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Mar 28, 2010

Bringing Invalid Soldiers to the Polls
Scene at the Polls in NY, the Veterans in 1812 and 1864.
Union Home and School for Soldier's Children, 58th Street Near 8th Avenue
Soldier's Depot, Dining Room (1st Floor)
Soldier's Depot - Receiving Room (1st Floor)
View of the NY State Soldier's Depot, 50 & 52 Howard St.
Soldiers Marching
Soldier's Depot, Hospital (4th Floor)
23rd New York Infantry
7th New York State Militia, Camp Cameron, D.C. 1861

Soldiers' Votes

Republicans perceived early that the soldier vote could be critical to victory in 1864. They proposed legislation in the spring of 1863 to allow Union soldiers to cast their votes through a proxy. New York Democrats understandably opposed this legislation. Historian Sidney David Brummer wrote: "The Democrats perceived that while they might safely fight this bill, it would be politically unwise to resist absolutely the giving of the ballot to the soldiers. Accordingly, when the Senate bill came up in the Assembly, Mr. Dean offered concurrent resolutions to amend the constitution so as to allow those in the federal military service to vote. Of course, such an amendment, requiring favorable action by two successive legislatures and ratification by the people would not permit the soldiers to vote until 1864."1
The Democrats chose to delay but not destroy the proposal.

Even before the legislation came to a vote, Governor Horatio Seymour opposed the bill, telling the Legislature: "It is possible that the next Presidential election may be decided by the vote of a single State, and if votes by proxy are authorized, it is not impossible that such votes would, in such State, decide the election....It surely cannot be necessary to impress...the fearful danger which would attend the complication of the disastrous civil the interposition of a well founded doubt as to the person rightfully entitled to the Presidential office."2 However, after Attorney General Daniel S. Dickinson ruled that the legislation was constitutional, the bill passed the State Legislature. Governor Seymour vetoed it and the Assembly could not overrule his veto.

Seymour biographer Stewart Mitchell wrote: "Because Seymour had vetoed the bill giving the votes to soldiers absent in the field he entered the [1863] campaign under a cloud. The constitutional amendment on which he insisted did not authorize absentee voting until the election of 1864. As November approached, the Republicans besieged [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton for furloughs which would permit soldiers to return to the state in order to cast their ballots there."3 Mitchell quoted fellow historian Brummer who wrote: "The number of those who left Washington for middle an central New York was estimated at from sixteen thousand to eighteen thousand. The Democrats denounced this. The Tribune, in reply, defended it, saying that those furloughed were nearly all sick or wounded men, that the leaves of absence had been given without regard to party affiliations, and that the allegations that conditions of a political nature were attached to the furloughs were false."4

Once the Republicans regained their hold on the Assembly in the 1863 elections, the scene was set for the Legislature to revisit the issue of soldier voting. According to historian Brummer: "The Unionists immediately took up the matter of the soldiers' vote; for it was realized that dispatch was necessary if the volunteers were to vote at the ensuing presidential election. As the Democrats were committed to the constitutional amendment already passed by the previous legislature, and as any direct attempt on their part to block action on this subject would have merely created party capital for their opponents, there was no opposition to the second passage of the amendment; and thus it had gone through both houses without a dissenting vote before the session was a fortnight old. By the middle of February, a bill providing for a special election on March 8th, at which the amendment should be submitted to the people, was passed unanimously and signed."5

Daniel H. Craig, president of the Associated Press, telegraphed President Lincoln on March 8, 1864: "New York City gives ninety five hundred (9500) majority for allowing soldiers to vote— Returns from interior show majorities same every where"6 Actually, the statewide margin was better than 5-1 for soldier voting. George Putnam recalled that President Lincoln subsequently wrote to General Ulysses S. Grant: "'New York votes to give votes to soldiers. Tell the soldiers.' The decision of New York in regard to the collection from the soldiers in each field of the votes for the coming Presidential election was in line with that arrived at by all of the States. The plan presented difficulties and, in connection with the work of the work of special commissioners, it involved also expense. It was, however, on every ground desirable that the men who were risking their lives in defence of the nation should be given the opportunity of taking part in the selection of the nation's leader, who was also under the Constitution the commander-in-chief of the armies in the field. The votes of some four hundred thousand men constituted also an important factor in the election itself."7

According to historian Brummer: "While some of the Democrats preferred the appointment of commissioners by the Governor and the Comptroller to visit the camps, fleets, and hospitals and collect the soldiers' and sailors' proxies, whereas the Unionists generally favored the plan of the bill vetoed by Seymour in 1863, the debates showed little partisan feeling. There was apparently on both sides a disposition to enact a measure which would leave no loopholes for frauds. In April, a bill providing that qualified voters in the service might transmit by mail their proxies to a friend or to the inspectors of election was passed, though with fifteen Democrats in the Assembly voting against it. There was some doubt whether Seymour would give his approval and whether he would not at least ask for changes. The Governor, however, finally signed the bill as passed, notwithstanding the fact that it was similar to the measure vetoed by him in 1863."

Despite these maneuverings, the Democratic presidential game plan in 1864 also required the party's candidate, General George B. McClellan, to do well among Union soldiers. McClellan's closest advisors fully expected him to do so.8 Unfortunately for this strategy, the Democrats adopted a peace platform at the same time that they were nominating McClellan at the end of August. The odd combination took the steam out of McClellan's candidacy — especially from Democratic efforts to encourage soldier votes.

Historian William Frank Zornow wrote: "Both parties appealed to the fighting men in their platforms, such a plank has become a standard fixture of most platforms since, but it was a new departure in 1864. A second significant development during the canvass of that year was the appearance of veterans' organizations which were politically active. In September, a Democrat, fearing that the Unionists would not stop short of intimidation to force the soldiers to support Lincoln, urged McClellan to form a veterans' society to offset this possibility. These clubs, he maintained, would generate enthusiasm, react upon the soldiers in the field, and contradict the assertion that all soldiers were for Lincoln. An organization known as the McClellan Legion grew out of this suggestion, and by October it was deeply involved in the campaign; to allay the possible accusation of treason, its officer made known that they did not accept Copperheads as members and repudiated the Chicago platform. The club, which soon had branches in the principal cities, held regular meetings and staged parades and rallies. The World reported that its influence was 'tremendous.' The Unionists were quick to realize the importance of capturing the veteran and soldier vote and retaliated by organizing the Veteran Union Club.9

Historian David E. Long wrote: "Among those who were reading these news stories were the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, and their reverence for their former commander began to diminish. The general feeling in the army was that his dismissal had been wrong and politically motivated, and that McClellan had good reason to be upset. However, his consorting with prominent Copperheads disappointed the troops he had nurtured and trained so devotedly. If he had any promise as a national political candidate, he had to retain the support of his army. The Army of the Potomac represented not merely the votes of 100,000 men, but also the votes of relatives and friends who relied on these men for news from the front. The soldiers were heroes to those they left behind and any action that hindered their effort was looked upon as disloyalty. Had McClellan been as astute a politician as he was a military organizer and theorist, he would have realized that the military vote represented his best chances of being elected and could have been more circumspect in his associations." 10

Historian William C. Davis wrote: "McClellan's supporters, and there were many, quickly found themselves on the defensive, thanks to the Chicago platform. When one man in the 144th New York declared, 'Any man that supported the present administration and voted for Abe Lincoln this fall was a traitor to his country,' his fellow privates spontaneously arrested him and confined him to the cook house." 11

Such low-level politics had a high-level counterpart. "To get out the vote, the soldiers presented a special problem of the war-time election. Secretary of War Stanton took pains to stifle any flow of Democratic propaganda into the Army while opening the gates generously to equivalent Union Party materials. Even without this precaution, and despite the affection the Army of the Potomac felt for McClellan, the men in uniform were expected to favor Lincoln overwhelmingly. McClellan and the Democrats verged too close to threatening that the campaigns of the Army would become a waste," wrote historian Russell F. Weigley. "Lincoln, in contrast, continued to offer substantive evidence of his concern for the Army and the soldiers, not only by vowing to see the war through to victory, but also by such a gesture as proceeding with a draft in September, the political risks notwithstanding, in order to keep the ranks of the Army filled. Thus Union Party workers saw the problem not as one of how the soldiers might vote but of whether they would be able to vote." 12

