In step to music of the Union
From the first day of the Civil War, there were people, both in the North and in the South, who opposed their governments’ war policies.
George Frederick Root described what he saw in Chicago on the day when, in his words, “the WAR burst upon us!” He saw “the bustling, cheery life of Chicago became suddenly grave and serious.” This was “not the same sunshine that made the city so bright yesterday, and these were not the same faces of neighbors that then nodded so light-heartedly as they passed.”
A neighbor or a friend could be a Southern sympathizer. Chicago quickly became accustomed to war rallies, recruiting officers and parades. On April 20, 1861, a crowd estimated at 10,000 people gathered to take an oath of loyalty to the Union.
The city and the surrounding area raised regiment after regiment for the Army. However, by the spring of 1863, peace conferences were in the news. Some people were trying to end the war without a military victory.
Copperheads were a radical faction of a party called the Peace Democrats. The Chicago Tribune described them as “Northern traitors, who, without the rattles of the snake that adorned the first rebel banner that was raised at Charleston, have all the venom of that detestable reptile.”
These people, according to the Tribune, swore in public that “this is an ‘Abolition war,’ and that they will have no part in it.” When news of battlefield disappointments came, support for the idea of making peace without military victory gained strength.
Largely as a result of the threats of disloyalty and disturbance, Union Leagues were organized in several Northern cities. Their purpose was to show support for President Abraham Lincoln and his party.
Songwriter Root was accustomed to writing about current events. In the spring of 1863, he compiled “The Bugle Call,” a collection of 50 songs intended “for Union Leagues in the North, our Army in the South and Loyal people everywhere.” In the preface, he explained that the purpose of the book was to strengthen the people’s determination to protect the Union.
The words of a song called “The Union League” captured the spirit of the organization:
The Union! The Union!
The hope of the free,
However we may differ,
In this we agree,
Our glorious banner no traitor shall mar,
By effacing a stripe, or destroying a star