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The American union. : (Martinsburg, Va. [W. Va.]) 1861-1861
Place of publication:
Martinsburg, Va. [W. Va.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Martinsburg, Berkeley, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Printed by the American Army Division under Maj. Gen. Patterson
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased with July 11, 1861 issue?
  • No. 1 (July 4, 1861)-
  • English
  • Martinsburg (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Newspapers.
  • United States.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01204155
  • West Virginia--Martinsburg.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01224867
  • Also available on microfilm from Micro Photo Division, Bell and Howell.
  • Editor: Capt. William B. Sipes, 1861.
  • Published during the occupation of Martinsburg in the office of the Virginia Republican.
sn 84026772
View complete holdings information

American Union

The American or “Know-Nothing” Party formed from groups of secret organizations seeking national political notice and respectability. This fervently nativist movement opposed immigration and Catholicism and promoted Protestantism and restrictions on liquor sales, while temporarily circumventing the most significant issue of the day--contending that slavery was a local rather than federal issue. In this environment of political polarization, Simeon Siegfried Jr. launched the American Union in Morgantown, Virginia (later West Virginia), on June 30, 1855. A Baptist minister, Siegfried had been assistant editor of his father’s newspaper the Monongalia Mirror until its closure only a week earlier.

The American Union was published weekly with four pages totaling 28 columns. At the top of page two, Siegfried incorporated an image of an eagle with wings outstretched over a bust of George Washington and the motto “Americans must rule America.” He published editorials, letters, and political humor in support of the American Party, while reporting on the success of the party nationally. In the months leading up to the 1856 presidential election, Siegfried allocated increased space to national and political news.

In addition to trumpeting the American Party platform, the Union directly challenged Morgantown’s Democratic periodicals, the Morgantown Telegraph and theVirginia Campaign Star, later renamed theVirginia Star, then the Virginia Weekly Star. The rivalry between these newspapers and the Union was heated.

Both the elder and the younger Siegfried actively participated in party politics, attending state conventions, giving speeches, organizing rallies, and participating in the nomination of former President Millard Fillmore as the American Party’s candidate for President. Unfortunately for Siegfried, the economic interests of most of Morgantown citizens precluded opposition to immigration, as it was primarily immigrants who worked on the railroads and who provided a market for the region’s agricultural products. Additionally, anti-Catholic sentiments were generally irrelevant in an area with few Catholics to begin with.

When the American Party split along sectional lines over the issue of slavery at its February 1856 convention, membership declined; following its dismal performance in the 1856 presidential election, the party began to disintegrate. The content of the Union changed notably after the party’s failure in 1856 as Siegfried began to cover more local and non-political news. Although the Union did occasionally address the ideas of the American Party, it did so in a considerably less aggressive manner.  As the American Party’s influence faded, the younger Siegfried left Morgantown to accept a position as pastor in Belmont County, Ohio. On April 16, 1858, Simeon Siegfried Sr. took over editorship of the Union, and the newspaper dropped its formal affiliation with the American Party.

The elder Siegfried continued to advocate for his favorite political causes, specifically, temperance; however, he avoided the polarizing crusade undertaken by his son. He began to include in the paper a farmer’s column, poetry, and romantic short stories in hope of expanding the Union’s audience. Widespread non-payment among the readership of Siegfried’s various periodicals led to severe fiscal distress, however.  The Union published its last issue on March 25, 1859. Siegfried moved to Grafton, Virginia, where he established the Grafton Guardian.  Siegfried sold the Guardian around May 1860 and moved to Ohio to accept a full-time pastoral position.

Provided by: West Virginia University