Saturday, April 13, 2013

Burnside Cracks Down on Copperheads

Ambrose Burnside, after his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, was appointed commander of the Department of Ohio. From there he set out to deal with the Copperheads, the Northern Democrats who wanted to bring an end to the war. 150 years ago today he issued his General Order No. 38, prescribing harsh punishments for those who helped the Confederacy:
[H]ereafter all persons found within our lines, who commit acts for the benefit of the enemies of our country, will be tried as spies or traitors, and if convicted will suffer death. This order includes the following class of persons.

Carriers of secret mans.

Writers of letters sent by secret mails.

Secret recruiting officers within the lines.

Persons who have entered into an agreement to pass our lines for the purpose of joining the enemy.

Persons found concealed within our lines, belonging to the service of the enemy, and, in fact, all persons found improperly within our lines who could give private information to the enemy. All persons within our lines who harbor, protect, conceal, feed, clothe, or in any way aid the enemies of our country.

The habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy will no longer be tolerated in this Department. Persons committing such offences will be at once arrested with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends.

It must be distinctly understood that treason expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this Department.
This order was directed not only at those who were doing legitimately treasonous things, such as recruiting for the Confederacy, but also those who even so much as expressed sympathy for the Confederate cause. It didn’t take long for Burnside to implement this, with the arrest of Clement Clement Vallandigham, the leading Copperhead politician, and the closing of the Chicago Tribune. Burnside and the government would meet a lot of backlash for this order, and the actions taken because of it.


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