New York State Republicans were fortunate that they had just elected in 1863 an energetic young Secretary of State, whose job included overseeing elections. In his memoirs, Secretary of State Chauncey M. Depew described New York's outreach efforts: "In view of the approaching presidential election, the legislature passed a law, which was signed by the governor, providing machinery for the soldiers' vote. New York had at that time between three and four hundred thousand soldiers in the field, who were scattered in companies, regiments, brigades, and divisions all over the South. This law made it the duty of the secretary of state to provide ballots, to see that they reached every unit of a company, to gather the votes and transmit them to the home of each soldier. The State government had no machinery by which this work could be done. I applied to the express companies, but all refused on the ground that they were not equipped. I then sent for old John Butterfield, who was the founder of the express business but had retired and was living on his farm near Utica. He was intensely patriotic and ashamed of the lack of enterprise shown by the express companies. He said to me: "If they cannot do this work they ought to retire." He at once organized what was practically an express company, taking in all those in existence and adding many new features for the sole purpose of distributing the ballots and gathering the soldiers' votes. It was a gigantic task and successfully executed by this patriotic old gentleman."13

Seymour biographer Stewart Mitchell wrote that Depew was not cooperating with the Governor on soldier voting: "Seymour wrote the secretary twice but failed to receive an acknowledgement of either letter. Late in September he informed him: 'I shall send a set of ballots to every regiment from New York. I will send them for both political parties, if you or any other person, will furnish me those for the candidates of the Republican party — or if you prefer to send them, I will give you any facility in my power. In a second letter dated October 1, the governor again called the management of the matter of the soldier vote to the attention of Depew, to whom the legislature had delegated the task of distributing Republican ballots:
Some days since I spoke with you, concerning the appointment by you and myself of joint Commissioners to proceed to the several United States Hospitals, and to visit the armies in the field, for the purpose of distributing ballots to our New York soldiers, now in the United States service, and to carry out the purposes of the law for soldiers voting.

As the day for the election approaches, every delay becomes injurious to our soldiers — and as I have heard nothing from you, with reference to a co-operation in making such appointments. I have selected several Commissioners to proceed to Washington and the Army of the Potomac to this end.

I shall be happy to add others if you will name them.

I have directed them to carry ballots for any parties that may see fit to put them into their hands.14

Apparently ignoring Governor Seymour, Secretary of State Depew enlisted other assistance. New York political boss Thurlow Weed wrote Secretary of State William H. Seward in mid September: "Our Secretary of State is alarmed about the Soldiers Vote. The Law is loosely drawn, and he says that they can, with Democratic Inspectors here, work in any number of Fraudulent Votes. This must be looked to, and yet it may be irremediable."15 Secretary of War Stanton wasn't completely cooperative in these efforts, according to Depew:
Of course, the first thing was to find out where the New York troops were, and for that purpose I went to Washington, remaining there for several months before the War Department would give me the information. The secretary of war was Edwin M. Stanton. It was perhaps fortunate that the secretary of war should not only possess extraordinary executive ability, but be also practically devoid of human weakness; that he should be a rigid disciplinarian and administer justice without mercy. It was thought at the time that these qualities were necessary to counteract, as far as possible, the tender heartedness of President Lincoln. If the boy condemned to be shot, or his mother or father, could reach the president in time, he was never executed. The military authorities thought that this was a mistaken charity and weakened discipline. I was at a dinner after the war with a number of generals who had been in command of armies. The question was asked one of the most famous of these generals: "How did you carry out the sentences of your courts martial and escape Lincoln's pardons?" The grim old warrior answered: "I shot them first."

I took my weary way every day to the War Department, but could get no results. The interviews were brief and disagreeable and the secretary of war very brusque. The time was getting short. I said to the secretary: "If the ballots are to be distributed in time I must have information at once." He very angrily refused and said: "New York troops are in every army, all over the enemy's territory. To state their location would be to give invaluable information to the enemy. How do I know if that information would be so safeguarded as not to get out?"

As I was walking down the long corridor, which was full of hurrying officers and soldiers returning from the field or departing for it, I met Elihu B. Washburne, who was a congressman from Illinois and an intimate friend of the president. He stopped me and said:

"Hello, Mr. Secretary, you seem very much troubled. Can I help you?" I told him my story.

"What are you going to do?" he asked. I answered: "To protect myself I must report to the people of New York that the provision for the soldiers' voting cannot be carried out because the administration refuses to give information where the New York soldiers are located."

"Why," said Mr. Washburne, "that would beat Mr. Lincoln. You don't know him. While he is a great statesman, he is also the keenest of politicians alive. If it could be done in no other way, the president would take a carpet bag and go around and collect those votes himself. You remain here until you hear from me. I will go at once and see the president."

In about an hour a staff officer stepped up to me and asked: "Are you the secretary of state of New York?" I answered "Yes." "The secretary of war wishes to see you at once," he said. I found the secretary most cordial and charming.

"Mr. Secretary, what do you desire?" he asked. I stated the case as I had many times before, and he gave a peremptory order to one of his staff that I should receive the documents in time for me to leave Washington on the midnight train.

The magical transformation was the result of a personal visit of President Lincoln to the secretary of war. Mr. Lincoln carried the State of New York by a majority of only 6,749, and it was a soldiers' vote that gave him the Empire State.

The compensations of my long delay in Washington trying to move the War Department were the opportunity it gave me to see Mr. Lincoln, to meet the members of the Cabinet, to become intimate with the New York delegation in Congress, and to hear the wonderful adventures and stories so numerous in Washington.16

Clearly, President Lincoln took an active interest in the soldier vote. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote in his diary in early October: "The President and Seward called on me this forenoon relative to New York voters in the Navy. Wanted one of our boats to be placed at the disposal of the New York commission to gather votes in the Mississippi Squadron. A Mr. Jones was referred to, who subsequently came to me with a line from the President, and wanted also to send to the blockading squadrons. Gave permission to go by the Circassian, and directed commanders to extend facilities to all voters," wrote Navy Secretary Gideon Welles.17

It wasn't just the votes that concerned Mr. Lincoln. There was a special bond between President Lincoln and soldiers. President Lincoln had a strong and almost mystical devotion to ordinary Americans, particularly soldiers. Writing to decline an invitation to speak at Cooper Institute on December 2, 1863, the President sent this message: "Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bear his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause — honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle."18 Speaking ten months later to the 189th New York Volunteers, President Lincoln said:
SOLDIERS: I am exceedingly obliged to you for this mark of respect. It is said that we have the best Government the world ever knew, and I am glad to meet you, the supporters of that Government. To you who render the hardest work in its support should be given the greatest credit. Others who are connected with it, and who occupy higher positions, their duties can be dispensed with, but we cannot get along without your aid. While others differ with the Administration, and perhaps, honestly, the soldiers generally have sustained it; they have not only fought right, but, so far as could be judged from their actions, they have voted right, and I for one thank you for it. I know you are en route for the front, and therefore do not expect me to detain you long, and will therefore bid you good morning."19

"No wonder," wrote historian William C. Davis, "that, when a New York regiment marched up Broadway [in October 1864], and a spectator yelled out to ask whom they were going to vote for, nine of ten of them shouted back, 'Old Abe.'"20 A letter in mid-September from President Lincoln to General William T. Sherman revealed the importance he — and Indiana Republicans — placed on soldier voting: "The State election of Indiana occurs on the 11th of October, and the loss of it, to the friends of the Government would go far toward losing the whole Union cause. The bad effect upon the November election, and especially the giving the State government to those who will oppose the war in every possible way, are too much to risk if it can be avoided. The draft proceeds, not withstanding its strong tendency to lose us the State. Indiana is the only important State voting in October whose soldiers cannot vote in the field. Anything you can safely do to let her soldiers, or any part of them, go home and vote at the State election will be greatly in point. They need not remain for the Presidential election, but may return to you at once. This is in no sense an order, but is merely intended to impress you with the importance to the Army itself of your doing all you safely can, yourself being the judge of what you can safely do."21

