Waving the Bloody Shirt


 “Their War-Records Contrasted”
  Cartoonist:  Victor Gillam
  Source:  Judge
  Date:   August 20, 1892, pp. 124-125

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Like “The Copperhead," this cartoon sustains the issue of the Civil War by “waving the bloody shirt” to associate the Democratic Party of 1892 with the Confederate rebellion of 1861. The image contrasts what the men named to the 1892 Democratic and Republican national tickets were doing 30 years earlier during the crisis of Union.

After being drafted into the Union Army, Democrats Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson both hired substitutes to fight for them. Cleveland had endorsed Democrat Stephen Douglas in the 1860 election, but became a War Democrat who supported the policies of Republican Abraham Lincoln and may have voted for the president’s reelection in 1864. Stevenson helped organize the 108th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, but backed the Democratic Party and was named a presidential elector on the Illinois state ticket in 1864. Republican opponents haunted both men with the issue throughout their political careers.

The left side of the cartoon depicts the Civil War for Cleveland and Stevenson, while ill-suited substitutes march off to war in their place. Cleveland relaxes at a beer garden in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, and Stevenson denounces Lincoln before at a Democratic mass meeting in 1864, where a sign reading “The War Is A Failure” is raised in the crowd. The right side shows the artist’s conception of the heroic wartime service of President Benjamin Harrison (on horseback) and his Republican vice-presidential running mate in 1892, journalist Whitelaw Reid. A bipartisan appeal for the Republican ticket is made in the caption by General Daniel Sickles, a Democrat who was a leader in the Grand Army of the Republic, an influential association of Union veterans.

In July 1862, Harrison helped raise and train the 70th Indiana Regiment for the Union Army, and was quickly promoted to colonel. Stationed in Kentucky and Tennessee during 1863, the regiment joined the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman as Union troops moved toward Atlanta in 1864. Harrison’s performance at the battles of Resaca, Golgotha, and New Hope Church (all in Georgia) earned him command of the First Brigade. At Peach Tree Creek, two miles north of Atlanta, Harrison led his men in turning back a Confederate attack, a feat that won praise from his commander, General Joseph Hooker, and promotion in February 1865 to the rank of brigadier general. His First Brigade marched with Sherman through the Carolinas.

In 1861, Reid joined the Union troops under General William Rosecrans as a war correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette. He gained fame for his coverage of the campaigns of Rosecrans and General George McClellan, and was particularly praised for his accurate and compelling reports of the battles of Shiloh and Gettysburg. Reid was given the rank of captain, and the title of aide-de-camp. Late in 1863, he was appointed librarian for the House of Representatives, where he served until the war’s end. Reports from his tour of the postwar South were published in the book, After the War (1866). Two years later, he published a well-respected, two-volume history of the war’s impact on his home state, Ohio and the War.













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