The Political Views of James Touchstone

There are several letters written by James Touchstone that provide a fascinating insight into his strongly held political views. While loyal to the Union and an Army Officer in Federal Service, he became a Democrat and a strong supporter of General McClellan in the 1864 campaign against the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln.

James Touchstone was fervent in his opinions and, while history has shown that many of his fears were unfounded, his words reveal an interesting aspect of those turbulent times which is generally forgotten today. Also included on this page is mention of his passing by the opposing Cecil county newspaper, The Cecil Whig, which was somewhat less than kind or complimentary. Such were the times following The War Between The States and many wounds were yet to heal.

In any case, all of the references that I have found thus far about my grandfather's grandfather Touchstone indicate that he was a man of high character and conscience.

11/7/64 Notes: Probably written to George Christie, his former Commissary Sergeant with the Sixth Maryland Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The man referred to as "Fred" was Fred M. Dunn, Corporal, G Company, Sixth Regiment Infantry, enlisted August 18, 1862 and killed in action, October 19, 1864 at Cedar Creek, Va. "Frank" was possibly James F. Barrett, Corporal, G Company, Sixth Regiment Infantry, enlisted August 18, 1862 and killed in action, October 19, 1864 at Cedar Creek, Va. The Sixth Maryland Infantry was heavily engaged in that battle.

Port Deposit, Cecil Co. Md. Nov 7th 1864

My dear George,

I seat myself this dreary and stormy morning to write you a few lines - I shall write a little on matters connected with our old associations and then say a word or two on politics.

I am sad, sad indeed to think of the loss of our Fred and Frank. I am sorry for the loss of all our dear and brave men, but these two were among my dearest and best friends. Oh God, how my poor heart bled to hear of their death! And even now after the lapse of three weeks I can scarcely realise that they are gone. When I look back and see and think how we have suffered and enjoyed together - how many hardships and pleasures we have passed through together, and now to think they are gone forever - that we can never meet again in this world, to talk over our trials and enjoyments, my poor heart almost sinks within me. But these are the concomitants of war - cruel and relentless war, and we must bow in submission to such dispensations, though they be sore and grievous. Poor Fred, he was a dear friend of mine - so fast and sincere, that he would have lost his life to defend me. He was a poor man and this was why -----------------------thought of losing him and hence the blow was more than I could well endure. - May his ashes rest in peace! And poor Frank, - he too was a firm and fast friend. - I loved him dearly. There was no man in the regiment for whom I had a warmer regard. If I could forget this man, it would be better for me, but I cannot. They are in my thoughts by day and by night. However, I must stand it as well as I can. I know their nearest relations cannot feel their loss more than I do. - I have been to see Mrs. Dunn and her dear little orphan children, and though I am very poor, I will not see them suffer as long as I have a bite of bread to divide. But I hope they will get along.

I have been home four weeks, but have as yet, not seen your father. He was down several times, I learn, but did not call on me. I have written to him twice, but have not heard from him. I have not been able to go up to the creek, but will try and get up there soon. I want to see him very much. Fletcher Barrett is home. - He called to see me, but I was out at the time. He did not know of Frank's death until he came to our home. Poor old "Bull Run-Run" (Dennis) was here on Saturday last. He had been home and was returning to Washington. He has lost his wife. She was buried before he got home some two or three days. He looks very well, but is dreadfully cast down by the loss of his wife and poor Fred and Frank.