These kinds of Republican efforts worried New York Democrats. David Black, biographer of Democratic National Chairman August Belmont, wrote: "As the election neared, August grew increasingly concerned about the possibility of voting fraud. The Lincoln administration appeared ready to use any method to win. August heard reports from Maryland that the Evening Post, the only Democratic newspaper published in Baltimore, had been closed by the commander of the Union troops in that area the day it printed the electoral ticket of the Democratic party. The chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee in Missouri told August that they were unable to campaign effectively because 'soldiers will not allow a Democrat to open his mouth or even declare himself for McClellan, and the reign of terror prevails.'"22

Belmont wrote General McClellan in October: "General Grant is very favorably disposed & intends to see fair play & our rights protected." Belmont detailed Henry Lansing to handle details of soldier voting.23 Historian Stephen W. Sears wrote: "McClellan devoted most of his campaign efforts to the army vote. Thirteen states had made some provision for their soldiers to vote, and it was expected that the general's great popularity with the men in the ranks during his time in command would be reflected in the 1864 balloting. He sought out officers friendly to him to distribute Democratic campaign literature to the troops, and encouraged the formation of such military clubs as the McClellan Legion to rally ex-soldiers and men home on furlough and sick leave to his cause. Despite these efforts, however, no other segment of the electorate rejected his candidacy so strongly. In the final election count Lincoln would capture 55 percent of the vote; among the soldiers the president's count was 78 percent. In spite of his acceptance letter, Northern soldiers perceived General McClellan as representing the party advocating peace at any price, and they turned against him by an overwhelming margin."24

But Democrats weren't averse to devising their own frauds, according to Lincoln biographer James G. Randall: "Some of the Democrats were even more eager than Lincoln and Seward to get the New York soldier vote, so eager indeed that they were willing to steal it. According to the New York proxy system, a soldier in the field sealed up his ballot and sent it to his home county to be opened for him on election day. A couple of zealous Democratic workers in Washington intercepted large numbers of these ballots, unsealed the envelopes, put in ballots marked for the Democratic ticket, and sent them on. These 'ballot-box stuffers' were said to have had more than twenty men at work for them and to have been 'sending off the ballots, as fabricated by them, in dry-goods boxes full.'"25 Historian David Sidney Brummer wrote:
At the end of October occurred the revelations of alleged frauds in connection with the soldiers' ballots. Both sides sent agents to the camps in order to procure these votes. One Ferry, New York State agent at Baltimore, as well as Edward Donohue and two others, Democratic voting agents, were arrested by the provost marshal at that city on the charge of impersonating officers and soldiers in the army of the United States, and as such forging on ballots and on the required accompanying affidavits the names of those in that service. At the same time, Colonel Samuel North, New York State agent at Washington, as well as Major Levi Cohen and Edward Jones, two subordinate officials at the state agency, were arrested on similar charges. The office was closed, and the soldiers' ballots ready to be deposited were seized. Ferry pleaded guilty confessing to have signed the names of a number of soldiers and accusing Donohue of affixing the required officer's name. Donohue at first denied complicity, and telegraphed for aid to Peter Cagger and to Sanford E. Church. Later Donohue confessed to having signed blanks with the name of "C.S. Arthur, captain and aid-de-camp," but claimed that no offence was committed inasmuch as there was no officer by that name in the service of New York State or of the United States. In the press dispatches, it was alleged that several dry-goods boxes of forged votes for the Democratic national and state tickets had been forwarded to New York. Further, the Unionists were worked up over the discovery of a letter from Donohue to General Farrell of Governor Seymour's staff, which read: "I send you...a number of ballots for your county. I have made out a number from the list you sent me...I guess you have enough. Fearing that you might not, I enclose envelopes and powers of attorney sworn to; you can fill them up for Columbia or any other county."

Of course, the Unionists sought to make the utmost party capital out of this incident. The Tribune contained long editorials against the alleged frauds under such captions as 'The Crime against the People,' 'Democratic Balloting among the Dead Soldiers,' 'Call the Roll Instantly;' and it advocated the immediate organization throughout the State of 'Vigilance committees, composed of men of nerve and familiar with their districts.' [Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward] Beecher called the frauds monstrous. The Union State Committee issued an address, giving the "details of this gigantic attempt at fraud,"...

The Democratic press and stump speakers were indignant at the arrests. It was all a "Lincoln Plot." They claimed that the witnesses were perjured and that the stories were manufactured to prevent McClellan ballots from being cast. Counter charges of fraud were made and it was declared that unfair obstacles had been placed in the way of Democratic agents. The Argus matched the Tribune editorials with one headed, "The Great Crime against the Soldiers." It asserted that men in the army were voting by tens of thousands for McClellan and Seymour when the administration seized the ballots and arrested the agents; and the voters of New York were urged "to vindicate the rights of the soldiers and the cause of Republican government." "In the story of outrage and crime which make up the black chronicle of a Lincoln Administration," said another editorial, "there is no darker deed than this! It reveals the terror and desperation of the Washington junto."

Governor Seymour issued a proclamation appointing three prominent Democrats, Amasa J. Parker, William F. Allen, and William Kelly, commissioners on behalf of the State of New York to proceed to Washington, inquire into the facts and circumstances of the arrests and "take such will vindicate the laws of the State and the rights and liberties of its citizens, to the end that ...all attempts to prevent soldiers from this State in the service of the United States from voting, or to defraud them, or to coerce their action in voting, or to detain or alter the votes already cast by them...may be exposed and punished."

The commissioners, on arriving at Washington, protested against the jurisdiction assumed by the United States in the case. They obtained the seized ballots, but they failed to secure the release of North, Cohen, and Jones, or even the postponement of their trial until after the election. The commissioners' report, published in the press two days before the election, declared that while there might have been irregularities, they had found no evidence that any frauds had been committed by any person connected with the New York agency. The document also contained a harrowing account of the treatment of the prisoners, which must have fed Democratic indignation against the arbitrary actions of the administration.26

Historian Stewart Mitchell's review of this incident is more favorable to Seymour's commissioners: "These commissioners saw Secretary Stanton and visited Colonel North, who was under lock and key together with an assistant named Cohn, in the Old Capitol Prison, which then stood on the site of the new Supreme Court Building. After talking with North the commissioners demanded the release of the two prisoners, but Judge [Joseph] Holt countered with a flat refusal. Then they appealed to Lincoln, who was cordial but would give them no satisfaction: the arrested agents must await their trial. Parker and his associates returned to Albany. Long after the election — on January 6, 1865 — North, Cohn, and a third agent, by the name of Jones were brought up for trial before a military commission. All three prisoners were acquitted and turned loose. An apologist for this proceeding acknowledges that the state law was both 'complicated and foolish' and 'full of opportunities for mistake and fraud.' The same author asserts that Colonel North was a man of high character and may fairly be believed to have been innocent of any wrong-doing whatever. He had merely spent a little more than two months in one of Stanton's jails."27

Historian William Frank Zornow wrote: "Newspapers on both sides maintained that the soldiers would support their candidates. Union papers filled columns with letters from soldiers to relatives and friends emphasizing the army's hatred for Democrats, while the Democrats replied with myriads of letters denouncing Lincoln. The Union party performed its work of propaganda so effectively that on election eve the army seemed to have been completely Lincolnized."28

