“Sever all connection” – A group of Civil War veterans boycotted a Coal Region newspaper in 1883

We hear a lot about “cancel culture” here in the 21st century and in the age of social media.  

But, obviously, boycotts or “canceling” are nothing new. Affronted groups have often turned to these tactics in order to convey their points and mobilize political action.  

And here’s an example from the Coal Region in 1883 that we recently stumbled across. 

The Grand Army of the Republic was the national organization for Civil War veterans of the US Army with posts across the North. There were dozens of chapters in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, including the William Thompson Post 174 in Tower City, Schuylkill County. These veterans organized Decoration Day (Memorial Day) festivities, held public events, hosted speakers, and in Tower City, put together a massive fireworks display each Fourth of July. 

William Thompson GAR - Large
Members of the William Thompson GAR Post in Tower City, PA.

In 1883, a local newspaper, the Valley Echo, published an incendiary article lambasting members of the Thompson post and their fundraising efforts on behalf of local disabled veterans and their families. Post 174 responded fiercely. 

One of their members anonymously sent the following to The National Tribune, the newspaper for Union veterans and members of the GAR. It was published on September 13, 1883. 

A correspondent, signing himself “Columbia,” in an article to the Valley Echo, a paper published at Tower City, Pa., having charged the Grand Army men with being men who sell ale to the English, lager to the Dutch, and whisky to the Irish, and that on Sunday, not only so, but they purloin pathetic widows and orphans to give respectability to their so-called Camp-fires.

Wm. Thompson Post, No. 174, of Tower City, at a special meeting on the evening of August 29th passed a series of resolution condemning the writer of the article and also the publisher of the paper, and that the comrades of the Post will use all honorable means to induce all comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic to sever all connection in a business way, as far as possible, with the editor and proprietor of the Valley Echo.

These were not idle words. The Grand Army of the Republic was one of the most powerful political and social organizations in the United States in the late-19th century. 

Featured Image: Members of William Thompson Post 174 of Tower City, Pennsylvania (Gratz Civil War) 

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