Well, tomorrow is the day which will decide, as I believe, the fate of the nation for peace or war. That is so far as the election is concerned. If Mr. Lincoln is reelected, I fear all is lost. As I predicted when we first began to arm the negroes, the rebels will now put 300,000 negroes in the field - perhaps half a million - they will give them their freedom and homesteads. They, the rebs, might as well do this as to have us do it. It would be wiser on the part of the rebs to do this and save themselves, than to have it done by us and hang them into the bargain. You will see the force of this argument. "Self preservation is the first law of nature", and this I predicted would be the result. It may be said they will not fight against us. Let no one be deluded. The rebs will see to this. And besides, the reb side, with freedom and land for the negro in his own climate will be the best side for him. With this view of the case among others, I was opposed to the arming of negroes. I know the south could put more negroes by hundreds of thousands into the field than we could and you may rely that this will be done for self defence. It will be done to prevent Emancipation, Subjugation, Confiscation, devastation and extermination coming from Mr. Lincoln. I do not think they will do this if McClellan is elected and they are met with a policy liberal enough to enable them to come back under the Constitution and resume their places as they are obligated by that great national compact. They have tried war and are sick of the experiment. We have tried it for nearly four long and bloody years and have thus far signally failed to restore the union. I do not see then that any good man can desire a further sacrifice of blood if the union can be saved and fraternal feelings be restored among the states and people, by the adoption of a wise conservative national policy. George, to make the matter short, in my mind, there never will be peace in this country under abolition rule. No sectional party in this country can ever restore the union. That is "the union" of our fathers. The proposition must seem plain that no administration can put down half of the people of the north and the whole of the people of the south. The great bulk of "the opposition" in the north is in favor of "the union" as is Genl. McClellan and will have it at all hazards. While the "opposition" in the south is for discussion still, it is all "opposition" and as far as resistance to it is concerned, this opposition might as well be united for one object. I do not endorse the conduct of the Woods and the Valandighams, but they are no worse than the Greely's and Garrisons. Greely said on the 29th Sept last, "we republicans swear this day with uncovered heads that the Union shall never be restored as it was!" and his great poem you have heard no doubt , began with "Tear down the flaunting lie (!), Half Mast --- filthy rag!" Garrison says "our Union is a covenant with death and an argument with hell!" Banks says "let the union slide", Old Thad Stevens M.C. says "the union as it was, God forbid it!" and again "the union as it was is a most pernicious idea!" Jim Lane, U.S. Senator from Kansas, says he is "ready to see any man shot down in his tracks, who favors the Union as ------------ understanding the great subject upon which I speak. I do not wish to flatter, but I would as soon rely on your judgement where a political questions is involved, as on that of many who are reckoned by themselves and the people as wise men. But I must close. - I had like to have forgotten - will you let me know how the vote on the Constitution was taken in the regiment? Please give me a true statement of the mode of voting - who voted and who did not - how many for and how many against - Give my love to Bub. I have written him long ago, why does he not write to me? - My regards to Mr. Brewer, Hide - Jimmy Haze Jake, Manse, Danl McCaully and all. Ask Dan if he will come here if I send for him. What is he doing? Poor boy, I feel badly that I did not have him stop with me. But I expected to have been with you long ago. Haze and Monroe send their regards to you and all.

As ever, yours

J. Touchstone

Note: There were evidently other pages to this letter to George, but I only have one of the additional pages. It is on the same subject and has the same notations written along the left hand side. James must have written another letter as a continuation of the one above.

....with a restored Union. The North is fearfully divided. It must be united in heart, else we shall never whip the rebels. But how may we unite the North? The operation is very simple. Let the wicked ruinous sectional policy of the last two years be revoked, and a wise national policy be adopted, and the work is accomplished! The people of the great North split on the rock called "sectional policy". They can never come together on it. It must be removed or we are lost. If we had constitutional authority for a sectional policy, the case would be different. The people never will, and God forbid they ever should, unite to break the Constitution. It is a national instrument and must have a national application, else we can have no peace - no Union. This case is so clear, that he who cannot see it, must be a poor logician indeed. The Constitution was designed for South Carolina as it was for Massachusetts, and it must be applied to each of these states and all states and people alike, else the compact is broken, and we shall sink into anarchy, and eventually, into despotism. As Washington said, "the Constitution is the palladium of our liberties". Loose sight of this great beacon light, and we are gone!

You are a young man George, but I have "taken your measure" long ago. I know you have a comprehensive mind and that your powers of penetration in political matters, are far above young men. Hence I talk to you as one capable of -----------------------------------.
These men has always favored and revered the Union, but honestly, I believe, have thought it never could be restored by war. While this has been the case, many Republicans have openly advocated disunion as the best possible thing! But as these men vote for and support Mr. Lincoln, they are "all right!" It is singular indeed, that all those who originally favored and preached disunion, including those of South Carolina and those of the Garrison and Greely stamp, are in favor of Mr. Lincoln's reelection! I believe there are many in the South, and I regard that such is the fact, who never were in favor of disunion, and who are sick of the war. These men wish to see McClellan elected, because they are like many of us. They want peace with a restored Union. And is this not a desirable object? For my part, I care not who is elected so that we have peace ---.