It wasn't just patriotism and propaganda that affected soldier votes. Historian Philip S. Paludan wrote: "Soldiers may have been influential in the voting in a more subtle way. Commanders with Lincoln's permission sent troops to places where trouble was expected because of the dubious loyalty of the neighborhoods. New York City draft riots gave the army an excuse to police the polls in that city and to provide, according to General [Benjamin] Butler, the first honest election in decades."29 Historian William C. Davis wrote: "Lincoln and Stanton had feared that there would be attempts to disrupt the voting in New York, and actually had [Ulysses] Grant ship a few regiments north to the city to provide security. In fact there was no outbreak, and the soldiers, being New York regiments, had to be kept on their barges all day on the New Jersey side of the Hudson so that they were not technically in their home state; otherwise the ballots they had cast in the field would have been nullified."30

Historian James McPherson wrote: "In none of the states with separately tabulated soldier ballots did this vote change the outcome of the presidential contest — Lincoln would have carried all of them except Kentucky in any case. But in two close states where soldier votes were lumped with the rest, New York and Connecticut, these votes may have provided the margin of Lincoln's victory."31 According to historian William C. Davis, "Certainly soldiers' votes may have decided some vital and otherwise close state contests, especially New York, Indiana, and Illinois, for the kinds of Lincoln majorities in the regiments that soldiers from those states recorded in their diaries revealed that they were voting overwhelmingly for Lincoln. Nevertheless, the loss even of such powerful states could not have dented Lincoln's sure electoral victory, but only reduced his majority and his mandate."32 Historian William Frank Zornow wrote:
"In determining the outcome of the presidential election, the soldier vote was not a decisive factor. Of the total vote cast in the field, Lincoln received 119,754 to McClellan's 34,291. In such states where soldiers had to return home to vote, definite results are more difficult to obtain. In Connecticut, where Lincoln won by a scant 2,406 votes, the fighting men cast 2,898 for him, thus assuring him victory in that state. Governor Cannon of Delaware insisted that it was the failure to get troops to vote which cost the Union party a victory in his state. The close results of the October elections convinced Lincoln and his managers that they might not carry Pennsylvania. McClure estimated that he might win by a scant 6,000, but suggested that to play safe 30,000 troops should be sent home from Grant's and Sheridan's armies. Lincoln was hesitant to make such a request from the hard-pressed Grant, but at length troops were obtained from [George] Meade and [Philip H.] Sheridan. They could have been better employed at the front, for Lincoln carried the state by 5,712 home votes, but the boys in blue contributed an additional 14,363 to make the victory more conclusive. New York had adopted a law permitting voting in the field. Depew went to the capital to see Stanton to learn the whereabouts of certain regiments from his state so that ballots could be distributed. The Secretary would not impart this information. When he heard of this, Washburne exclaimed: 'Why that would beat Mr. Lincoln. You don't know him. While he is a great statesman, he is also the keenest of politicians alive. If it could be done in no other way, the president would take a carpet bag and go around and collect those votes himself.' Lincoln paid a personal visit to Stanton after being informed of the incident, and Depew returned to New York with his precious information. 'It was the soldiers' vote,' said Depew that gave him the Empire State.'

Only in Connecticut and New York did the soldiers' vote affect the outcome of the election, but even then Lincoln would have carried the popular and electoral vote of the North. Several congressmen owed their seats to the army voters, but even had they not been chosen, the Union party would still have controlled the Thirty-ninth Congress."33

By a 3-1 margin, soldiers who voted in the field rejected their former commander and supported their commander-in-chief. Historian William C. Davis wrote: "Soldiers left no doubt that they saw in the outcome something greater than just an election result, and they shared this vision with Lincoln, who had helped them to see it. A New York sergeant called it 'a grand moral victory gained over the combined forces of slavery, disunion, treason, tyranny.'"34 Historian Sidney David Brummer wrote that the closeness of the vote led the Albany Argus to charge repeatedly "that soldiers' ballots for the Democratic candidates were being systematically detained, and that the State had been carried for the administration by fraud."35

Of course, one group of soldiers wasn't encouraged to participate in this democratic exercise. Historian John Hope Franklin wrote: "In New York [in 1861] they formed a military club and drilled regularly until the police stopped them."36 Despite the opposition of Governor Horatio Seymour, interest in raising a black regiment revived in 1863. According to historian Allan Nevins, "In the end the angry citizens persuaded the War Department to take the units they organized into the army under national, not State, authority. The Twentieth New York, departing for the front, was given an ovation which in heartfelt enthusiasm equaled that tendered the Seventh New York in the first days of war. Two more colored regiments followed. But Seymour had hopelessly delayed the effort of the Empire State, which should have outstripped that of Massachusetts."37



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Posted: Mar 28, 2010 5:57am
Mar 27, 2010
Schoolteacher, husband found shot to death in Town of Newburgh home
Police hint that shootings were murder-suicide
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Investigators confer outside the home. Neighbors described Kimet and Hiria Kojtari as “lovely people” whom no one ever heard fighting.Times Herald-Record/DOMINICK FIORILLE
Adam Bosch

TOWN OF NEWBURGH — A local schoolteacher and her husband were found shot to death in their Town of Newburgh home Saturday morning, police said.

Investigators hadn't ruled out the possibility of a third-party gunman, but they hinted that it was likely a murder-suicide case between the couple.

"Detectives are still piecing together the facts to determine what happened," Newburgh police Lt. Michael Clancy said. "We believe the violence is isolated to the house, and we don't believe there's anyone running around that people should be concerned with."

Kimet Kojtari, the 60-year-old husband, owned a pizzeria in Rockland County. His wife, Hiria, 51, taught French and Italian at Monroe-Woodbury High School.

Their bodies were discovered at 3:33 a.m. Saturday in an upstairs bedroom by one of their four children, who was returning home on a college break. The Kojtaris' son immediately called 911. Police believe they were killed a few hours before their bodies were found.

Clancy said that items strewn about the bedroom indicated there was a struggle before several shots were fired from a small-caliber weapon, likely a handgun.

"It was a violent episode," Clancy said, adding that police recovered "several weapons" from the house.

The Kojtaris lived at 1 Marino Drive, a quiet cul-de-sac road about 1 mile away from Leptondale Elementary School. They moved into the hilltop neighborhood of palatial homes in November 2001.

Neighbors were frozen with shock Saturday morning as police in jumpsuits combed the Kojtaris' home. Rich and Diane Paolo watched from their driveway across the street.

They said the Kojtaris were a family-oriented couple with much to celebrate. They recently had a grandchild, and two of their kids were working on doctoral degrees.

"They were lovely people," Diane Paolo said. "Whenever we went to their house, they were always so hospitable."

Hiria attended Monroe-Woodbury's high school musical "Seussical" Friday night. Kimet spent the evening gathering fallen branches for firewood.

Neighbors said they didn't hear the gunshots and never saw or heard the couple fight.

Raymond Hodges, president of the Monroe-Woodbury Teachers Association, said Hiria had been a beloved member of the faculty since she started teaching there seven years ago.

"We're completely shocked about this," he said. "She was a devoted, conscientious teacher who always smiled and loved to talk about her family."

The killing is the Town of Newburgh's fourth homicide case in nine months, including the September murder-suicide of an elderly couple in the Stony Brook Condominiums.

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Posted: Mar 27, 2010 6:26pm
Mar 27, 2010

Couple's deaths ruled murder-suicide

Husband used handgun to kill wife, self: cops

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Investigators have ruled the deaths of Kimet Kojtari and his wife, Hiria, of the Town of Newburgh as a murder-suicide.Times Herald-Record/DOMINICK FIORILLE
Alyssa Sunkin

TOWN OF NEWBURGH — Kimet Kojtari shot his wife to death with one of his own handguns before taking his own life, police said.

Investigators ruled the deaths of Kimet and Hiria Kojtari as a murder-suicide following autopsies on Sunday.

Medical examiners concluded that Kimet shot Hiria, who had defensive wounds on one of her hands, twice in the head before shooting himself.

Kimet, 60, owned a pizzeria in Rockland County. Hiria, 51, taught French at Monroe-Woodbury High School.

Their bodies were found in their Town of Newburgh home at 1 Marino Drive at 3:33 a.m. Saturday by one of their four children, who was returning home on a college break.

