Prominent Virginia Copperheads Arrested by General David Hunter

Object Number: 
Black crayon on beige paper
Overall: 8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in. ( 21.6 x 14.6 cm ) mat: 18 x 14 in. ( 45.7 x 35.6 cm )
inscriptions: On mount, bottom: Prominent Virginia Copperheads arrested by Gen. Hunter.
Signed at lower right in black crayon: "D."; old mount reputedly inscribed: "Prominent Virginia Cooperheads Arrested by Gen Hunter"
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States (see also Union (American Civil War)) who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. The name Copperheads was given to them by their opponents, the Republicans, because the venomous, although not usually deadly, copperhead snake can strike without warning. They were also called "Peace Democrats" and "Butternuts" (for the color of the Confederate uniforms). Perhaps the most famous Copperhead was Ohio's congressman Clement L. Vallandigham. The Copperheads had numerous important newspapers, but the editors never formed an alliance. In Chicago, the Chicago Times became Lincoln's most vituperative enemy. The New York Journal of Commerce, originally abolitionist, was sold to owners who became Copperheads, giving them an important voice in the largest city. The Copperheads sometimes talked of violent resistance, and in some cases started to organize. They never actually made an organized attack, though. As war opponents, Copperheads were suspected of disloyalty, and Lincoln often had their leaders arrested and held for months in military prisons without trial - one famous example was General Ambrose Burnside's 1863 General Order Number 38, issued in Ohio, which made it an offence (to be tried in military court) to criticize the war in any way: the order was used to arrest Vallandigham when he criticized the order itself. Probably the largest Copperhead group was the Knights of the Golden Circle; formed in Ohio in the 1850s, it became politicized in 1861. Most Copperheads actively participated in politics; on May 1, 1863, former Congressman Vallandigham declared that the war was being fought not to save the Union but to free the blacks and enslave Southern whites. The Army then arrested him for declaring sympathy for the enemy. He was court-martialed and sentenced to imprisonment, but Lincoln commuted the sentence to banishment behind Confederate lines. The Democrats nevertheless nominated him for governor of Ohio in 1863; he campaigned from Canada but was defeated after an intense battle. He operated behind-the-scenes at the 1864 Democratic convention in Chicago; this convention adopted a largely Copperhead platform, but chose a pro-war presidential candidate, George B. McClellan. The contradiction severely weakened the chances to defeat Lincoln's reelection. The sentiments of Copperheads attracted Southerners who had settled north of the Ohio River, the poor, and merchants who had lost profitable Southern trade. Copperheads did well in local and state elections in 1862, especially in New York, and won majorities in the legislatures of Illinois and Indiana. Copperheads were most numerous in border areas, including southern parts of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. The Copperhead coalition included many Irish American Catholics in eastern cities, mill towns and mining camps. They were also numerous in German Catholic areas of the Midwest, especially Wisconsin.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Daniel Parish, Jr.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group