The Fishing Creek Confederacy by Robert A. Sauers and Peter Tomasak
One hundred fifty years after the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln is thought of as one of the best presidents of the United States. However, most Americans forget that he was elected with only 40 percent of the popular vote. Many Democratic newspapers across the North mistrusted Lincoln's claim that he would not abolish slavery, and the lukewarm support evidenced by them collapsed after Lincoln announced his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of 1862. The advent of a national draft in the spring of 1863 only added fuel to the fire with anti-Lincoln Democrats arguing that it was illegal to draft civilians. Many newspaper editors advocated active resistance against the draft. In The Fishing Creek Confederacy, Richard A. Sauers and Peter Tomasak address the serious opposition to the draft in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, in 1864.
Primarily the story itself, which has never been analyzed and described as we have in this book. There are too many books on battles such as Gettysburg and not enough on the homefront, and even Civil War buffs seem to forget that not all the history of this war was on the battlefields.
Q: The focus of this book is in Columbia County, Pennsylvania in 1864. Are there any plans to create a larger work encompassing a national Civil War draft sentiment?
No. The research on such a topic would take years to do a thorough job, which would include a close reading of local newspapers all over the North, as well as a deep mining of largely unused record groups in the National Archives, including NA branches across the North.
Q: Was the trial and jail-time you observed in Columbia County similar to what was going on in other parts of the country at that time?
In some places yes. Because Lincoln had suspended the writ of habeas corpus, a lot of anti-war, anti-administration people had been arrested and locked up. Military trials were eventually judged illegal, but not until after a number of them had taken place.
Q: How difficult was it to resist the draft back then or were there other extenuating circumstances that led to draft dodging charges?
Because of the lack of a modern transportation system, and the rural landscapes that predominated, it was easy to evade the draft if one was so disposed, especially in an area like northern Columbia County, where the bulk of the population were anti-Republican, coupled with the two Democratic newspaper editors who fed into this political stance.
Q: There are large communities of people in the United States that are really passionate about Civil War history. What makes the Civil War so appealing to so many of us?
It appeals to many people because their ancestors were involved in some way during the conflict. The war was the single most important event in our history after our independence, primarily because that war in some ways unified the country and started the United States on the path to be a much greater world power than would have been possible before 1861. As a long time reenactor, I've seen the passion that the Civil War brings out in people. The war feeds into the economy in so many ways—books and magazines, historical tours, reenacting events and the supply industry catering to reenactors, educational programs and lectures, etc.--especially now during the 150th anniversary events.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Emancipation Proclamation turning 150 this year?
The EP and the Thirteenth Amendment combined to destroy slavery in the United States, which put an official end to the conundrum caused by the Constitution's guarantee of equal rights and the inequality that actually existed in daily life. However, the Republican Party abandoned blacks after the war and a de facto form of slavery continued to exist and in some form continues today. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-60s helped destroy much of this, but latent racism continues to plague the United States. A lot of the criticism leveled at President Obama is outright racism.
Q: What will the next book be about and when can we expect to read it?
My next book is a long way from publication. I am working on a history of my hometown, Lewisburg, PA, and will not finish this for many years since I am reading all available newspapers on microfilm and taking copious notes. I have another idea for a book that will also take some time. I collect high school American History books, and have a large collection dating from the 1820s to the present. I'm planning to write a book on how history has changed in the textbooks, using a topical approach—Revolution, Civil War, women, the West, etc. to show how changing times lead to changing visions and interpretations of the past.