March 4 1863 - Sharpsburg wandering livestock,
For the Herald and Torch.
Sharpsburg, Feb. 21, 1863.
Messrs. Editors :—
As the time for putting out spring crops approaches, the farmers in this section of country experience considerable perplexity of mind respecting the propriety of sowing their ground. It would be very easy for the farmer to plant his usual crops, since the ground is already ploughed, but the great risk he will necessarily incur of having them destroyed by roving stock before reaching maturity, occasions painful hesitation, especially to those whose only resources consist in the produce they raise upon their farms.— We are loth to sow in the absence of a reasonable guarantee that we shall be able to reap—nor are we willing to commit our seed to the earth to be exposed to dangers other than those resulting from the freaks of nature?
To prevent the destruction of our crops, should we conclude to put any out this spring, a great deal of speculation has been indulged relative to the course to be pursued, and to facilitate the accomplishment of so an important object, an attempt was made to have a meeting of all the farmers in the neighborhood, and all others who felt an interest in the matter, to hit upon some feasible plan whereby the farmers might sow their crops with some degree of security of having them protected against the cattle of those who openly avow their intention of leaving them run at large, but owing to the seeming indisposition of the farmers North of town, who have lost but little of their fencing, to co-operate with those South of town, many of whom have not even the vestige of a fence, the attempt proved a failure.
What will we do now ?” asked one. “ Are our families to be deprived of their accustomed subsistence ?” asked another. “ Are four thousand acres of fertile and arable land to lie left fallow and converted into commons for public accommodation ?” still asks another. These are serious questions to those who have to answer them ; and not only so, but the man who refuse to assist the farmer to secure this crops, and thus enable him to procure food for his and their families, will, most assuredly, feel it in the end. The produce of four thousand acres of good land, will, in the aggregate, amount to a considerable bulk in the course of a year, which contributes largely towards feeding and giving employment to the people of this district; but suppose all this land is suffered to lay uncultivated, as some would have it—or, if you please, suppose the crops are destroyed by the stock of ungenerous citizens, what would be the natural consequence ? Would not the evils, scarcity of labor and the high prices incident to a famine, be the inevitable results? There can be no doubt or question about this, and it would be far better and wiser for those who rail against farmers’ meeting, together with their plans for farming the coming year, to reflect upon the subject, and not act injuriously to themselves and families. If the farmer is compelled to stop operations, the mechanic and laborer must of necessity stop also,— and to prove this, there will be no need of an elaborate argument. A single case, which is not without its parallel, will furnish ample proof:
A thrifty blacksmith, now carrying on business in that part of the town called Philadelphia, is dependent, in the main, for his work on the farmers who have lost all their fencing; now suppose these farmers are necessitated by force of circumstances to suspend farming operations, will not his custom diminish to a ruinous extent, which must, eventually, lead to bankruptcy, for if we cannot farm we will not want any blacksmithing done—therefore, would it not be wise and sound policy on the part of this now prosperous mechanic to keep up his cow, and thus aid the farmer, who, in return, will give him work and bread to his family ? Some of your readers, perhaps, will hardly think it possible that we have in our community those who would rather pull down the farmer than sustain him. Yet such is the fact, although there are none outside of the town of Sharpsburg having this unkind turn of disposition. It is with the town people we expect difficulties, and by whom we expect to be annoyed. About a score of them have cows, and purpose pasturing on any farm the cow may happen to select, irrespective of the wishes of owner of the farm. Would this be right, presuming the farmer to be without the means of self-defense ? We opine not, nor can I persuade myself to the belief that those who want large pasture fields for their cattle to roam over, to the detriment of others, can or will think so themselves, but on the contrary it behooves every good citizen of Sharpsburg to keep up their stock, or seek pasture on those farms that have not been devastated by the army; and moreover, it is the plain duty of the farmers having their fencing, to pasture the cattle of the town people, and by so doing they would only fulfill that scriptural injunction which says, “ do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
In conclusion, may I not ask you a question touching the laws of this State. Have we not on our statute books a law, which, if enforced, would compel every man to keep his hogs on his own inclosure ? It strikes me we have.
I do not couple my interrogatory with a desire to see it executed. I would much rather see persons persuaded to a discharge of duty from their own conceptions of right, than by the Instrumentality of law or otherwise,—but should it become necessary, the farmers who shall put out a spring crop, will guard their farms against trespassing stock by every available means. Our corn crops were destroyed last fall —we have no wheat growing in the ground —therefore, it is hoped that the citizens of town will permit us to raise corn, hay and fodder on which to subsist our horses and cattle next winter, and by way of reciprocation the farmers will put up their fences as soon as possible.
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