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“Fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism… worse tyrant and more inhuman butcher than has existed since the days of Nero…. The man who votes for him now is a traitor and murderer…. And if he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.”

With those words Wisconsin newspaper editor Marcus M. Pomeroy called Lincoln what most of the Copperheads thought of him and expressed their most fervent wish for his removal from office. Although the latter may have merely been editorial exuberance it was one of many excuses used for the Lincolnites to run roughshod over the first amendment guarantees of a free press. Weber’s book is an accounting of many of the Copperheads efforts to oppose the war of northern agression but it is also and apology for the egregious  conduct of the Lincolnites – in the true sense of apologia – rather than a balanced and objective piece of history.

Copperheads : the rise and fall of Lincoln’s opponents in the North      Jennifer L. Weber United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Protest movements Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2006 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xv, 286 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [257]-273) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

The Northern home-front during the Civil War was far from tranquil. Fierce political debates set communities on edge, spurred secret plots against the Union, and triggered widespread violence. At the heart of all this turmoil stood the anti-war Democrats, nicknamed “Copperheads.”

Now, Jennifer L. Weber offers the first full-length portrait of this powerful faction to appear in almost half a century. Weber reveals how the Copperheads came perilously close to defeating Lincoln and ending the war in the South’s favor. Indeed, by the summer of 1864, they had grown so strong that Lincoln himself thought his defeat was “exceedingly likely.”

Passionate defenders of civil liberties and states’ rights the Copperheads deplored Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, his flagrant violations of the Constitution, and, most vehemently, his moves toward emancipation. Weber reveals how the battle over these issues grew so heated that Northerners feared their neighbors would destroy their livestock, burn their homes, even kill them. And she illuminates the role of Union soldiers, who, on orders from Lincoln, moved to suppress all dissent. The generals’ – whom he had appointed – support for Lincoln kept him alive politically in his darkest times, and their victories on the battlefield – coupled with the fact that no soldiers’ vote against him was ever counted – secured his re-election.

Packed with sharp observation and fresh interpretations, Copperheads is a gripping account of the fierce dissent that Lincoln called “the fire in the rear,” and that was actually the last glimmerings of liberty.


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