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4: GRIEf, DEPRESSION, AND DISASTERS Successes in the Midst ofFailures Like all panics the TVrJshoe one of1865 terminated, and people discovered that they had been worse frightened than circumstancesjustified . It was demonstrated that the bottom had notfal/en out ofthe Comstock ; new developments were made; the stampede ceased; the tide ofemigration began to flow back again, and there was a gradual return ofconfidence and prosperity. -Territorial Enterprise, April 9, 1869 When the telegraph returned word that Lincoln had signed legislation on October 31, 1864, admitting Nevada to the Union, the Comstock erupted in celebration. The new state had a deep commitment to the North during the Civil War, and acceptance as an equal served for many as an acknowledgment of that support. For years, Comstock newspapers carried daily columns about the campaigns and the enormous cost of preserving the nation. The names of battles-Antietam, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga-leapt from the pages of the 'Territorial Enterprise, the Gold Hill News, and the Virginia Evening Bulletin . These sleepy villages turned powerful with the searing word of thousands dead and wounded during the epic struggle. Grant, Sherman, Davis, and Lee assumed their roles in the drama as the heroic, the sinister , and the tragic. For the Comstock, it was like watching a boxing match or a melodrama from afar. Unable to contribute much by way of troops, most Nevadans could only cheer when word arrived of battles won and mourn the sacrifices of defeats. Although the thousands of miles separating the Comstock from the struggle gave birth to frustration, people followed reports of the conflict emotionally, with deeply felt attachment to the cause. One example, originating in a central Nevada mining district, serves as an expression of this commitment. Reuel Colt Gridley was a store owner and Democrat in Austin, Nevada. He had made a bet with a merchant named H. S. Herrick concerning the political election of 1864. They agreed that whoever 's candidate lost, that person would carry a fifty-pound sack of flour through town to the other's store. The wager included the provision that if the Republican-unionist lost, Herrick would walk to the tune of"Dixie," and if the Democrat failed to win, Gridley, a secessionist, would carry the sack to the tune of "Old John Brown." They also agreed that the winner would donate the flour to the Sanitary Commission, a precursor of the Red Cross that assisted the wounded from the Civil War's battlefields. Gridley lost the bet, so he hoisted the burden on his back and took his walk, preceded by the Austin Brass Band. As arranged, Herrick gave the flour to the Sanitary Commission, suggesting that it be auctioned. The sack sold for $350. After this, Gridley and his flour stepped into legend with a single act. M. J. Noyes, the man who had placed the highest bid, paid his money, then put the flour back on the auction block. In this way, the commission sold it again and again. When Austin seemed drained of gold, after raising $4,549.80 in coin, Gridley took his sack on the road. On the Comstock , the first stop, the sack garnered $25,042. Gridley then toured California , and in all, the sack sold for about $175,000.' For a war that cost millions, it certainly did not add up to much, but the anecdote illustrates the concern that many people of the Inining West felt for the great American conflict. On April 10, 1865, the Comstock received a telegraph describing the surrender of Lee at Appomattox the day before. The Inining district erupted in celebration. In his diary, local newspaperman Alfred Doten noted: "At noon all the bells & whistles in City were sounding-I helped ring St. Mary's ... bell myself ... in less than 3 hours everybody were crazy drunk-such drinking never before was seen-The military were all out-Provost Guard came up with 2 pieces of cannon & fired in streets-flags flying everywhere-anvils, guns, pistols, everything that could make a noise did so." The Civil War had ended. Residents of the Comstock, having finally witnessed the conclusion of the national torment , could not imagine how their feeling of elation could stop.l Nevertheless, five days later, yet another telegraph plunged the Comstock into despair. John Wilkes Booth had shot Lincoln. The assassin Successes in the Midst ofFailures 71 plucked the hero of the nation's greatest drama from the stage. Victory would never again be as sweet. The Gold...


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