This morning while processing a collection of the papers of the Wanner family, I came across an interesting set of correspondence between John Wanner, a lawyer in Skippack Township, and William Stoneback, originally of Skippack. Stoneback was an employee of Western Union, and was sent to several cities by the company. In the late 1850s, he was in Savannah, Georgia. He speaks a little about slavery in the letters, but also says that he is not very political. Georgia at the time required voters to pay a poll tax, and Stoneback was unwilling to do so. In this letter from 1859, Stoneback discusses the possible presidential candidates for the next year.
The “Douglass” mentioned is no doubt Stephen A. Douglas, who would indeed run for president on the Northern Democratic ticket. “Crittenden” was John J. Crittenden, a moderate senator from Kentucky who sought compromise in the years leading up to the Civil War. Although he did not run for president, he did help to found the Constitutional Union Party, which ran John C. Bell. Of course, neither man won.
Once the war broke out, Stoneback relocated to Covington, Kentucky. If he ever wrote his thoughts about the secession crisis or his move north to Wanner, the letters don’t survive. While he was in Kentucky, the Ohio River flooded, and Stoneback wrote these lines from nearby Cincinnati, Ohio. Since he was out of writing paper, he used two telegraph sheets. On the second page of the letter, he describes the flood.
Later in the letter, he refers to the now famous battle of Fort Henry. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant attacked the fort the same day the letter was written, February 6, 1862.
By May of 1863, Stoneback was posted in St. Louis, and he wrote to his friend about secessionists in the Union occupied city.