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1864 September 3: Copperhead Conspiracy in Indiana

September 7, 2014

The following article is from The Prescott Journal of September 3, 1864.  The upcoming elections take up much of the space in this issue.

Complicity of the Democratic Leaders
with the Rebels.

Treasonable Correspondence Exposed.

Some very important developments have recently been made in Indiana, establishing beyond all doubt, the hostility of the Democratic leaders to the national cause, and their desire for the success of the Rebellion.

DANIEL W. VOORHEES, as our readers are aware, is not only a leading Democrat in Indiana, but one of the most prominent Democratic members of Congress.  Last year at the invitation of the Copperheads of this State, he addressed a Democratic State mass meeting in Milwaukee, to the great delight of the rebel sympathizers and their dupes there assembled.  Like others of his set he has kept up a pretence [sic] of love for the Union, and even of favoring military measures for its defence.  He has claimed to be intensely loyal to the Constitution and all that.  But every specific measure to put down rebellion has met with his bitter opposition.  He has howled against the Administration, denounced arbitrary arrests, eulogized free speech, assailed our fighting generals, reviled New England, extolled the genius and prowess of Gen. McCLELLAN [George B. McClellan] in the true Copperhead style.

By a fortunate accident, the veil has been stripped from this arrant scoundrel, and the true associations of the canting hypocrite exposed.

Some time since he removed his law office in Terre Haute, Indiana, and by some accident left behind in the vacated apartment a lot of very important documents, including copies of the ritual of the treasonable O. A. K.¹ and correspondence with numerous prominent Democrats through the country.  When these were found and their character discovered, they were handed over to Gen. CARRINGTON [Henry B. Carrington], the commander of the military district comprising the State.  The fact of the discovery of the ritual having been made public, VOORHEES, with characteristic audacity, pronounced it falsehood, whereupon Gen. CARRINGTON has published a letter affirming the fact of the discovery, and in evidence of it and to show VOORHEES’ complicity with the designs of the dark lantern organization in question, accompanied his leter [sic] with extracts from VOORHEES’ correspondence found with the copies of the ritual.

We subjoin some specimens of this correspondence, showing the character of the friends and associates of a leading Democratic Member of Congress :


COVINTINGTON, June 20, 1861.

DEAR DANIEL—You are soon to assume a position which is fraught with untold responsibilities.  I regard the fate of hundreds of thousands of lives of freemen, and the consequent misery entailed, dependent upon the action of the ensuing called session of Congress.  I confess I fear its action.  The more I look at the movements of this Administration, the more I become satisfied that this Government, under the form it has hitherto existed, is of the things that were.  The movements at Baltimore and St. Louis, on the part of the military, satisfy me that an attempt will be made to place the whole country under military rule ;  that all the means of the Government will be employed to arm the minions of the Administration, and to disarm all opponents ;  that an absolute reign of terror will be inaugurated, and when the means of resistance of the masses are removed a military despotism will rule until all State rights under their constitutional organizations have been abolished and a monarchy absolute or limited established.  The men receiving position at the hands of Mr. Lincoln and the Republican Governors of the North are not the characters to whom I would like to trust my dearest rights.  They are men whose lust for power would soon overlook all else than their own aggrandizement.

The successful resistance of the South I regard as the only safety for us of the North—should she be overwhelmed woe betides us who have dared to oppose the policy of this administration.

Daniel—a Democrat of the North who dares to oppose the policy of the present leaders is as much hated as those of the South and I look upon this war as much and more a war upon the Democracy than anything else.

This Government could never be subverted under Democratic rule, and every appeal is now being made to the patriotism of our people to sustain the Constitution, the Union and the Stars and Stripes, while the Constitution, the laws and rights of the citizen are being ruthlessly trampled under foot.  In the position you are soon to occupy, I would by no means counsel withholding the necessary supplies from the army, but I would like to see all Democrats unite in an open and bold resistance to all attempts to keep ours a united people by the force of steel.  If the wisdom of our fathers, aided by our own experience, cannot keep us united, it is idle to talk of maintaining the Union.  A State forced to obedience at the point of the bayonet, I regard as much and more a subversion of the Government than secession itself, hence I see nothing but dissolution, and humanity, justice, and common sense to my mind dictates a peaceable separation.

I have no doubt worried you, and shall close by hoping that some Moses may arise to extricate us from our woes, that your mission may be a pleasant one, that you may return to your constituents and friends as did Noah’s dove to the ark, bearing emblems of peace to a distracted country.

My respects to Ed. and your family.

God bless you, Daniel.

Your friend,

(Signed)                                          .JOS. RISTINE.

P. S.  [__] less excitement here ;  but little said.  Men are beginning to talk of costs and consequences.    J. R.


INDIANAPOLIS, July 11, 1861.

My Dear Voorhees :

I should like your private opinion as to the prospects of affairs so that I may have some basis to go upon.  Do you think the South have resources enough to keep the Union forces at bay, and finally force a recognition of their independence, or will Lincoln’s army crush them out ?  You must have sources of information which I have not to enable you to form some opinion upon these matters.

If the Congressional Globe and Appendix is published and bound, I should be obliged to you for a set, and any other public documents of general interest.

I think there is a reaction taking place in Indiana in reference to the war, and Mr. Lincoln’s message and Chase’s report will aid it.  Let me hear from you at your earliest convenience.  What is Morton doing in Washington ?

