson also launched a trope that the North was trying to nullify the Constitution and forcing the Southern states to secede against their wishes. Failing to return runaway slaves was nothing short of treason, according to Thompson, who hoped that Congress would mete out punishment “if the present disunion cloud should blow over.” There is the Confederacy mindset neatly summed: 1) we’re the victims; 2) we have the only true understanding of the Constitution; 3) we will never, ever, compromise on slavery. For these reasons and more, one dispatch from Alabama concluded: “Revolution is inevitable.”

 

 

DOUGLAS AND LINCOLN. — The men are entirely dissimilar. Douglas is a thick set, finely built man, with an air of self confidence. Lincoln is a tall (six feet four), lank man, awkward, apparently diffident, and when not speaking has neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 21, 1860

 

News from the Atlantic states.

The Overland stage with the St. Louis mails of the 21st ult. arrived at San Francisco on Monday last. On Friday, the 18th May, the Chicago Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, for President, on the third ballot, and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, for Vice President, on the second ballot. The nomination of Lincoln struck the Republicans of the Middle and Eastern States cold. A forced enthusiasm, however, was got up in some cities…The New Yorkers are as mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln. They say they can’t begin to carry New York with Lincoln, and the dead weight of their abominable Legislature added. Bets are made that Lincoln will lose N. Y. by 20,000…

– Sonoma Democrat, June 14 1860

…Abe Lincoln has declared, that if he were in the halls of Congress, and the question of the abolition of slavery were to come up, ho would vote for it in spite of the Dred Scott decision. In other words he declared that the highest Tribunal of the land was no authority for him, that he would disregard all principles of law, justice and order, and would by the mere force of physical superiority compel nearly one half of the states of this Confederacy to change their social and domestic institutions, at the beck and nod of a tyranous majority; and this is the candidate of the party who with emulous ostentation denounce the South as disunionists and traitors. This is the party who daily shout and swagger about union and nationality, who complaining of intolerance on the part of the South, deny to her all toleration, all equality, all justice, all rights under the Constitution, and insult her with threats of coercion if she dares resist their sovereign will…

– Sonoma Democrat editorial, July 12 1860

The Pittsburg Post says: An old citizen who traveled in Illinois thirty years ago, and was especially familiar with the district of country where Abe Lincoln resided, says that Abe never split a rail in his life. In those days, he says, the people never thought of such a thing as splitting rails. They went into the swamps and cut hoop-poles and saplings for fences, and used them, round, as nature made them.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 19 1860

At the time of the Black Hawk war, ‘Abe’ enlisted. The company numbered about eight mounted men. They started off in fine spirits to engage in the deadly fray. Arriving at a point on the prairies, about two hundred miles from the Indian lines, the party bivouacked for the night, picketed their horses, and slept on their arms…During the night, the sentinel, whoso mental caliber was in no measure proportioned to his patriotism, imagined he saw the Indians! and immediately discharged his old fusee. The camp was aroused in an instant, and each sprang to his saddle. ‘Old Abe’ shot out in the darkness on his charger like lightning, until the ropes ‘hove taut,’ when over he went, horse and himself, headlong! Thinking himself caught in an Indian ambush, he gathered up, mounted, putting spurs to his horse, took the opposite shute, but soon brought up as before, horse and rider tumbling headlong. ‘Old Abe’ got up, thinking he was surrounded! and shouted, ‘Gentlemen Indians! I surrender without a word. I have not a word to offer. All I want is quarter!’ There ‘Old Abe’s” first campaign ended!’

– Sonoma Democrat, September 13 1860

The conservative and Union loving men of the North are making every effort to defeat Lincoln. All parties concede that should Lincoln lose New York his defeat inevitable.

[..]

By reference to our Eastern news today, it will be seen that there has been a complete fusion between all the elements of opposition to the Black Republicans in New York-—the vote of that State to be cast for Douglas, Breckinridge or Bell, as they shall receive the highest popular vote. This will undoubtedly throw the election into the House of Representatives, and secures beyond question the defeat of Lincoln.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 27 1860

…On one side stands Lincoln, proclaiming the social, moral and political superiority of the North over the South, and calling upon men to enter into an “irrepressibly conflict” for the complete and entire destruction of the Southern States. On the other hand we have Breckinridge proclaiming the equality of the States, the harmony of commerce and industry, the sacred and constitutional right of self-government.–N.Y. Herald.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 11 1860

REPUBLICAN MEETING.– Hand-bills have been staring us in the face upon every corner for the last week, announcing that James Churchman, Esquire, of Nevada, would address the irrepressibles of this place yesterday. Well, the eventful evening arrived and so repaired to the Court House expecting to hear the Democracy entirely demolished. We found assembled exactly seven Republicans, most of whom were from abroad; there may have been as many as twelve, since there were three or four persons there whom we did not know. There were besides these some fifteen or twenty snuff-colored gentlemen, and about seventy-five Breckinridge and Bell men. The irrepressible gentleman had already commenced when we arrived, so that we did not hear the first part of his harangue. We listened to him, however, about three quarters of an hour, and we must say, we heard the most pithless, pointless batch of misrepresentations we have ever listened to. Mr, Churchman’s address is pleasing, and his manner well calculated to attract tho attention of a promiscuous assemblage; but he did not make a single point during the time we listened to him, that deserves the space it would take to refute it.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 18 1860

KEEP IT BEFORE THE PEOPLE, that Abraham Lincoln opposed the war with Mexico and declared it unnecessary and unjust.