Lt. Michael Clancy said Kimet was an avid hunter and had many long guns and handguns in the home, registered in his name. Police identified the murder weapon as one of those handguns.

Clancy said the couple had recent "serious disagreements over family matters" that reached a boiling point.

Police are continuing to investigate those issues, which were kept hidden from neighbors, who painted the couple as family-oriented people.

Raymond Hodges, president of the Monroe-Woodbury Teachers Association, said Hiria constantly extolled the success of her children. She had given him no indication that anything was wrong in her personal life.

Hodges said she was always upbeat, a demeanor she brought with her into the classroom.

"She always greeted you with a smile," he said. "She was a friendly and warm person."

Hodges said the district is taking steps to prepare for grieving students and faculty needing to talk to counselors in the days to come.

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Posted: Mar 27, 2010 6:22pm
Mar 27, 2010
Authorities: Man Set Fire, Committed Suicide
Red Cross Aiding Displaced Apartment Residents

POSTED: 6:00 am EST January 5, 2010
UPDATED: 5:18 pm EST January 5, 2010

Rescuers arrived at the Bordeaux Apartments in Ocoee Monday night to find a man dead with a gunshot wound to the head and the place on fire.


Investigators said the man was believed to be in foreclosure and that he barricaded himself inside, set the fire to a mattress, then committed suicide.


Residents were in shock and disbelief about the blaze.


"I am freezing, but we came outside because we all want to check on each other," Michelle Deleon said.


Michelle and Juan Deleon first heard the fire alarms inside their home. When they heard blaring sirens outside, they bundled up, walked outside, and that's when they saw the intense flames.


"It started getting bigger and bigger. They were doing a good job fighting it," Michelle Deleon said.


"The fire department showed up, and the fire was small, and then it got bigger in a matter of minutes," Juan Deleon said.


Three floors were ablaze, and officials said more than a dozen units were gutted. Several floors collapsed.


"It was very selfish of him, and a lot of people are going to suffer because of it," Darius Monk said.


Some residents claimed the firefighters didn't appear to be doing everything they could to stop the blaze.


One victim said they watched it burn. Another said a handful of firefighters posed for pictures.


"Just them just standing there posing and we're all telling them that the roof is on fire, it's burning," she said.


Ocoee's deputy fire chief said the apartment was barricaded on the third floor where the fire started. Authorities said there was no way to get inside.


The American Red Cross is helping the 36 displaced fire victims.
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Posted: Mar 27, 2010 6:17pm
Mar 27, 2010


As Foreclosure Nightmares Increase, Will More Homeowners Pay Off Their Bankers in Violence?

By Scott Thill, AlterNet. Posted November 9, 2009.

The economic crisis revealed late-capitalism's central offense: Human beings are being transparently treated if they were mere transactions. And they're going postal over it.



Anger and discontent are reaching a boil as a lethal combination of economic corruption and political collusion are deleveraged across the United States.

From recent rampages in Orlando, Fla., to mortgage-related torture in Los Angeles, certain members of the citizenry seem to have had their fill of being manipulated for the financial gain of others, and they're firing back with force.

And the situation threatens to burn hotter as the winter holidays -- always a peak period fof domestic violence, due mostly to financial stress -- approach to spark its frazzled strands. The economic crisis revealed late-capitalism's central offense: Human beings are being transparently treated if they were mere transactions. And they're going postal over it. 

"They left me to rot," Jason Rodriguez said when asked why he went on a shooting rampage at the Orlando engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills that had fired him two years ago.

That compressed vitriol is also found in the Los Angeles case, where Daniel Weston and Gustavo Canez allegedly imprisoned and tortured loan-modification agents Lamond Dean and Luis Garcia while three others -- Mario Soloman Gonzales, Marissa Parker and Mary Ann Parmelee, a realtor -- sat and watched.

According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, "Weston and Parmelee live in a house that is in foreclosure," and they "allegedly sought loan-modification assistance from the victims but believed that nothing was being done and wanted their money back."  

When they didn't get it, they evidently extracted their payback in violent revenge. 

"That's not right," explained Kathleen Day, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. "But clearly people are really mad about what's happened to them. This is the kind of thing that happens when lenders don't lend responsibly. You can't abuse your customers forever." 

Or your tormenters, as Weston and Canez will no doubt realize, once the full force of the state comes down on them for venting their rage. Whatever their perceived or real injustices may have been, their attack on Dean and Garcia crossed a line laid down by the rule of law. But that rule, as everyone from voters to homeowners to municipalities and more have come to fully realize during the last decade, rarely applies in both directions.

For those in power, it is used to shield them from the justice they often deserve. For those on the outside looking in, it is often used to oppress them further. The disturbing blowback from that growing inequality, mirrored by an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor and a true national unemployment rate around 17 percent, can only get worse. 

"Loan-modification scams are proliferating now because of the numerous foreclosure-prevention programs that have been announced," said Douglas Robinson, spokesman for NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit created by Congress to financially and technically assist with community-based revitalization efforts. "Homeowners know that there is help out there for them, so they are more susceptible to scammers who sound legitimate. Unemployment is increasing, and homeowners are looking for answers that will save their homes. Scammers know this and tailor their approach to homeowners.",_will_more_homeowners_pay_off_their_bankers_in_violence

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Posted: Mar 27, 2010 5:46pm
Mar 25, 2010
Click to join MountFlorenceStGermaineVillaLorettoAlumni

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Posted: Mar 25, 2010 7:37pm
Mar 25, 2010
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Peekskill Condo Project in Final Stage of Revival By RACHELLE GARBARINE Published: December 27, 1996 PEEKSKILL, N.Y.— The revival of a large condominium development here is about to take its final step, as sales are to resume in February at the Villa, which consists of 183 apartments carved from a former school. Prices for the 163 unsold residences will be 40 percent to 50 percent lower than they were in the mid-1980's boom. While not booming, the condominium market in Peekskill, in northern Westchester County, is stable, said Marilyn Pfaller, who owns ERA Hudson View Realty in nearby Cortlandt Manor. ''Units properly priced will sell,'' she added. The studio to three-bedroom apartments at the landmark building, which was formerly the Villa Loretto School, originally sold for $85,000 to $160,000. Renters now occupying these apartments will be offered their units for 10 percent less than the price for outsiders. Reasonable mortgage rates and a tightening rental market ''make this a ripe time'' to reopen sales, said Philip Adler, the managing partner of the developing company, North American Properties in Stamford, Conn. The cost of owning an apartment will be the same or less than renting it, Mr. Adler said. Apartments rent for $600 to $1,200 a month. They range in size from 500 square feet to 1,200 square feet. The Villa is part of the Woods III development, which also contains 350 town houses spread across 67 acres along Crompond Road in the eastern section of town. North American bought 166 unbuilt or unfinished town houses and the unsold apartments for $9 million in 1993. The seller was Marine Midland Bank, a unit of HSBC Holdings P.L.C., which foreclosed on the project three years earlier after the first developer defaulted on its loan. Mr. Adler said his company became involved because ''with the proper financial and management attention, the units could be attractive to first-time buyers for whom there were limited choices for new housing.'' He said the project also had roads and recreational amenities, including a health club and two pools, and was well situated. It is near main roads, including the Taconic Parkway and accessible to job centers, like White Plains. By buying the project at a ''fair price'' Mr. Adler said he could sell the homes at prices affordable to first-time buyers. That strategy helped North American sell all but 6 of the 166 town houses it has built, using a $25 million construction loan, since 1993. The residences, from 1,250 square feet to 2,100 square feet, initially sold for $104,900 to $139,900. Though they cost $15,000 to $20,000 more now, they are still less than the $150,000 to $250,000 the original units cost, Mr. Adler said. At first the lower prices did not sit well with owners of the existing town houses. ''Most of us are now resigned that we will never get the full value we paid for our units,'' said Jini George Cummins, president of the Homeowners Association at Woods III. ''It definitely feels better to have the project completed.'' There also will be ''a certain amount of unity going forward'' if all the units are in the hands of owners, Ms. Cummins said of the sales program at the Villa. The Villa has a condominium association separate from that of the town houses, but each is part of a master homeowners association. The project's rebirth pleases Peekskill. It is part of a program begun in the early 1980's by George E. Pataki, then the Mayor of Peekskill and now the Governor of New York, to develop nine schools and land near them into 2,000 homes ''to draw middle-income families to the city,'' said Dwight H. Douglas, the town's planning director. While 1,500 residences have been built, the Woods project and another adjacent to it were stalled by financial problems, Mr. Douglas said, noting that both have or will soon be revived by new owners. He said a plan to build 175 single-family homes on the undeveloped part of the second unfinished project is being reviewed by the town. Roughly 100 live-work artists' lofts also have been created in the downtown since 1991, showing ''the strength of the demand for units, especially affordably priced ones,'' Mr. Douglas said. To proceed with the sales program at the Villa, Mr. Adler said he had submitted an amendment to the offering plan to the state Attorney General's office. He said once the plan was accepted, which he expects in January, he would begin selling apartments the following month. Buying an apartment could cost the same or less than renting one. For example, the rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $850 to $1,150. That same unit, expected to sell for $79,000, would cost $942, including a monthly maintenance fee of $250, a mortgage payment of $577 and $115 in real estate taxes, based on a 5 percent down payment and an 8.5 percent interest rate, Mr. Adler said. Monthly fees are $100 to $315. On average, he added, 10 to 15 leases come due a month, providing ''a sufficient supply'' of apartments to sell.
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Posted: Mar 25, 2010 6:58pm
Mar 14, 2010


