Monday, March 28, 2011

Ohio: All for the Union! (Errrr, Not So Fast...) - The "Thomas B. Cox Collection"

"...he has caused divisions and dissentions in the party ever since he forced his rotten, filthy, corrupt Whig carcass upon us..."

You think political discussion is ugly now? Wait till you read some of the Civil War-era anti-war and anti-Republican Party letters below...from Ohio of all places!

Now, let's be clear: the state of Ohio has a magnificent record of patriotism during the American Civil War. The Buckeye State sent more than 300,000 soldiers to the Union ranks, was the home of powerful politicians and military officers, and was the site of some military action as well.

Still, it's no secret that there was a substantial Copperhead movement in Ohio, especially in the southern part of the state, led by Congressman Clement Vallandingham.

The Copperhead movement, local Democrat Party political machinations, and sentiment against the Lincoln administration and his war policies come to life in a group of wartime letters in my collection.

Readers of this blog will remember I have written recently (here) about another group of Cox letters in my collection, those of patent medicine-maker Thomas B. Cox, Jr.

It seems that Cox - like his father - was very much involved in local Democrat Party politics and - if the letters below are any indication - had strong anti-abolition and Copperhead sympathies and friends.

My collection consists of 7 letters, 1860-64, addressed to Cox. There are two additional letters, not listed , in Cox's own hand, in the same date range.

Their dates, a synopsis, and some sample text are below. I have not transcribed all the letters - that will be somewhat of a long-term project, but I will do it and hope to make some type of contribution to a local or regional Ohio history publication in the future.

The tone of the letters speaks to a pretty vitriolic discourse - at least in private - when Democrats are writing of Republicans.

May 14, 1860 - to Thomas B. Cox from C. W. Tector (?) - no cover - seems to concern local politics and a possible previous election contest between the correspondents.

August 13, 1860 - to Thomas B. Cox from S. Milton Teal - with stamped co
ver - seems to concern the state or local nominating conventions and dissatisfaction with some of the candidates in pretty sever terms...for example:

"...he has caused divisions and dissention in the party ever since he forced his rotten, filthy, corrupt Whig carcass upon us..."

September 30, 1861 - to Thomas B. Cox from E. Manning - no cover - talks of the county Democrat Party convention. He writes:

"I have repeatedly expressed myself in regard to this Black Republican war...that it never could produce anything but carnage and bloodshed and bankruptcy and ruin..."

February 5, 1862
- to Thomas B. Cox from Silas H. Wright - with cover - concerns Cox's advocacy for a bill which would prevent emigration of freed African-Americans into Ohio.
Wright writes:

"..the people of Southern Ohio is likely to be overrun by refugee blacks while the northern or abolition counties of the state will be comparatively free from their terrible visitation owing to the natural dislike and repugnance which the negros have to that class of animal."

June 11, 1862 - to Thomas B. Cox from Jacob Costigan - with cover - Costigan supports Cox's intent to run for Congress. Costigan writes that he is:

"...a Radical Democrat of the deepest degree. Yes, so far as to endorse the much abused and villfied Clement Vallandingham believing him to be the very best man now in Congress."

June 15, 1862
- to Thomas B. Cox from William Parr - no cover - beginning of letter concerns Cox's interest in running for Congress and Parr supports him. The balance of the letter concerns Parr's strong feelings against abolition as a war policy. Compares the policies of Republicans to William the Conquerer. Rich!

July 26, 1864 - to Thomas B. Cox from Silas H. Wright - with cover - Wright defends himself against charges that he shared a private letter from Cox with an "enemy" newspaper.

If anyone is familiar with any of these names, or with Perry County, Ohio, politics in the war years, I would LOVE to hear from you! Thanks!

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