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Local Autonomy and Civil War Draft Resistance: Holmes County, Ohio Kenneth H. Wheeler Among students of draft resistance during the Civil War, the idea that many draft resisters acted out ofboth loyalty to their local community and hostility to the centralizing forces ofmodernization has remained a largely untested prospect. The Holmes County draft rebellion of 1863, popularly known as the Fort Fizzle rebellion, reflects an explicit ideology of localism that undergirded resistance to Federal authority. Residents of Holmes County defied conscription into the Union army through armed opposition to the national government, a resistance that culminated in violent conflict. When forces from the wider world intruded into the lives ofpeople ofHolmes County, the response was assertively localistic. ' Paul Kleppner aptly describedthe prevalence oflocalism in theearly nineteenthcentury Midwest, where numerous isolated, culturally homogeneous localities existed because of limited transportation development. Many persons in these places held a worldview that was localistic rather than cosmopolitan. Instead of seeing themselves as part ofa grand social structure, these people thought about their existence in terms of the local area they inhabited, rarely considering the world beyond.2 Transportation development broke down such isolation, but some places were more affected than others. Thus, in the 1860s, when the influence of the Lincoln administration reached into every village and hamlet in the North, especially 1 Peter Levine, "Draft Evasion in the North during the Civil War, 1863-1865," Journal ofAmerican History 67 (1981): 833. See also James W. Geary, "Civil War Conscription in the North: A Historiographical Review," Civil War History 32 (1986): 208-28, especially 223-24. 2 Paul Kleppner, The Cross of Culture: A Social Analysis of Midwestern Politics, 1850-1900 (New York: The Free Press, 1970), 101. These isolated places were the "island communities" in Robert H.Wiebe's, The Searchfor Order, 1877-1920 (NewYork: Hill andWang, 1967), xiii. For an excellent description ofthese communities ofEuropean immigrants in the Midwest and the changes they underwent during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Jon Gjerde, The Minds of the West: Ethnocultural Evolution in the Rural Middle West, 1830-1917 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997). Civil War History, Vol. xlv No. 2 © 1999 by The Kent State University Press I48CIVIL WAR HISTORY through conscription, some Americans responded violently to these intrusions. In Holmes County, the citizens incorporated Democratic party rhetoric and antiwar sentiment into an ideology of localistic patriotism that couldjustify armed opposition to the federal government as a means of defending freedom and liberty.3 On Friday, June 5, 1863, Elias W. Robinson, a Federal enrolling officer, was working in southwestern Holmes County, on French Ridge, registering men for the draft. As Robinson talked with a group of men of French descent, at least one person threw stones at Robinson. Another person probably discharged a pistol as Robinson rode away on his horse. The most extensive account ofthis incident comes from Peter Stuber, a French Ridge resident who told his story in 1 888, twenty-five years after the fact. Stuber, a young man in 1 863, claimed he had seen his Uncle Jacob talking angrily with two men on horseback. One man Stuber did not know; the other was a neighbor named Burton, and, in the words of Stuber, there "existed no good feeling between the Burtons and the Stubers." Stuber recalled that without inquiring into the nature of the conversation he shouted for the two men to leave, threw a stone that hit the unknown man, and threw a piece of wood that hit Burton. Under this assault, the men rode quickly away. As they rode, at least four other men who had quietly witnessed the entire episode now "began to yell and to shout, and to laugh at a great rate. [William] Greiner foolishly shot off a pistol in the air."4 Another account comes from Cora Workman Durbin, who recorded in 1968 the stories told her by her father, B. HarrisonWorkman, and grandfather, Abraham 3 On transportation developments, see George Rogers Taylor, The Transportation Revolution (New York, Rinehart, 195 1). On resistance to conscription in the North, see, especially, Geary, "Civil War Conscription in the North." The standard work on Midwestern draft resistance is Robert E...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 147-159
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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