Tom and Mona Cravalho

Homeowners claim bank prefers FDIC bailout over house payments
 George Warren     1 day ago



ELK GROVE, CA - A couple facing foreclosure from OneWest Bank has joined the growing number of homeowners, attorneys and real estate professionals who believe the bank would rather foreclose than modify a loan.

"It comes down to money and greed.  All they want is your home," said Tom Cravalho, who with his wife Mona has been working for nearly two years to get out of an adjustable rate mortgage.

The Cravalhos said their original lender, IndyMac Bank, agreed to a loan modification in the summer of 2008 that would have offered them a 3 percent interest rate for five years.  But then IndyMac was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which sold the bank's assets to a group of investors who formed OneWest Bank in March 2009.

Tom Cravalho said OneWest Bank has refused to honor the original agreement or discuss new terms.  The Cravalhos' attorney believes OneWest is more interested in reimbursement from the FDIC for the bad loan under a so-called "shared loss" agreement than it is in modifying the Cravalhos' mortgage.

"They're going to make a lot more money getting Tom and Mona out of their house than they would leaving them in their house.  A lot more money," said attorney Sean Gjerde.  Gjerde explained that under the shared loss arrangement, OneWest could potentially resell the home, collect an FDIC reimbursement, and actually end up with more money than it paid for the original IndyMac loan.

The criticism of OneWest Bank is playing out in a spate of lawsuits and internet blogs.  One controversial video presentation from a Fairfield-based real estate and mortgage marketing company takes an especially pointed jab at the agreement between OneWest Bank and the FDIC.

The Cravalhos are suing OneWest Bank in Sacramento County Superior Court claiming the bank violated state law by not taking adequate steps to help them avoid foreclosure.  They have also filed for personal bankruptcy, which stalled a courthouse auction originally scheduled last fall.

A Fair Oaks homeowner suing OneWest Bank in Sacramento federal court achieved a notable victory last week.  Judge John Mendez granted a preliminary injunction March 3 blocking a foreclosure auction while not requiring the homeowner to post a cash bond equal to the home's value.

The homeowner's attorney, Jonathan Stein, told News10 it was the first case he knows of in California where the customary bond requirement was lifted.  Stein said OneWest had entered into a loan modification with his client and then unilaterally cancelled it.

Diane Henry, a spokeswoman for OneWest Bank, said she did not have a comment on the specific allegations in this story but provided an independent study that showed OneWest was engaged in more loan modifications than other comparable lenders.  Henry also pointed out that OneWest has not yet received any shared loss payments from the FDIC, and that the bank only owns 7 percent of the loans it services.  She referred to a press release explaining the agreement between OneWest and the FDIC.

An FDIC spokesman told News10 that any shared loss claims submitted by OneWest would be evaluated to determine whether a loan modification would have netted the bank more money than a foreclosure. 

"We do actively monitor any loss share claim and if they haven't performed a modification under our specifications, we will deny the loss share claim," said Andrew Gray, the director of public affairs for the FDIC.

by George Warren,


Copyright 2010 / All Rights Reserved

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Posted: Mar 14, 2010 5:34am
Mar 14, 2010
Sherman Yellen
Posted: September 9, 2009 11:37 AM
Murder by Mortgage
It seems I've known Molly forever, at least for the fifty six years that I have been married to my wife. My wife met Molly in high school, where they suffered the terrors of Mme. Farley's French class together. They became close friends: Molly, the fashionable but flighty odd girl, too tall, too talkative, and too needy, and my wife, whose staggering beauty and self control commanded every room she entered and whose kindness enabled her to embrace a girl whom others might have mocked and ignored. Their fellow classmate in those long ago Brooklyn days was Ruth Bader (Ginsberg) with whom my wife served on Boosters -- a selective do-gooders club that the high school ran. Molly was then, as ever, not amongst the chosen.

We have lost Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the court but have kept in touch with Molly over the years, except for a brief period during Molly's early marriage to Joe, a man who verbally brutalized her, making it impossible to keep up our relationship since we would not willingly be witnesses to such abuse and knew no way to stop it. When she finally summoned up the courage to divorce Joe (or maybe it was the unfaithful Joe who walked out on Molly and her two young sons) we started seeing Molly again. Lest I diminish her charms, Molly had a gift for telling a great story in all its details, a memory that could be used as a search engine into the shared past, good looks that came with maturity, and a giggle, a generosity, and a warmth that marked her as one of nature's good and charming people as well as an easy mark. Yes, she talked too much, often digressing from her subject, with streams of anecdotes branching out of that river of talk, she loved too much and did so with the utmost indiscretion, spent too much on clothes for herself and meals for her friends, gave too much to charity, lent her money to needy sons, but she was Molly, a lifelong friend even as we saw in her the traces of Flaubert's Madam Bovary -- the romantic spendthrift who ends in suicide. In a month, Molly, now in her middle seventies and in poor health, will be foreclosed by the bank that holds her mortgage, leaving her with no money, no home, and nowhere to go. She has told us that she has hoarded her sleeping pills and plans to take her own life before she is forced out into the streets. And we tell her with all the pep talk we can summon here in New York, and send to her in Los Angeles, that life is worth more than a condo in Studio City, California, that she must forget that crazy notion of taking her life and keep going.

Molly did not arrive at the point of suicide all by herself. It took an abusive mother, husband, and a selfish lover, hostile sons who learned contempt from their abusive father, as well as a stock broker and a bank to bring her to this point. Molly's beautiful and well-to-do mother found Molly a disappointment from childhood since she did not inherit her own classic beauty. She found everyone except the beautiful and well-to-do fatiguing, and so between cruel jabs and critiques at Molly, she slept away her days with shades drawn in her peach painted Louis XIV furnished bedroom. Her loving, elegant father, who managed to become rich from a rough business that cleaned and recycled steel oil drums, tried to be the emotional support for his daughters that their mother could not be in her soft sadism, and when her parents died they left Molly and her sister a small fortune. The fortune, however, was ephemeral. The government sued the estate for the clean up of the acres where the drums were cleaned -- lawyers and the state taking a large share of it. Molly, who had worked as a saleswoman at Filenes for many years to support her family, found herself facing the gun of the government as she tried to manage her life. Then there was Frank, Molly's lover of twenty five years, a man long separated from his wife, a top executive at a major Hollywood studio who shared Molly's bed and took her to premieres and fine Hollywood eateries on the studio's expense account. How often he would betray her in life with other women, and in the end, after she nursed him through his long, final illness, he betrayed her in death by leaving her out of his will. In fairness to Frank -- and that's hard -- he might have assumed that she had some money from her inheritance. Soon one of her friends put her into the hands of her stockbroker son who put an end to that. The broker churned the stocks, drawing his commissions until the stocks -- whose dividends she lived on -- evaporated into dust. Once again, Molly was a victim of her own blind trust that others would take care of her. Like Blanche Dubois, she put her hopes for salvation on the kindness of strangers. In the pre-feminist world in which Molly was raised, she was taught that passivity was part of a woman's attractiveness, and that it was unfeminine to worry about finances. A man would be there to help you get through it all. Well, in her case men helped her to get through it all -- that is, her money.

