The Copperheads: Political Dissenters or belly-crawling Traitors

On this day 150 years ago the term Copperheads was first used by the Cincinnati Gazette to describe outspoken members of the Democratic party, who would advocate an end to the Civil War, Confederate secession, and the continuation of Slavery.  Other resources claim other dates for the first use of Copperheads, but the term certainly became popular by the late summer of 1862.

The copperhead is also the common name for a species of snake.  The pro-Union Republicans at the time thought the analogy appropriate, especially in that the snakes preferred habitat was thought to be low laying swampy areas, and of course the symbolic treachery attached to snakes since the Book of Genesis.

In Chicago at the time a vicious rivalry ensued between the publishers of the Democratic Chicago Times and the Republican Chicago Tribune.  You can read some of the original articles in the pro-Union, Chicago Tribune historical database.

Look for more information about the Copperhead Movement in:

This post is part of a series related to the One Book, One College selection Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Please attend our first event: an open book discussion, September 5 at noon, in the library.

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