by Howard E. Haggins
I would like to comment about the affair in Florida, i.e. the failure to count the military overseas votes in November. I just completed reading a three-volume biography by Bruce Catton about General U.S. Grant.
The last volume is "Grant Takes Command." Grant had Richmond, Va. under siege and the war was in stalemate. It was late September and Lincoln was running for his second term. It had been a rough summer, and Grant wrote a letter to Secretary of War Stanton. The following is from the third volume dated Sept. 27, 1864.
"The exercise of suffrage by the officers and soldiers of armies in the field is a novel thing. It has, I believe, generally been considered dangerous to constitutional liberty and subversive of military discipline. But our circumstances are novel and exceptional. A very large proportion of legal voters of the U.S. are now either under arms if in the field, or in hospitals, or otherwise engaged in the military service of the U.S.
"Many of the men are not regular soldiers in the strict sense of that term; still less are they mercenaries who give their services to the government simply for its pay, having little understanding of the political questions or feeling little or no interest in them. On the contrary, they are American citizens, having still their homes and social and political ties binding them to the states and districts from which they come and to which they expect to return.
"They have left their homes temporarily to sustain the cause of their country in the hour of its trial. In performing this sacred duty they could not be deprived of a most precious privilege. They have as much right to demand their votes shall be counted in the choice of their leaders as those citizens who remain at home. Nay, more, for they have sacrificed more for their country."
I think that these words of General Grant are appropriate because the men who fought in the Civil War were for the most part volunteers, like the service men and women of today. It is not the whole letter but is speaks for itself in the part that I have included.
I just finished this book yesterday. I wish I had finished it last November, but I still think it has meaning for today in helping the citizens of today understand the importance of the right to have your voice heard through your vote.