Desperate for money to live on, a few years ago Molly turned to her bank and was given a new mortgage on her handsome condo apartment which she had bought with a down payment from her inheritance -- the one good investment she had made in her life. She remortgaged as her finances collapsed around her. Then came the day of reckoning when payments on the mortgage well exceeded her income. Requests for an adjustment in the mortgage -- the famed modification -- were turned down and the foreclosure package was sent out to Molly. The bank made it clear that her Social Security was insufficient to pay the mortgage and she should go back to work. At seventy five, with high blood pressure and numerous life-threatening ailments, that demand was absurd. And cruel. She had years before given up her auto, could no longer drive a car which might get her to a modest job, and depended upon caring friends and neighbors to take her grocery shopping in Los Angeles, which is notorious for lacking public transportation. One son, obviously considering her a total washout, a pain-in-the-ass, and a woman from whom he could get nothing now but complaints and requests for help (she paid for both sons' college educations and gave this son sizeable loans -- which remain unpaid -- when he was in need) has apparently abandoned her. There must have been a reason -- there is always that famous other side -- but I personally don't want to hear it. A kind and decent brother-in-law stepped in to act as her ombudsman with the bank, but the bank remained adamant in its demands. They will not modify her mortgage and she must soon leave her home of twenty years.

One of her sons and her sister -- the one married to the caring brother-in-law -- offered to give her a small allowance toward the paying of the mortgage, but the bank still found that insufficient. The reality was that Molly had an attractive property in a good area, one that the bank thought it could easily resell at a profit when the market showed signs of life (yes, the banks are secretly seeking out the best property for quick foreclosures) although when Molly tried to sell it previously in the crashed housing market she found no takers at the modest price she was asking, one that would have cleared her debts. She tried to get a roommate through Craigslist to share the expense of the apartment, but nobody suitable appeared. All the replies were from out of the country, people who were seeking a place to live when they arrived -- not what she needed now.

Recently, Molly asked to speak to a councilor at the bank, spurred on by my wife, who refused to believe that there was no solution to Molly's problem. But when Molly inquired if no special allowance could be made for her age and health so that she could have a few more months to find a roommate to defray her expenses and pay her back mortgage, the bank replied that they could not discriminate in that way. All borrowers were equal. Could not discriminate? I am wracking my brain to understand that one. Translated in bank-ease: all were potential victims of the bank's notorious lending practices: old, young, middle aged, sick and healthy. The age discrimination that stains our society was finally removed by the bank so that it could be an equal opportunity life destroyer. So Molly is left with few choices. Where are the local Congressmen and women for the Mollys they allegedly represent? As I write this, Molly lives in a closed up apartment with a single fan running, her central air conditioner broken, unable to afford the repair to the system, using that fan and an open window to keep her going through the scalding California summer firestorms. She must move out when the Marshall comes to foreclose on her property in a few weeks -- but with no savings and her lack of income she cannot even rent a studio apartment without a co-signer, so she must go into a shelter or live on the streets. She has chosen to take her pills and exit comfortably in her own bed.

It may seem hyperbole to some, but to me the banks -- despite all the new Obama guidelines -- are deliberately ignoring the Mollys of the world and I will consider her suicide, if and when it happens, murder by fiscal institution. When Republicans speak of death panels for the aged they look at some fictional government health plan and fail to see that the banks -- the archetype of Republican values -- are acting as executioners of the old and the ill through their cold shouldering of mortgage modification policies and their grotesque heartlessness. Hang in there, Molly. Help may not be on the way, but life is too good to give up because of those sons of bitches.

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Posted: Mar 14, 2010 5:26am
Mar 14, 2010
Suicides in the downturn raise worries about recession’s real cost
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Elkhart may be a harbinger of deadly increases in other hard-hit areas   Your city: Unemployed Man Makes $74/Hr!Discover How an Unemployed Man Makes $7000/Month Working from Home!
 / The Elkhart TruthElkhart County Coroner John White holds a folder for Debra K. Gibbs who committed suicide on June 23. White expects the suicide total for 2009 to be higher than normal and attributes the increase to the tough economic times.
JoNel AlecciaHealth writer
updated 1:54 p.m. CT, Mon., Nov. 9, 2009

Coroner John White is presiding over a sad tally in this northern Indiana county, tracking rising numbers of suicides he believes are linked to the lingering recession.

Rumors of an economic recovery may be whispered elsewhere, but here, where the downturn remains entrenched, 22 people have killed themselves this year, and two more cases were likely suicides, outpacing the county's annual average of 16 self-inflicted deaths.

In more than a quarter of the cases, White said, distress caused by job loss or financial failure was cited as the last straw.

“We have a real problem,” said White. “They left notes specifically stating that the reason they did this was because of the economy.”

Debra K. Gibbs, a 54-year-old homemaker in Goshen, in Elkhart County, didn’t leave a note. Instead, she simply sent her worried daughter out for soda pop on a summer morning — and then shot herself in the head.

Despondent over a pending home foreclosure and mounting bills, Gibbs took her life on June 23, the day after crews came to repossess her 2007 Chevy Malibu, the last purchase she’d made together with her late husband, Sam.

“She was doing everything she could to hold onto what was hers,” said Gibbs’ daughter, Rebecca Filley, 30, of Cassopolis, Mich. “This was a vivacious, very strong woman, and she was taken to her knees because of money.”

Spikes in Elkhart and elsewhere
The rise in suicides is alarming not only in Elkhart, which has been in recession since December 2006, but also in other regions of the country that also entered the downturn early, making this county of less than 200,000 a potential harbinger of similar deadly increases.

Federal figures on suicides during the current recession won’t be available for at least two years because of a lag in the way the deaths are collected and reported.

And, historically, only a slump of the magnitude of the Great Depression has had any overall effect on the nation’s suicide rates, which hovered in 2006 at 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people, totaling about 33,300 people a year, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

But in some U.S. communities that went into recession as early as 2005 or 2006, the ongoing crisis has been accompanied by a worrisome rise in suicide deaths. These spikes in suicides are especially notable because in most of the places hardest-hit by the recession, populations either held steady or dropped, census figures show.

“Everyone needs to be more aware with the stresses of 17 percent to 18 percent unemployment,” noted White, the Elkhart coroner. “Everyone really needs to be aware of what’s going on.”

Suicide experts say the reasons for taking one’s own life are complicated, and can’t be attributed to a single factor.

While there hasn't been a link between suicide rates and recent national recessions, which are declared based on many factors, there is a link with circumstances that come along with a recession, such as unemployment and home foreclosure, said John L. McIntosh, a professor of psychology at Indiana University at South Bend who researches suicide trends. Individually, people who’ve lost jobs commit suicide at rates two times to four times as high as those who are employed, the suicide association notes.

Medical and law enforcement officials who’ve watched the rise of suicides in their own communities say they can’t help but see a link with the downturn. “We’ve had many situations where people lost their jobs and that was the reason for why they do what they do,” said Sheriff Mark A. Hackel of Macomb County, Mich.

In that county of about 830,000, 81 people on average committed suicide each year between 1979 and 2006, records from the federal Centers for Disease Control show. But the figure jumped to 104 in 2008 and to 178 in the first seven months of 2009, a rise that has left Hackel’s deputies scrambling to respond to near-daily calls about suicide attempts.

