Synopses & Reviews
If Civil War battlefields saw vast carnage, the Northern home-front was itself far from tranquil. Fierce political debates set communities on edge, spurred secret plots against the Union, and triggered widespread violence, such as the New York City draft riots. And at the heart of all this turmoil stood Northern 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--and often virulent racists--the Copperheads deplored Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, his liberal interpretation of the Constitution, and, most vehemently, his moves toward emancipation. Weber reveals how the battle over these issues grew so heated, particularly in the Midwest, that Northerners feared their neighbors would destroy their livestock, burn their homes, even kill them. Indeed, some Copperheads went so far as to conspire with Confederate forces and plan armed insurrections, including an attempt to launch an uprising during the Democratic convention in Chicago. Finally, Weber illuminates the role of Union soldiers, who, furious at Copperhead attacks on the war effort, moved firmly behind Lincoln. The soldiers' support for the embattled president kept him alive politically in his darkest times, and their victories on the battlefield secured his re-election.
Disgraced after the war, the Copperheads melted into the shadows of history. Here, Jennifer L. Weber illuminates their dramatic story. Packed with sharp observation and fresh interpretations, Copperheads is a gripping account of the fierce dissent that Lincoln called "the fire in the rear."
"Combining meticulous research in military, political, and social history with an engaging narrative, Weber's excellent book challenges the prevailing views of historians."--Joseph R. Fornieri, Indiana Magazine of History
"A fine narrative history."--Phillip Shaw Paludan, Journal of Military History
"Weber's account offers an excellent starting point for specialists and nonspecialists alike who want to understand the very real challenges to the Licoln administration."--Sean Nalty, The Virginia Quarterly Review
"Weber has written a compelling, well-researched, and persuasive account of what the Copperheards believed, their emergence as a significant force during the war, and the role military events played in their historyThis is an essential work for anyone seeking to better understand the politics of the Civil War."--The Civil War News
"A good book. Logically structured and eminently readable."--H-Net Reviews
"Jennifer Weber has written a wonderful and timely book that explores the nature and value of wartime dissent. Copperheads describes a genuine, thoughtful opposition to war and the concentration of governmental power. In a well-crafted study, she explains how individuals could perceive a war to create civil rights by destroying slavery as a war that trampled civil liberties in the process." --Joseph Glatthaar, author of Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers
"This excellent study of the most conservative element of the Democratic Party during the Civil War offers a powerful reminder that the North, even as it sought to put down the Confederate rebellion, suffered from deep political divisions. It fruitfully argues that Copperheads more than once threatened the Union war effort before ending the conflict as a group despised only slightly less in the North than the vanquished rebels. Weber's study supersedes older works and is now the obvious place to begin any study of the Copperhead movement." --Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War
"Jennifer Weber's Copperheads dispels outworn myths in her compelling narrative of Abraham Lincoln's all too real opponents in the North. Her fresh research has established a new baseline for all future interpretations of an often overlooked movement." --Ronald C. White Jr., author of Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural and The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words
"Historians of the Civil War era will raise a joyful hymn to Jennifer Weber for this fine study of Copperhead dissenters. Combining deep research, assured judgment, shrewd insights, and energetic writing, Copperheads challenges the prevailing orthodoxy, showing how anti-war northerners constituted a very real threat to the Union administration's effective conduct of the war. It is a compelling case, engagingly and persuasively made." --Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, winner of the Lincoln Prize
"Perhaps the greatest contribution that this book will make is to encourage historians to reevaluate their comfortable notion that dissenters were marginal and that the 'peace wing' of the Democratic Party not a real threat. Weber has rendered magnificent service to Civil War historians by reminding us of that fact."-Adam I. P. Smith American Historical Review
About the Author
Jennifer L. Weber
was a newspaper journalist before becoming an academic historian. She is now Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kansas.