Copperheads: The Union’s Vital Opposition

The American Civil War divided America in 1861, and still divides Americans to some extent. Though some assert that getting along and going along with a ruling administration’s agenda is best for the country, America’s great strength as a free republic has been channeling many different viewpoints and correcting failures of leadership and ideology.

During the war, Copperheads were a collection of free-state Democrats with various levels opposition to the Republican leadership, President Abraham Lincoln, and the Union war against the Confederacy.

Ohio House member Clement L. Vallandigham was the leading member of the Copperhead faction, and went on a major speaking tour to highlight their philosophical platform in 1863.

Historian James McPherson explained Vallandigham’s outlook in his book, Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief:

The Lincoln administration was not fighting for Union, he charged, but for abolition… The Confederacy could never be conquered; the only trophies of this unconstitutional war were “defeat, debt, taxation, sepulchers… the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation… of freedom of the press and of speech…”

Copperhead numbers included many prominent Democratic leaders, including a former president of the United States.

When President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by assassin John Wilkes Booth many Americans that supported the Union showed their solidarity in mourning and flew the American flag in front of their homes. However, former President Franklin Pierce, a notable Copperhead from Concord, New Hampshire, who had strong anti-war and anti-Lincoln feelings, had been castigated by his neighbors, called a traitor by fellow citizens, and accused of being part of a secret pro-southern, pro-slavery society called the Knights of the Golden Circle.


Complete text linked here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *