Ohio History Journal




With the exception of Professor Terrill's article on "An Economic Aspect

of the Spanish-American War," which emphasizes a heretofore unused docu-

ment in regard to President McKinley's motivation for war, all the articles

in this edition of Ohio History center around the theme of sectionalism and

the Civil War.

Although Frederick Grimke, as Professor Bloomfield points out, philoso-

phized optimistically on American institutions in his early writings, he was

compelled in his late years to deal with sectional factors which severely tested

those institutions. Two other articles are concerned with party politics of

contrasting hues and tints. The one analyzes the trials of the Ohio Free

Soilers and the other, an intensive study at the local level, throws light on

the always interesting subject of the nature and character of Ohio Democrats

during the Civil War.

While one will find a familiar routine in nearly all letters written by Civil

War soldiers, some of these writings seem to have a distinctiveness that

makes them more than a mere recording of daily events. This is true in regard

to the unusual letters of Orson Brainard which constitute the final offering.

They are well worth reading because they reveal him as an individual of

compelling interest and strength of character. It is well from time to time to

have our attention called to elemental principles that make life meaningful

and worthwhile, particularly when those principles are illustrated in the

humble walks of life. Though the cords that linked this young soldier to home

were numerous, he had become so resolute and courageous under fire that

he "would be perfectly lost" at home, where he would not hear "the crack

of muskets." He had such deep convictions regarding the justice of his cause

that, on one of those rare occasions when he complained of the hardships

of war, he stated that he endured them "patiently" because "it is for my

country that I suffer." He expressed no bitterness toward Southerners, but

castigated severely Northern Copperheads and even criticized "100-day men."

In addition to fortitude and courage, devotion to duty, and love of home

and country, Brainard's letters show a sense of humor and, at times, keen

observation of the phenomena of Southern life. For instance, he explained

the absence of newspapers in one locality of the South in terms of the very

small number of whites as potential readers, but he pointed out that in

another locality, "We can get all kinds of newspapers but they cost [sic]

southern prices for them." The spelling and sentence structure used by this

humble private, who had evidently little formal schooling, are given in the

original because they are a part of his image. Professor Black has performed

a commendable task in clarifying the historical allusions in the letters.


Guest Editor