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.
Where it's possible that the author did herself no favors is in terms of how she structures her monograph, which tends to ploddingly link the ebb and flow of the Peace Democrats and the Copperheads (who are not quite synonymous) with the fortunes of the Lincoln Administration on the battlefield. This is fine so far as it goes, but playing up issues such as the pre-war fraying of the Jacksonian White Male Order, the perceived hostility between Abolitionists and the Catholic immigrant communities, and sectionalism in the Old Northwest might have said more about the potential of the Copperheads as a political party. This is assuming that more dynamic leadership had been available than the ilk of Clement Vallandigham, who in these pages very much comes off as a legend in his own mind.