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Clement L. Vallandigham Court-Martial: 1863

An Anti-climactic End

Vallandigham's lawyers naturally appealed to a federal court on the issue of the right of a military court to try a civilian, but the presiding judge upheld the authority of the court-martial. Burnside had already announced that Vallandigham was to be held at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, but now President Lincoln faced a dilemma. He had come to detest Vallandigham, but he also was reluctant to restrict freedom of speech; furthermore, he and others in authority in Washington felt that Burnside had overstepped his authority in issuing the "General Orders, No. 38" and then in conducting the court-martial. At a cabinet meeting on May 19, Lincoln was easily persuaded by some members that imprisoning Vallandigham would only make him a martyr, and when it was proposed instead to turn him over to the Confederacy, Lincoln readily agreed. Orders were given, and on May 25, Vallandigham was handed over to a Confederate officer near Shelbyville, Tennessee. Vallandigham soon made his way to Bermuda, and then moved on to Canada; by late August, he settled in Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit, and was already the Democratic Party's candidate for the governor of Ohio. He lost that election, and in February 1864, he also lost his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 14, 1864, however, Vallandigham made his way in disguise back to Ohio, and although there was some call for his re-arrest, Lincoln chose to ignore him. After the war, Vallandigham supported President Andrew Johnson's effort at moderate reconstruction policies. Failing to revive his political career, he returned to the practice of law, and in 1871, intending to demonstrate how a man had accidentally shot himself, he used a pistol he thought was unloaded and killed himself.

John S. Bowman

Suggestions for Further Reading

Klement, Frank. L. The Limits ofDissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War. Lexington, Ky.:University of Kentucky Press, 1970.

"Proceedings of a Military Commission Convened in Cincinnati, May 6, 1863." Roll 273, National Archives Microfilm Publication M345, Union Provost Marshal's File, One Name Papers RE: Citizens.

Vallandigham, Clement L. Record of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham on Abolition, the Union and the Civil W17ar.Columbus, Ohio: J. Walters & Co., 1863.

Vallandigham, James. A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1872.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Clement L. Vallandigham Court-Martial: 1863 - Conflicting Orders, The Court Martial, An Anti-climactic End, Suggestions For Further Reading