Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Fourth of July in Alder Gulch, 1865

Much has been made of the lines of allegiance drawn in Montana over the Civil War. Mary “Mollie” Sheehan Ronan danced for joy with her southern friends upon Lincoln’s assassination, and Harriett Sanders wrote of celebrations Southern women planned over Lincoln’s death. But Julia Gormley tells a different tale about Civil War loyalties in Alder Gulch. When word reached the gold camps, about ten days after Lincoln’s assassination, stores closed and flags flew at half staff. There were appropriate speeches and a midnight procession with the band playing a march for the dead. Then, on the Fourth of July that year, with the Civil War over, Julia later recalled that Judge Lott asked her to sing at the Independence Day festivities. She declined, but suggested he ask the Forbes sisters, who were good singers. When Judge Lott asked them, they were indignant to have been asked to sing at such a celebration. They were Southerners from Missouri who had lost their home and suffered greatly at the hands of Union soldiers. Judge Lott retuned to Julia and asked her why she had sent him into the rebel camp unprotected. Julia replied that he should not complain since he was not taken captive. Julia confessed that they had a good laugh over the situation. And later, the Forbes sisters did too. Julia goes on to say that she took her children to see the Independence Day parade in Virginia City. “It was really a very fine thing,” she wrote, “to see the good feeling between the Southern and Northern people way out there and strangers to each other join so heartily together on that 4th of ’65.”

Harper's Weekly published this illustration, "Peace," on July 4, 1865.