In a county where unemployment still tops 18 percent, nearly twice the national rate, Hackel said he expects the trend to continue.

“I try to be hopeful, but I have a feeling we’re going to be dealing with this for a long time,” Hackel said.

Data on every U.S. county
You can see the suicide rate for U.S. counties for 1979-2006 in these PDF files:

Foreclosure notice triggers tragedy
In Columbiana County, Ohio, a rural community of about 108,000, the number of suicides has averaged 12 a year since 1979, according to the CDC. Suicides jumped to 14 in 2007 and to 21 in 2008. By June, there already had been 11 suicides in 2009, a spokesman for the coroner’s office said.

Image: Betty J. Lipply and her great-granddaughterBetty J. Lipply of East Palestine, Ohio, celebrated the preschool graduation of her great-granddaughter, Angel Munzek, 4, in 2007. Lipply, 72, hanged herself in January 2009 after learning she would lose her family home to foreclosure.


That tally included Betty J. Lipply, 72, of East Palestine, Ohio, who died Jan. 24, within days of receiving a foreclosure notice on the house her husband had built himself for their retirement. A family lawyer said she used an electrical cord to hang herself from a support beam in the garage.
/courtesy of Sherrie Blum

“She just had to have been so depressed that no one knew just how severe it was,” said Lipply’s daughter, Sherrie Blum, 52, of nearby Darlington, Pa. “This was not my mom. Her family was her life.”

Robert B. Holman, the lawyer, said Lipply and her husband, Robert Lipply, also 72, were victims of a predatory lending scheme that used an inflated appraisal to authorize a home loan that the Lipplys could not repay. Holman filed a lawsuit on the couple’s behalf, but said the action is languishing in county court.

Blum blames the finance officials who approved the loan for her parents’ financial situation — and for her mother’s death.

“It’s been very hard on me. I’ve lost my best friend,” she said. “It upsets me, the fact that people do this to the elderly and then just take total advantage of them.”

Another Michigan community, Kent County, with a population of about 605,000, went into recession in September 2006. The county posts an average of about 47 suicides per year. But in 2008, there were 66 suicides, and in the first seven months of 2009 alone, there already had been 41 suicides, records showed.

Since then, it’s continued to go higher, reported Dr. Stephen D. Cohle, a forensic pathologist and the county’s chief medical examiner, rising to 57 suicides by the end of September, when the jobless rate was nearly 12 percent. In at least seven of the cases, there was some indication that the deaths were related to unemployment or financial trouble.

“It’s going up, and it does certainly correlate with the bad economy,” Cohle said.

They included an unemployed 52-year-old Sparta, Mich., man who hanged himself on New Year’s Day because he was “despondent over financial stress,” according to a case report. A 45-year-old Grand Rapids man shot himself in June after telling family members he was overwhelmed with credit card debt. And a 31-year-old Kentwood, Mich., man hanged himself in August in the wake of a home foreclosure and looming bills.

Economy only one factor
In many of those cases, however, the people who died by suicide suffered from depression and other emotional ills in addition to having financial problems, Cohle noted.

That’s an important point emphasized by suicide experts, who say it’s too easy to blame a slumping economy for the rise in deaths. McIntosh, the psychology professor at Indiana University at South Bend, says economic pressures simply increase the pool of people vulnerable to suicide.

“There are more of them that are closer to the edge,” he said.

Typically, a combination of conditions and events — depression combined with difficult personal relationships combined with a job loss, for instance — is what drives people to take their own lives.

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“It’s an accumulative effect,” said Cathy Blum, a counselor in Elkhart who often works with people at risk for suicide and with the families of victims. “It’s like you have a glass of water and you’re dripping drops of water into and then it spills over. Perhaps unemployment is the final drop.”

While the impact of economy-related suicide on victims and their families is profound, detecting the effects on the larger society is difficult. An analysis of suicide data and economic data in U.S. metropolitan areas between 1994 and 2005, the period for which records were available for both economic factors and suicides, found no correlation between recent economic downturns and self-inflicted death.

That’s a conclusion shared by experts, including the American Association of Suicidology. Suicide rates did increase during the Great Depression, rising to a rate of 17.4 suicides per 100,000 people, but subsequent recessions have shown no clear association.

Could this recession be different?
But this recession could change that, McIntosh said. The depth and the breadth of the current downturn might be strong enough to nudge the national figures above the 2006 figure of 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people, he suggested.

“My guess is that it will be 12 or 13 by the time we’re done,” he said. “If it went up 1 per 100,000 or even 2, that would be a significant change.”

Worries about a national rise in suicide are shared by government officials who’ve been tracking suicidal tendencies — and trying to prevent deaths. A sharp rise in calls to suicide hotlines this year — from about 39,000 calls in January to 57,000 calls in July — prompted an infusion of more than $1 million in additional money to fund up to 20 crisis centers facing the biggest upticks.

About 30 percent of the increased calls were related to economic problems, noted Richard McKeon, the lead adviser for suicide prevention for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which helps pay for prevention.

“Our best assessment is that there is a relationship between economic distress and suicide, but it’s a complex relationship, not one that we would over-simplify,” McKeon said.

Preventing economy-related suicides requires the same skills and services as other suicide interventions, including 24-hour crisis lines, access to mental health counselors and to treatment programs to help with the drug and alcohol problems that often lead to suicide attempts.

‘What else can we be doing?’
But in an economic crisis, cities, counties and state programs that provided such help are cutting back, McIntosh said.

“I worry that people are trying to find places to cut their budgets,” he said. “There’s a great concern that we’re lowering our resources at the time we really need it.”

That’s a worry in Elkhart County, where the most recent suicide on Oct. 3 brought the likely tally to 24, which ties the region’s record for suicide deaths in a single year. The record year was 2007, after Elkhart first dipped into recession.

Crisis calls in the county are routed to a statewide hotline, because there isn’t enough money to staff a local line, noted Jim Smith, who coordinates a local suicide prevention coalition. People who’ve lost their jobs have usually lost health insurance, too, including coverage for mental health care.

Smith retains a list of counselors who’ll see suicidal people quickly and, sometimes, without charge. Members of his group speak out in public, hoping to reduce the stigma of suicide and to increase awareness of the warning signs. But he acknowledges it’s an uphill battle.

“We sit around and constantly ask: ‘What else can we be doing?’”

No bailout for suicide victims
People who’ve lost family members to suicides say what would have been most welcome is some last-ditch compassion from financial lenders.

Rebecca Filley says her Elkhart County family is still reeling after the loss of her mother, Debra Gibbs. She acknowledged that her mother hid her financial problems in an effort not to burden family members and then failed to address the desperate situation until it was far too late.

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But in a country where big-name financial firms received government bailouts when they were in trouble, Filley said she can’t understand why there wasn’t more help for her mom.

“You’re talking about people who don’t have anything left and they’re taking away what little they have,” she said.

For Sherrie Blum, who is dreading her first Thanksgiving without her mother, the loss is particularly difficult when she hears people talking about economic recovery.

“I feel better as far as the people that have survived this and are able to go on,” she said. “But it don’t change for all the people that this has happened to. It’s not over for us.” investigative reporter Bill Dedman contributed to this report.

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Faces of foreclosure
<b>The faces of foreclosure include Karla Funnell of Elkhart, Ind.</B> “I really ...
The faces of foreclosure include Karla Funnell of Elkhart, Ind. “I really miss living at that house, I really want to have that life again,” says Funnell, seen here on Sept. 25 admiring the home she had called hers for 18 years.

Laid off from her job, eventually her unemployment benefits ran out and then she lost the home to foreclosure in 2007.

After 30 years in the RV industry, Funnell, 52, now delivers pizza part-time and lives in a fifth-wheel camper with her son on her daughter and son-in-law's property.
Looking back, Funnell says she might have been able to get a loan from family members had she told them sooner. Her advice: "Try to get help as soon as possible. Don’t be ashamed."
Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Mar 14, 2010 5:18am


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