Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jennifer Weber's book Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North


University of Kansas historian Jennifer Weber's book Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North (Oxford University Press, 2006) is loaded with amazing admissions about the Republicans' violations of civil rights and outright thuggery during the War Between the States. 

Weber does not seem troubled to document these violations and thuggery because she is a huge Lincoln fan and she thinks it is a good thing that Lincoln's opponents were suppressed.  She not only repeats what pro-Southern books point out about Lincoln's shutting down of newspapers, denial of due process, trying civilians in military courts, jailing newspaper editors, etc., but she also documents the following facts:

* On many occasions Union troops home on leave would vandalize Democratic newspapers and businesses, and also would attack Democrats.

* Union soldiers broke up some Democratic rallies.

* Many Union troops wrote letters home that threatened violence against people who would not vote Republican.

* Some Republicans claimed that even discouraging someone from enlisting--not urging them to dodge the draft, but just urging them not to volunteer--was a crime.

* In many areas in the North, Republicans violently attacked Democrats.

* Northern Democrats were persecuted so severely and violently in some communities that they organized into mutual protection groups to defend themselves.

* Some Northern state governments took actions similar to those that Lincoln took to suppress Northern opposition.

* The Union army and Northern officials made it very hard for Union soldiers who were Democrats to vote.

* In some areas of the North, differences of opinion about the war became so intense that small battles were fought between Democrats and Republicans.

Weber's book is a powerful, devastating indictment of the Republicans' suppression of civil rights and due process during the war.  Her book also helps us to understand that a substantial number of Northern citizens (probably at least 30 percent) recognized the the Republicans were shredding the Constitution in their quest to "maintain the Union."

Mike Griffith
Civil War website