General William B. Franklin of York for Governor

General William B. Franklin

General William B. Franklin

That first week of June 150 years ago, York County was getting closer to being invaded by a hostile military force. Most of the news items in the June 2, 1863 weekly York Gazette, a Democratic newspaper, were already Civil War related.

The candidate’s stances on the war would surely influence the gubernatorial race coming up in the fall. The Democratic State Convention, which would chose nominees for Pennsylvania Governor and Judge of the Supreme Court, was to be held June 17 at Harrisburg. “Democratic editors of the State” were also to meet in Harrisburg that day when “business of great importance will be submitted.”

The Gazette’s editorial column on June 2 strongly advocated Major General William B. Franklin as the Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania. York native Franklin was in York at that time, awaiting his next military assignment. He had tendered his resignation from the Army after he was censured, he and many others thought unfairly, for his part in the disastrous defeat of the Army of the Potomac under General Burnside at Fredericksburg. The resignation was refused, but Franklin was without assignment until later that summer.

The editorial was accompanied by a long letter to Gazette editors David Small and John B. Welsh laying out the reasons Franklin should get the nomination. It was signed “Conservator,” but the editors knew the identity of the author, who they identified as “one of our most esteemed fellow citizens.” The editorial reads, in part:

Gen. William B. Franklin is a native of York… . He was appointed to West Point…and the high honors he won at our National Military School and since he entered the army occasioned much unaffected pride in the hearts of hundreds of our citizens. He is a gentleman of unblemished character, a soldier of unquestioned ability, a citizen of the most thorough loyalty, and a Constitutional Democrat of the strictest and straightest school…His election would secure…one who would protect the rights of the citizen and the rights of the States and who would use all his efforts to maintain the Constitution as it is and restore the Union as it was.

According to a book written sometime after the war by politician and newspaperman Alexander K. McClure, Franklin had a surprising advocate for his candidacy. More on that in my next post.

Click this link for a brief biography of Franklin. For a comprehensive biography see From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin by Mark A. Snell.

Only a few more weeks to wait: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.

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