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Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North Hardcover – October 9, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0195306682 ISBN-10: 0195306686

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The War That Forged a Nation
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson looks anew at the reasons America's civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half. Learn more

Editorial Reviews


"Combining meticulous research in military, political, and social history with an engaging narrative, Weber's excellent book challenges the prevailing views of historians."--Joseph R. Fornieri, Indiana Magazine of History

"A fine narrative history."--Phillip Shaw Paludan, Journal of Military History

"Weber's account offers an excellent starting point for specialists and nonspecialists alike who want to understand the very real challenges to the Licoln administration."--Sean Nalty, The Virginia Quarterly Review

"Weber has written a compelling, well-researched, and persuasive account of what the Copperheards believed, their emergence as a significant force during the war, and the role military events played in their historyThis is an essential work for anyone seeking to better understand the politics of the Civil War."--The Civil War News

"A good book. Logically structured and eminently readable."--H-Net Reviews

"Jennifer Weber has written a wonderful and timely book that explores the nature and value of wartime dissent. Copperheads describes a genuine, thoughtful opposition to war and the concentration of governmental power. In a well-crafted study, she explains how individuals could perceive a war to create civil rights by destroying slavery as a war that trampled civil liberties in the process." --Joseph Glatthaar, author of Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

"This excellent study of the most conservative element of the Democratic Party during the Civil War offers a powerful reminder that the North, even as it sought to put down the Confederate rebellion, suffered from deep political divisions. It fruitfully argues that Copperheads more than once threatened the Union war effort before ending the conflict as a group despised only slightly less in the North than the vanquished rebels. Weber's study supersedes older works and is now the obvious place to begin any study of the Copperhead movement." --Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War

"Jennifer Weber's Copperheads dispels outworn myths in her compelling narrative of Abraham Lincoln's all too real opponents in the North. Her fresh research has established a new baseline for all future interpretations of an often overlooked movement." --Ronald C. White Jr., author of Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural and The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words

"Historians of the Civil War era will raise a joyful hymn to Jennifer Weber for this fine study of Copperhead dissenters. Combining deep research, assured judgment, shrewd insights, and energetic writing, Copperheads challenges the prevailing orthodoxy, showing how anti-war northerners constituted a very real threat to the Union administration's effective conduct of the war. It is a compelling case, engagingly and persuasively made." --Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, winner of the Lincoln Prize

"Perhaps the greatest contribution that this book will make is to encourage historians to reevaluate their comfortable notion that dissenters were marginal and that the 'peace wing' of the Democratic Party not a real threat. Weber has rendered magnificent service to Civil War historians by reminding us of that fact."-Adam I. P. Smith American Historical Review

About the Author

Jennifer L. Weber was a newspaper journalist before becoming an academic historian. She is now Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kansas.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195306686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195306682
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I found this to be a well researched and well written book.
Michael Richards
This is the most important part of the book because it brings together new information and provides a basis for further scholars.
Loves the View
A good read for all Civil War buffs and should be a must read for all high school history students.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember reading in the Sixties that the Viet Nam War was not the most unpopular war in our history. The article stated that the American Revolution and the Civil War were less popular than Viet Nam. Caught in that maelstrom with Dad and I on one side and my younger brother on the other, I had difficulty accepting the idea that things could be worse. Almost forty years later, this book more than proves how correct that statement was.

Civil war is the most heart wrenching type of war. The combatants are much closer and have no national or natural boundaries to separate them. Nor do these boundaries limit the differences that caused the war. This results in divisions' based not on national boundaries or state lines but within families, making the conflict and the dissent personal and very real. This fragmentation of families, communities, states and the nation is not on the clean crisp line we see on a map. Thousands of people start the war feeling trapped on the wrong side of an invisible line, not of their making.

Jennifer Weber has written a very impressive history of the Copperhead movement from development to destruction. This is a scholarly history, documented with footnotes and she clearly states her position and where it differs with prior histories. However, she has produced a very readable book that is both instructive and fun to read. This is not a small accomplishment and one that both the historian and casual reader will appreciate.

In 1861 the Democratic Party contained a number of members who were either pro-Southern and/or anti-abolitionists. They never agreed with going to war, choosing to ignore the South firing on Fort Sumter. Their position was that the Union of States should not be maintained by force and the war was wrong.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Scott A. Schudy on December 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"It was Lincoln's greatest moment."
This is how Jennifer Weber in her excellent book "Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North." singles out a decision Lincoln made during the Civil War.
But it's not what the reader might expect. It's not his inaugural or his Gettysburg address or his pick of Ulysses Grant to take over in the East. I'd never heard of the event before this book. But there is a lot I'd never heard of before I got caught up in the story.
I won't say what that "moment" is. But it reflects how formidable at times Lincoln's opposition was--or appeared. Weber writes an exhaustive chronicle in what seems like an effortless historical narrative. How often does a history make a subject almost new again with a style that draws the reader in to think they're going to find out the results of events like the 1864 presidential election for the first time--and with the Union in the balance? Now that is a good history book.
Ms. Weber is in part so effective in her telling because she makes the opposition come alive from numerous and varied sources: a New Jersey railroad manager; The Pilot, a newspaper geared towards Irish Americans; the governor of New York; a wife of judge in New York; Penn Yan Democrat newspaper; an Ohio Congressman; or a frightened local in Clark County, Illinois. She repopulates the period with so many different voices and perspectives and does so with such easy transitions that I felt myself surrounded by a crowd of contemporaries whose sheer numbers made me feel the strength of the anti-Lincoln views.
It's difficult to pick a favorite chapter. Each brings new material to the floor.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shawn S. Sullivan on April 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Copperheads, The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North, is a well written and assiduously researched writing on the Peace Democrats during the Civil War. Jennifer L. Weber, a one time student of James McPherson at Princeton, covers this topic extraordinary well. Professor Weber does a marvelous job of covering the rise of "Copperheads" and the ups and downs their anti-war movement had. She also writes wonderfully on the root causes of this "movement" and the effects the Emancipation Proclamation had on bolstering its popularity, especially in urban and ethnic areas, along with the Midwest. I believe the reader is a bid inundated with a central them - that being the Copperheads' popularity were inversely related to the success of the Union forces. But that point is a minor one - as her description of the fall of this movement in 1864-65 is without parallel. The last three chapters of this book should, at a minimum, be read by all those with a keen interest in this period of American history and political movements: Chapter 6, The Rise and Fall of the Copperheads, Chapter 7, "Faction in Civil War Is Unmitigated Treason" and, Chapter 8, Defeated. Simply awesome historical writing.

The forward of this book, written by James McPherson, best sums up Weber's writing at it very end: "Faced with a war to his front, (Lincoln) called this "the fire in the rear". Without an understanding of that fire in the rear, our knowledge of the war at the front is incomplete. This book tells that story."

Nicely done Professor Weber.
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