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Clement L. Vallandigham Court-Martial: 1863

Conflicting Orders, The Court Martial, An Anti-climactic End, Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendant: Clement L. Vallandigham
Crime Charged: Publicly opposing the federal government's prosecution of the war while supporting the enemies of the Union
Chief Defense Lawyers Edward A. Ferguson, George H. Pendleton, George E. Pugh
Chief Prosecutor: James M. Cutts, Judge Advocate
Senior Presiding Officer: Robert B. Potter
Court: J.F. DeCourcy, E. R. Goodrich, J. L. Van Buren, J. M. Brown, A. H. Fitch, P. M. Lydig
Place: Cincinnati, Ohio
Date of Trial: May 6-7, 1863
Verdict: Guilty of all but one specification
Sentence: Confinement in a military prison for the duration of the war

SIGNIFICANCE: This was the most publicized and controversial of several trials of civilians by Union court-martials. Although Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, in Ex Parte Merryman (1861), had stated that the military did not have the right to deny a private citizen his right to a civil trial, other Union judges chose to back the military trials. This procedure, however, would not be allowed after the Civil War.

The federal government's war against the Confederacy was by no means supported by everyone in the North, and the most outspoken opponents of the war, especially those Democrats in the midwestern states, came to be known as "Copperheads," a direct allusion to the poisonous snake species. The most zealous of the Copperheads was Clement L. Vallandigham, a native Ohioan who had served in the House of Representatives from 1858 to 1863. An ardent antiabolitionist as well as a supporter of states' rights, from the day the Civil War broke out, Vallandigham took a vehement stand against it—in Congress, in newspaper articles, and in public gatherings.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882