Notations on sides of letter:

Nov 8th The great day is past though we have not received positive information sufficient to insure the success of Mr. Lincoln, still I suppose he is elected. I deprecate this result as I have the most awful forebodings as to the consequences which will follow. However, like all good citizens, I bow in submission to the will of the majority and pray that God may avert the calamities which I fear. I shall hope and pray for Mr. Lincoln's success, and if my fears are realised, I shall have no stain on my soul. In my humble way, I have opposed his reelection because I felt in my heart, it was my duty to do so. I have never performed a duty more conscientiously opposed. And now I hope Mr. Lincoln will be guided by reason grace and humanity so that in the end he may leave us as much of liberty as we deserve as a nation.

I wish you would write me soon and give me all of the particulars you have and all about matters and things in general. - There was a --- There were several knock downs here, but would have been defeated - Democratic votes were thrown out. In fact the wh--- ---hly by some of the barren boys. Old George Hines I am told, caused a fuss.

Note: Other notes written along the sides of these pages seem to be bits and pieces and I have not attempted to decipher them as yet.

2/19/64 Notes: Letter from C.S. Maffit in behalf of his father, Samuel S. Maffit, who held the position of Comptroller of the Treasury in Annapolis until January of 1864. He was a Democrat and a Unionist of Cecil County. Born March 18, 1819. Married Adelaide C. Beach. Died May 24, 1864 in Elkton, Cecil County.

Elkton Feb 19th 1864

Lieut. James Touchstone

Dear Sir,

I write you at the request of my Father who is too weak and unwell to do so for himself. He received your letter dated Port Deposit which was re-mailed to him from Elkton. He also received a second letter (which was directed to him at Annapolis) about the beginning of the year and a third dated the 14th Inst. he received yesterday. It is needless to say what he has said so often before that he derives a pleasure from your letters such as no other correspondent gives him & these three letters were highly prized not only as coming from a valued friend but from the coincidence of views which they indicated to exist between yourself & him. The first of these letters he was much gratified to receive because it had been so long since he had heard from you & because hither to for some months when he had strength & time to work he did not know where to direct. After the receipt of these two letters owing to constant chills & fevers in addition to his old complaint he was actually unable whilst at Annapolis to attend to any thing but matters of the first necessity and no one but himself can appreciate the misery & suffering he endured whilst performing his report and preparing the office for the advent of his successor.

He is thankful that he accomplished these results & he looked forward with hope and expectation to the time when he should reach home for relief from his suffering & improvement in health & strength. In this however he has been sadly disappointed, for on reaching home he found himself so prostrated that he has been confined to the house & most of the time to his bed ever since. He hoped each day to be able to write you himself & this is the reason he has not called upon me to do it before. He has been suffering with chills & fevers for nearly three months & can obtain no relief, which added to his other malady which he fears has gained upon him, has rendered him unfit for any exertion. He thinks you ought not to be too exacting with him under the circumstances. You must be convinced of the sincerity of his friendship for you & that his failure to reply to your letters resulted in not the smallest sense from indifference or neglect. As soon as he feels able to do so he will write you himself; but in the mean while as your last letter intimates that you will shortly reach home he hopes you will take an early occasion to come & see him. This he hopes you will do because he probably will be unable to go to see you & his desire is very great to see you. I have mailed a package of papers to you at his request. He hopes you received his report a copy of which he mailed you from Annapolis.

We all join him in wishes for your health & prosperity.

Very sincerely yrs,

C.S. Maffit

The Cecil Whig - Elkton, December 21, 1872

"Death of James Touchstone. - Mr. Touchstone died at Port Deposit, on Saturday last. He was well known as one of the zealous politicians of Cecil county. An ardent Union man at the breaking out of the rebellion, he turned into a "Conservative" and soon blossomed into a full fledged Democrat. The deceased was honored with a seat in the Legislature by the Union party during the war, and by the Democrats subsequently. He had some reputation as a slashing political writer; wrote very rapidly, always entertaining the most ultra views on the side he espoused, and governed more by the strength of his prejudices than reason. His manuscript was a fair reflex of his ardent, heated imagination, and bristled with italicized words.

He was erratic rather than philosophical in his political views, which were the offspring of prejudice, rather than calm reason. Although repeatedly honored with a seat in the Legislature, he made no distinguished mark. He was a blacksmith by trade and was accounted a skillful and intelligent workman, and was generally respected and esteemed in the social world."

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