Keep it before the people, that the Republicans are in favor of placing negroes on an equality with the whites, and in many of the free States sanction amalgamation.

Keep it before the people, that in Massachusetts the Republicans proscribed foreign-born citizens and attempted to deprive them of the right of suffrage, and would have succeeded had the Democrats not opposed it.

Keep it before the people, that in the same State negroes were elected delegates to conventions and assisted in nominating Republican candidates for Congress.

Keep it before the people, that the infidel Garrison, a leading Black Republican, unblushingly declares, that the Constitution of the United Slates “it a covenant with death and an agreement with hell!”

Keep it before the the people, that this same Republican leader Garrison, blasphemously asserts, that if “God had the power to abolish slavery and would not, he wae a very great scoundrel!”

– Sonoma Democrat, November 1 1860

The contest is over, and from the partial returns so far received, it is doubtful if the State has not gone againat us. In this County the Democracy have scarcely deserved anything else. At a time when every element of opposition was combining against them, when every energy was needed to secure success, they have remained passive and indifferent until they have actually allowed the election to go by default…

– Sonoma Democrat, November 8 1860

San Francisco, Nov. 13th, 1860. Editors Sonoma County Democrat: The great battle is over, and although it has resulted in partial defeat, let not Democrats be disheartened, but rather let them organize and prepare themselves better for the next struggle, when the now prevailing party will have been “played out,” as were their immediate successors. Although six days have passed since the election, little is yet known of the result. According to latest accounts Lincoln is about 1100 ahead, but this seems doubtful, as it is strongly suspected that the despatches are not much to be relied on, having been gotten up more for betting purposes than for the diffusion of reliable statistical information. The news from the East will be sent with the greatest despatch by the Pony, and will be received here the fore part of next week. The telegraphing facilities of the Eastern States will be tested to their utmost, but it is generally expected that the general result will be known by that time. How annoying it is that the knowledge of a great event must be kept from us for days when a few hundred miles of telegraphic wire would put us in immediate possession of the all-desired information.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1860

The news by the Pony confirms the unwelcome intelligence of Lincoln’s election as the next President of the United States. At the same time it brings the news of movements in several of the Southern States, which indicate a fixed determination on their part to remain no longer in the Union. Their perfect and sovereign right to secede, if they desire to do so, must be conceded from the very nature and formation of our government. There are but two means by which any Union of States can be maintained or preserved; one is a community of interests, the other a preponderance of force. The former is the only means which was ever contemplated, in the formation of our Constitution, for the very objects of its formation, viz: “To establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty,” utterly preclude the idea of using force for its preservation, for this use of force would at once defeat every object for which the Union was formed. If these States, therefore, in their sovereign capacity, see proper to secede from the Union, there is no power under the Constitution to prevent them; and any attempt to coerce them would be as unconstitutional as it would be unholy, unjust and futile. This movement may be one pregnant with mighty consequences. There has never been a period in the history of our government when there was so much necessity for wise, deliberate and cautious procedure, and it is well that the people should weigh and consider the causes which have led to these untoward results, and prepare to meet the mighty events which loom up so portentiously in the future, for, as has been well said, it is for them to decide what course they will sustain the administration in pursuing toward those states which may secede.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 29 1860

The excitement in the South continues, accompanied with general depression in the markets and trade, amounting to a panic. There has been a general decline in stocks at New York, and a great increase in rates of exchange at Chicago. There is a tightness at St. Louis, and perfect derangement in monetary affairs South. The South Carolina and Georgia Legislatures have prepared for a suspension of their banks. No suspensions have yet taken place. The Mayor of Charleston has notified the agents of Northern steamers that he would not permit the landing of steerage passengers, unless the companies guaranteed their maintenance, if they became vagrants. Merchants have now goods on hand, but no new orders will be given to the North, except such as are indispensable.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 6 1860

Negro Lincoln Clubs. — We copy the following advertisement from the Pittsburg Dispatch, of October 16th, an influential Black Republican organ: “Colored Men of Pittsburg and Vicinity!–You are requested to meet and form yourselves into Wide Awake Clubs immediately, for the purpose of farthering the interest of the friend of the human race, Abraham Lincoln. Already New York has spoken in favor of universal suffrage. And if colored men would have their rights, they should move for the success of their friends. John Brown, the hero of Harper’s Ferry, is yet to be avenged.”

Is it strange that the South should bo excited und alarmed in the face of such proceedings, sanctioned and encouraged by the Black Republicans of the free States? Does not prudence dictate that they should be prepared to meet and repel a second John Brown raid? Do not the free negroes, their aiders and abettors, contemplate a second foray into the Southern States? Do the negroes not hope to avenge the death of John Brown, and have they not reason to anticipate assistance and protection from the Republicans?

– Sonoma Democrat, December 13 1860

WHO ARE THE DISUNIONISTS?– The New York Herald, of the 10th ult., says: We publish below an account of the Northern Slates which prohibit their officials and citizens from aiding in the execution of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law, and which by their action, have boldly nullified the Constitution of the United States…It will be seen from the above that the Northern States are nearly all in a position of practical disunion–that is, they have refused to sustain the constitution which their fathers adopted.

LEGISLATING FOR TREASON.–If the present disunion cloud should blow over, as all lovers of their country sincerely trust that it may, we hope Congress will make a point of re-enacting, at an early day, some law defining treason, and providing sufficient means for its prevention or punishment…

– Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1860

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