At this late date it seems somewhat strange to learn that Abraham Lincoln, descended from Berks forebears, failed to win the votes of the people of the county during the war-year election of 1864. General McClellan, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, was the overwhelming choice of the voters in Berks during that campaign. Perhaps it was the knowledge of this stalwart loyalty to the Democratic Party that inspired Hilden, in the presidential campaign of 1876, to call Berks the “Gibraltar of Democracy.”
We have found a notebook in the files submitted by Robert Salathe of Mr. Penn, in which an observer records the events of a political rally held on November 4, 1864. It is entitled “Grand Demonstration For McClellan.” We quote the introductory remarks of the anonymous observer:
“The mass meeting was only an earnest of what it would have been, had the weather remained favorable. Rain poured down all night until the next morning and kept thousands away. Many had made preparations to come. But the meeting was a success. The procession formed about 1 o’clock.
Then follows the order of the parade.
- Returned Soldiers McClellan Club and band.
- McClellan Club and Band No. 1.
- Young Men’s McClellan Club and band.
- Democrats and City Band.
- Carriages containing 13 young ladies dressed in red, white and blue.
- Lancaster County delegation. 300 men with the National Band of Philadelphia.
- Muhlenberg Township Club and band.
- Berne and Brecknock Delegations on wagons and on horseback.
- Alsace Township with band and banners.
- Delegations from Exeter, Amity, Cumru, spring, Heidelberg, Oley, Richmond, Union, Maidencreek, Maxatawny, Kutztown, Robesonia.
Chief Marshall of the parade was Captain Jacob Lenhart Jr. The speakers were Hon. George W. Biddle and Colonel C.T. Biddle, of Philadlephia; Hon. Robert E. Monaghan, of Chester; Hon. George Scholl and A. L. Ruthe, of Lehigh County.
On the night after the election an ardent Democrat was watching the posting of election bulletins on the window of a Washington D.C., newspaper. The tide was running heavily toward Lincoln when the vote of Berks county was reported overwhelmingly in favor of McClellan. The landslide of votes for Lincoln did not dismay the watcher. At various intervals he called out, “Let’s hear from Berks County again.” The Newspaper obliged.
Lincoln meeting McClellan after battle of Antietam.