Harper’s Weekly

Happy Halloween

by fifer1863 on October 31, 2015

On October 31, 1863, Harper’s Weekly featured a cartoon by artist Henry Louis Stephens about the controversial campaign of Clement Vallandignham, a leading Peace Democrat or “Copperhead” who was running for governor of Ohio.

Copperhead Clement Vallandigham
Under the image it states:

The State Elections
Pennsylvania.  “Friend OHIO, I thought thee hadst got rid of this noxious weed, as I of mine; and yet I see an ugly Pumpkin growing upon the land.”
Ohio.  “Not upon my land, I guess!  It’s the VALLANDIGHAM PUNKIN as I’ve tossed over into my neighbor’s field, and he’s bin and tuck root, you see, among the Canady thistles!”



Clement L. Vallandigham was born July 29, 1820 in Lisbon, Ohio and died June 17, 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio.  He was a famous politician during the Civil War who was court-martialed and exiled to the Confederacy because of his Southern sympathies and outspokenness against the Federal government.  Vallandigham was elected to the Ohio state legislature in 1845 and as a member of the US House of Representatives, he was outspoken against the  policies of the Republican Party especially when it came to the topic of slavery.   He soon became the leader of a group of Midwest Democrats known as Copperheads. The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats who opposed the Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates.

During the Civil War he continually attacked the Lincoln administration.  He claimed that Lincoln was destroying the Constitution. In 1863 he made numerous speeches throughout Ohio against the war and the government.  This lead to him to become one of the most suspected and hated men in the North. He was arrested in May by military authorities for expressing treasonable sympathy with the enemy.  He was tried and found guilty by a military commission and sentenced to imprisonment. Soon afterward Lincoln commuted his sentence to banishment behind Confederate lines.

Vallandigham eventually made his way to Canada where he continued to attack Lincoln and the Republicans.  In September 1863 the Ohio Peace Democrats nominated him for governor. He returned illegally to Ohio in 1864 and took an active part in that year’s election campaign. He also wrote part of the national Democratic platform in which the war was denounced as a failure.

After the war Vallandigham criticized the Radical Reconstruction policy of the Republicans as both unconstitutional and tyrannical, but in 1870 he recognized the uselessness of further opposition and urged his party to emphasize financial issues instead. He died the following year after accidentally shooting himself with a firearm that was an exhibit in a murder trial.


“Clement L. Vallandigham | Biography – American Politician.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.


Merry Christmas

by fifer1863 on December 25, 2014

On January 3, 1863, Harper’s Weekly ran the following Thomas Nast image of Santa Claus visiting the Civil War Soldiers


What can you see in the picture?  There is so much to see in this photo.  From the drummer boys playing with the Jack-in-the-box to the troops chasing a pig in the background (notice one soldier falling down in the chase).

How about a little seek and find.  Can you find:

  • a drum
  • a soldier with a pipe
  • Santa’s Reindeer
  • two American Flags
  • A soldier with a stocking
  • a soldier climbing a pole

This image is fun to look at and rich in details.  I love the outfit that Santa is wearing, the soldiers in their great coats, the Sibley tents and the “Welcome Santa” sign.  According to an brief article in the paper, Santa is showing the soldiers “Jeff Davis’s future.  He is tying a cord pretty tightly around his neck, and Jeff seems to be kicking very much at such a fate.” The article also says that a group of soldiers in the background are playing football.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.


Halloween During the Civil War

by fifer1863 on October 31, 2012

Just a quick Civil War themed Halloween post for everyone to enjoy.

Here is a photo from the October 26, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly.  It is called “Jeff Davis, Reaping the Harvest” and shows Confederate President Jefferson Davis standing in a field gathering crops with skulls on top of them.


Jeff Davis Reaping the Harvest

If you check out the high resolution version, you can really find some cool things in the image.  Can you and your students find:

  1. All of the skulls?
  2. The snake
  3. The noose
  4. The vulture

More questions for deeper thinking:

  • Why would the paper portray Jefferson Davis in this manner?
  • What is the significance of the various objects hidden in the image?
  • What is Jefferson Davis actually reaping?

Just another quick and easy way to integrate primary sources into your classroom.

Happy Halloween!


Santa Seek & Find

December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS I have blogged about Christmas in the past so I thought that I would continue the tradition of showing more connections of Christmas and the Civil War. This time I am going to focus on a famous sketch of “Merry Old Santa Claus” by Thomas Nast. This sketch appeared in the January 1, […]

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Christmas Eve

December 24, 2009

The above illustration by Thomas Nast is entitled “Christmas Eve, 1862” and is from an 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly.  On the right side of the illustration is a Civil War soldier on duty sitting next to a fire on a cold night.  In addition to holding his musket, he is holding a photo of […]

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