The Copperhead Movement

In up coming letters, you will start to hear William discuss the local “Copperheads”  The Copperheads or “Peace Democrats” were northern sympathizers to the confederates.  They were defined by being anti-war, pro-slavery, and very vocal about their stance.  Historians note that many Copperheads focused on political activities such as organizing anti-war political rallies, opposing pro-war and abolitionist candidates, and fighting against the draft.  Some Copperheads attempted to talk Union soldiers into deserting.  There were also indications that some Copperheads had been planning to assist with the escape of Confederate prisoners and sometimes served as paid informants to Confederate agents.  A series of trials in 1864 accused prominent Copperheads of treason.

The majority of Copperheads were in the southern Midwest in southern Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana which is likely why they feature so frequently in letters between William and his family in Darlington, Indiana.  Demographically, members of the Copperhead movement consisted of former Southerners who had moved north of the Ohio River, the poor, and merchants whose businesses were suffering due to loss of business down south.  The group also consisted of many German and Irish Catholics from mill town and mining communities.

There remains a fair amount of debate among historians on the effect of the Copperhead movement on the war as well as the extent of their loyalty to the Union and the depth of their racist views. 

 

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