Sunday, July 23, 2006

Have you ever heard of the Buckshot War? This came up in the course of a discussion over whether an incumbent governor of Pennsylvania had ever been voted out of office. In short, yes, such an event took place, in the election of 1838, when the Whig-Anti-Mason Governor Ritner was defeated by his Democratic rival Porter, and the lame-duck governor tried to seize the arsenal in Harrisburg, made faces at crowds of Democratic activists, and tried to talk Captain E.V. Sumner of the Carlisle Barracks into calling out the Dragoons in support of his version of the new State House of Representatives. (Yes, that Sumner.) For an alternate version of the Buckshot War, see here.

I had no idea that the commonwealth came that close to an armed outbreak. It seems, if less violent than the periodic outbreaks of public disorder in Allegheny County (IE, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Battle of Homestead, etc), somehow more alarming in that it was the sitting governor attempting to overthrow the duly-elected legislature by resort to force of arms in the capital. Indeed, the second account almost reads like an alternate-history version of the pre-war machinations in the spring of 1861 in Missouri and Kentucky, with Sumner standing in for Lyons and - hrm, who was the officer in place in Kentucky?

Which really sends me off on another wild-goose-chase, because I just don't know much about Kentucky's early-Civil-War history. I can find an equivalent of Jim Lane or Sigel - that would be Lovell Rousseau. Hrm, this suggests it would have been William "Bull" Nelson, although I don't quite see how a naval officer had control over state arsenals - he wasn't commissioned in the Union Army until September according to Wikipedia.

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