VALLANDIGHAM: KING OF THE COPPERHEADS

One of the great advantages for the Confederacy was that Jefferson Davis’s government did not allow public opposition.  Popular unity behind the war effort was firmly enforced, and  those speaking out against the war and secession were firmly dealt with.  Lincoln wasn’t as fortunate. Many in the North, and especially in the Democratic party, led by men such as Clement Vallandigham, loudly and legally opposed every policy he implemented.  For the most part they were not punished for expressing their views, though Vallandigham was an exception.

Following is an excerpt from my book, “Civil War Rogues, Rascals, and Rapscallions” about this King of the Copperheads. Vallandigham’s photo is on the center right, and the book is available at:

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HV4SSWK

“Vallandigham was an Ohio lawyer and newspaper editor before being elected to the House of Representatives in the late 1850’s.  There he became a strong advocate of states rights, including the right of secession.  In 1859 he had an “interview” with John Brown after the latter’s raid of Harpers Ferry.  He clearly hoped to find out who in Ohio had aided the raid but did not succeed.  Instead, according to his biographer, ‘Perhaps he sensed in Brown a spirit akin to his own – that of the uncompromising idealist who follows his chosen course regardless of the consequences.’

“In the early years of the war, Vallandigham railed against Lincoln and the war to little avail.  In May 1863, however, he was arrested by order of commanding General Ambrose Burnside after giving an anti-Union speech.  He was convicted, controversially, in a military court, and Lincoln had him banished to the Confederacy.  He made his way to Canada, from which he campaigned for Governor of Ohio in the election of 1863.  He lost overwhelmingly.   While in Canada he took additional steps to oppose the Union.  He became the leader of the pro-Confederate group “Sons of Liberty” and consorted with Jacob Thompson, the Confederates’ Canada-based leader of their “dirty war” efforts.

“Vallandigham came back to the U.S. in 1864 and was not re-arrested.  He used his still-considerable influence to write a “Peace Plank” in the 1864 Democratic Party platform, which likely helped in Lincoln’s re-election.  After the war he tried and failed to gain re-election to the House and Senate and was drifting into obscurity when he accidentally killed himself in 1871.”

 


Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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