Long after the war was in progress, the old habit of yielding precedence to the South manifested itself so strongly as to sour and disgust the staunchest Republicans. The only two important military appointments given by Mr. Lincoln’s administration to St. Cloud were given to two Southern Democrats, officeholders under Buchanan and supporters of Breckinridge, the Southern candidate for President in ’60. In the autumn of ’61, I asked a farmer to take out and post bills for a meeting to send delegates to the county convention. He had been an active worker in the campaign of ’60, had never sought an office, and I was surprised when he declined so small a service, but his explanation was this:
“If the Democrats win the election, the Democrats will get the offices. If the Republicans win the election, the Democrats will get the offices, and I don’t see but we may as well let them win the election.”
When I explained that the more false others were to a party or principle, the more need there was for him to be true, he took the bills and managed the meeting; but running a Republican ticket under a Republican administration was not so easy as running the same ticket under Buchanan. Then men had hope and enthusiasm, but this was killed by a victory through which the enemy was made to triumph.
As Gov. Ramsey was the first to tender troops to President Lincoln for the suppression of the Rebellion, so the men of Minnesota were among the first to organize and drill. Stephen Miller raised a company in St. Cloud, with it joined the first regiment at Ft. Snelling, and was appointed Lieut. Col.
We went to Ft. Snelling to see our first regiment embark. It was a grand sight to see the men in red shirts and white Havelocks march down that rocky, winding way, going to their Southern graves, for very few of them ever returned.
More troops were called for, and two companies formed in St. Cloud. While they waited under marching orders, they and the citizens were aroused at two o’clock one morning by the cry from the east side of the river of, “Indians, Indians.” A boat was sent over and brought a white-lipped messenger, with the news of the Sioux massacre at Ft. Ridgley.
My first public speech was the revelation of a talent hidden in a napkin, and I set about putting it to usury. I wrote a lecture—“Women and Politics”—as a reason for my anomalous position and a justification of those men who had endorsed my right to be a political leader, and gave sketches of women in sacred and profane history who had been so endorsed by brave and wise men.