Yours truly,

(Signed)                                          .J. J. BINGHAM.


HARRISONBURG, Feb’y 27, 1864.

My Dear Nephew :

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

We want you to hold 100,000 men in readiness, as we do not know how soon we may want them.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

(Signed)                                          .J. HARDESTY.

Address on envelope :

Terre Haute, Indiana.

The reader will observe that these letters were written at the beginning of the war, early in 1861, before there was any general pretense that the policy of the war was not strictly conservative, and for the for the defense of the National Capital. These men, however had then begun the system of plotting which has—the loyalty of so many Democrats, and paralyzed the patriotic impulses of a yet greater number—“the successful resistance of the South” proclaimed to be the only safety of the Democratic party and the army of the Union characterized as “LINCOLN’S Army,” and suggestions made for levying a large number of men for some great purpose.

Here are two other suggestive letters, from a Democratic U. S. Senator, and one of the arbitrary arrest “martyrs :”

ARMY OF 100,000 MEN.

LONG BRANCH, Aug. 21, 1864.

MY DEAR SIR :  I enclose you two letters from a man by the name of Carr, in reference to arms.  A letter directed to him simply Philadelphia will reach him.  I can vouch for the excellent quality and great efficiency of the rifles.

                                      Yours in haste,                                                                                                                                                                               JAMES W. WALL.

Envelope endorsed :

. .[Free]5

Hon. Daniel Voorhees,
.                                    .Terre Haute, Indiana.

Post-mark :
.   .Long Branch, N. J., August 22.


PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 14, 1863.

Hon. James W. Wall :

DEAR SIR :  Your letter, with one enclosed about rifles, has been received.  If the parties wish to buy them, the best way would be for them to have some one in New York appointed to purchase them, and confer with you and me.

I am satisfied that it is the very article they want, and as you know all about them you can “speak by the card.”  You have seen the article tried and no doubt are well satisfied that it will speak loudly in a good cause.

We will send them in bond for $14, and I have no doubt that if the proper course is pursued, the duty can be remitted.  The rifles are better and cheaper than anything ever offered in this country, or made here, and as good as any ever imported.  We challenge a comparison with any rifle execution what ever.

There are about twenty thousand rifles, and we desire to sell them all at once.  They are a great bargain, and are worth to-day more in Europe than we offer to sell them for here.

The price of fire-arms will advance within a year at least 33 per cent., as arms are in demand all over Europe.  As you know, there is no more effective arm in the world than this.  I am with great respect,

Yours truly,

(Signed)                                                .E. W. CARR.6

There are other letters not yet made public, but the character of which are indicated by Gen. CARRINGTON, such as a letter of C. L. VALLANDIGHAM, from Windsor, W. W., assuring that “our people will fight,” and that “he is ready,” and fixing a point on “the Lima road at which to meet you,” a letter of one W. S. WALKER, who “keeps out of the way because they are trying to arrest him for officiating in secret societies,” inclosing the oath of the K. G. C.s prior to that of the O. A. K. ;  a letter of one CAMPBELL who says the “Democracy was once not afraid to let their purpose out to daylight ;”  but that “now it is deemed best to work in secret, and asking your consent,” &c,m &c,

Such is the character and associations of the men who are foremost in denouncing the administration, and who are seeking to get control of the National Government

1.  In late 1863, the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) reorganized as the Order of American Knights (OAK). In 1864, it became the Order of the Sons of Liberty, with Ohio politician Clement L. Vallandigham, most prominent of the Copperheads, as its supreme commander.
2.  Joseph Ristine (1808-1879) lived in Fountain County, Indiana, nearly his entire life.  He began his public life as a justice of the peace in Newtown, Fountain County. In 1840, he was elected clerk of the county, a position he held for two terms. He was a member of the constitutional convention in 1850. Ristine then practiced law for some years, and was elected Auditor of the State in 1862 (served 1863-4) and in 1868 (served 1869-70). He was then the common pleas judge for his district.
3.  Pro-Union mobs in Indianapolis would sometimes force individuals suspected of Confederate sympathies to go to the mayor’s office and take an oath of loyalty. The most notable of these was the editor of the Indianapolis Sentinel, Joseph J. Bingham. In 1861, after articles appeared in the rival Indianapolis Journal that decried Bingham, a mob forced him to take the loyalty oath. At various times Bingham was also the chairman of the Indiana State Democratic Committee, the state printer, and deputy state auditor.
4.  James Walter Wall (1820-1872) was a U.S. senator from New Jersey  (January-March 1863), elected by the New Jersey legislature to fill a vacancy caused by the death of the sitting senator. He ran for actual election, but did not win the seat. Before the Civil War, Wall supported John C. Breckinridge for president in the 1860 election, and  then was involved in the “editorial direction of the New York Daily News, which was a peace organ that the government suppressed in August of 1861.
5.  U.S. senators have franking privileges, which means they can send mail for free, without putting postage on it.
6.  In a letter to The New York Times, published August 30, 1864, Carr wrote that he was acting merely as an agent for the owner of the guns and was attempting to find a northern governor who was interested in purchasing them. As such, he applied to Senator Wall for a introduction to New Jersey Governor Parker, who inspected the arms but said New Jersey had already purchased arms. He then contacted the governor of Indiana who said they were not in the market for arms. He claimed to not know Daniel Voorhees of any other party in Indiana.

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