“Traitors and Secessionists”

How Republican reaction to wartime dissent stoked tensions and almost led to violent revolution in Illinois.

During the American Civil War, intense disagreement over the conduct of the war erupted in Illinois. Republicans, members of the party that elected President Abraham Lincoln, supported the war, while members of the Democratic Party split between pro-war and pro-peace factions. In 1862, two issues inflamed the peace faction: the military draft and emancipation of slaves. Republicans conflated opposition to these issues with disloyalty and sympathy for the Southern Confederacy.

Though Illinois was a free state, many Illinoisans opposed political equality for African Americans and didn’t want freed black slaves moving north. After President Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, Illinoisans let their opposition known when they returned a Democratic dominated legislature in the midterm elections that November.

Republicans in Illinois did not lie prostrate as the Democratic-controlled legislature attempted to pass resolutions calling for an armistice, legislation that hindered use of the state militia, and obstructed the draft. On the last day the legislature sat in session before its spring recess, in February 1863, a Senator and farmer from McLean County in central Illinois, Isaac Funk, delivered a widely published speech condemning the Democrats for their obstructionism.

“I say that there are traitors and secessionists at heart in this Senate!” he shouted. “Their actions prove it. Their speeches prove it… I can sit here no longer and not tell these traitors what I think of them… I am willing to pay my whole fortune, and then give my life, to save my country from these traitors that are seeking to destroy it.”

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For Every Leaf that Falls

For Every Leaf That Falls
Memorial to Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose “Bull” Sumner (1797-1863) in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.
Sumner was born in Boston and became the oldest Union general in the American Civil War. He commanded the II Corps in the Army of the Potomac and fought at several major battles, including Antietam and Fredericksburg, and earned the nickname “bull” because of a legend that a bullet bounced off his head. He died of illness in Syracuse, NY in 1863.

Oakwood Cemetery was designed by landscape architect Howard Daniels and opened in 1859. It is a secular Victorian “rural” or “garden” style cemetery where over 60,000 people are interred in 160 wooded acres.

A Confrontation in Paris

How an effort to shut down a newspaper in Edgar County, Illinois led to one of the Civil War’s most violent home front riots.

In February 1864, the raging gunfire of the American Civil War echoed far from Edgar County, Illinois, yet the conflict seemed fearfully close to home. In the small east-central Illinois town of Paris, elements of the 12th and 66th Illinois Volunteer Regiments were on leave, visiting friends and relatives. “In a social way everything had been done to make their visit a pleasant one,” wrote the local Daily Beacon News, but not everyone welcomed the presence of the soldiers.[1]

Democrats opposed to the war and to the policies of the Lincoln Administration, known as copperheads by their critics, were afraid furloughed volunteers would force them to take loyalty oaths or attempt to shut down the newspaper office of the Paris Times, a Democratic periodical.

Earlier that month, Union soldiers had paid a visit to Amos Green, editor of the Times (and a “Jeff Davis patriot” according to some), after locals in the nearby town of Kansas had reported that between 100 and 150 armed “butternuts” were converging on Paris on his orders.[2] Under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, Green swore an oath and pledged a sum of money to prove his loyalty.

In the middle of February, a soldier named Milton York, scion of a local family known for its abolitionism and its support for the Republican Party, shot and seriously wounded an outspoken copperhead named Cooper. According to one account, the sheriff of Edgar County, William S. O’Hair, attempted to arrest the soldier, but one of York’s compatriots prevented him at the barrel of a rifle from doing so. According to the Mattoon Independent Gazette, York was eventually arrested, but the court released him on a technicality and he rejoined his regiment.[3]

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Now I Wish I Could Live

Now I Wish I Could Live

Monument to Maj. Gen. John Buford (1826-1863) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road in West Point, New York. Buford commanded a cavalry division in the Army of the Potomac and famously delayed Confederate forces in the opening phase of the Battle of Gettysburg to allow time for Union reinforcements to arrive. He contracted typhoid fever in December 1863 and died soon after. When informed of his deathbed promotion to major general, he replied, “It is too late, now I wish I could live.”

Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, North Carolina

This majestic mansion and gardens transports you back to the Victorian Era.

Click to expand photos.

Built for a prominent North Carolina slaveholder and his family, the Bellamy Mansion on Market Street in Wilmington’s Historic District is slowly being restored to its former glory. Today, you can tour the mansion and nearby servant quarters, and purchase souvenirs in the former carriage house. It’s a fascinating glimpse at a bygone era.

Designed by Wilmington architect James F. Post in 1859, this 22-room Greek Revival and Italianate-style mansion took nearly two years to build. It was completed in 1861, just as North and South were embroiled in civil war. Dr. John Dillard Bellamy (1817-1896) commissioned the home for his large family and their closest servants and slaves. Dr. Bellamy was an ardent secessionist who owned over one hundred slaves throughout North Carolina.

In early 1865, the family fled Wilmington during an outbreak of yellow fever, but wouldn’t return until the fall because the Union Army had occupied the city and were using their mansion as a headquarters. Union General Joseph Roswell Hawley wasn’t keen on returning the property to an unabashed rebel. He wrote, “having for four years been making his bed, he now must lie on it for awhile.”

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Civil War History Tour of Old Town, Alexandria

Ed Moser led us on a trip into Alexandria’s complicated and exciting past.

Sunday night, a small group of history enthusiasts gathered at the Lyceum in downtown Alexandria, Virginia for a tour of that storied city’s Civil War sites. It began in the shadow of Alexandria’s Appomattox statue, a statue which epitomizes the city’s complicated place in America’s bloodiest conflict.

As a thriving trade and manufacturing city at Washington, DC’s doorstep, Alexandria was a prized possession for both North and South. The Union controlled it for almost the entire war, but it teemed with Confederate sympathizers and spies. It was also the site of the first Union casualty of the Civil War.

Our tour guide, Ed Moser, an author and former writer for the Tonight Show and speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, highlighted many contradictions that characterized Alexandria’s role in the Civil War. This included the story of an enslaved woman who had a common law marriage with a Confederate officer. She escaped during the war and founded a school for other escaped slaves.

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What Glory Remains

Memorial for Brig. Gen. Griffin Alexander Stedman, Jr. (1838-1864) in Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. Stedman spent most of his military career as an officer in the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. He rose to the rank of colonel in 1864 and commanded a brigade in the XVIII Corps, Army of the Potomac. He was mortally wounded during the Siege of Petersburg and died on August 6, 1864. He was breveted the rank of brigadier general after his death and Fort Stedman was named in his honor.

What Glory Remains