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Summary and Comments on "Worse than Vallandigham: Governor Oliver P. Morton, Lambdin P. Milligan, and the Military Arrest and Trial of Indiana State Senator Alexander J. Douglas During the Civil War"

Original article by Stephen P. Towne. Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 106, No. 1, March 2010, pages 1-39.

Summary and comments by Daniel H. Reigle, Cincinnati CWRT. Posted 21 January 2013.

© Cincinnati CWRT 2013

Archivist Stephen Towne’s article on the arrest and military trial of an Indiana state senator in May 1863 not only helps to illuminate some of the murky politics in Ohio during the Civil War, but also illustrates the interstate and intrafamily connections within those politics. In the heat of the events surrounding the arrest and military trial of US Representative Clement Vallandigham, Indiana State Senator Alexander J. Douglas spoke at a Democratic rally in Crestline OH, about ten miles west of Mansfield just inside Crawford County. He allegedly made statements such as “When next you go to the ballot-box carry your cartridge box with you” and “I advise you to arm yourselves and resist military arrests, the sooner we resist such military despotism the better; we have a right to resist Abe Lincoln’s dirty Provost Marshals.” His speech was given on 7 May, the same day as Vallandigham’s conviction by the military commission in Cincinnati. Douglas was arrested a week later, tried before the military commission in Cincinnati on 29 May, convicted of two charges and acquitted of four. By then, however, the arrests and convictions had stirred up considerably more political unrest than the Lincoln Administration wanted, and Douglas was released on 5 June 1863.

There are genealogy connections for Ohio researchers in this article as well. Alexander Douglas was born near Mansfield in Richland County OH in 1827. Alexander and his brothers ran their parents’ farm after their father was crippled by rheumatism. In addition, Alexander attended school in Ashland and at Wittenberg College, married Mary Jenner of Richland County, and studied with the Mansfield law firm of Kirkwood & Barnes to pass the Ohio bar exam in 1855. Moving to Whitley County IN, west of Fort Wayne, Douglas taught and practiced law, becoming actively involved in the Democratic Party as Whitley County prosecutor. Early in the war, he became a prominent speaker for the Democratic platform, that “denounced the Lincoln administration’s policies to coerce the Southern states as illegal and unconstitutional, and demanded that the federal government begin peaceful efforts to reunite the country. Emancipation of slaves and the interference with states’ institutions they denounced.” He won the senatorial seat representing Whitley and Huntington Counties in the Indiana General Assembly in the state elections in October 1862, and participated in the raucous session of the General Assembly from January to April 1863, in which the majority Democrats wrestled with Republican Governor Oliver Morton.

The ultimate irony in this situation might be that Douglas’ presence in Ohio the following week had nothing to do with politics. He and two daughters returned to Mansfield to visit family and to attend the wedding of one of his younger brothers, Thomas E. Douglass (who retained the family spelling of the name.) The family was celebrating not only Thomas’ wedding, but his survival. As Captain of Company H, 15th OVI, Douglass had been shot through the lungs five months’ earlier at Stones River. He was unable to return to full duty, but transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in June 1863.

Full text of the article is available on the publication’s website at Alexander Douglas .

(CCWRT note: an account of Captain Douglass’ wound is provided in the regimental history by Alexis Cope, The Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers and its Campaigns ( Columbus OH: published by the author, 1916, reprinted by The General’s Books, pages 235-236, 245). The 15th was brigaded with the 49th OVI under General August Willich, and absorbed the initial point of the Confederate assault at Stones River. See also these previous Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal articles:

  • “49th OVI, Company C: The Kellers and other Veterans from Annapolis, Crawford County OH,” Ken Striker, XII, 2008, #3, 132-137;
  • “Newspaper Articles on Shooting of Three Soldiers in Bucyrus OH on 11 March 1864,” Diane Gagel, XII, 2008, #3 137-140;
  • “The Gallant Boys are Not Weary of Well Doing: The 15th Ohio and the Copperheads,” Robert Bundy, XIII, 2009, #3, 107-110;
  • “Clement L. Vallandigham and the Copperheads,” Darrell Helton, XIII, 2009, #4, 180-184.
These issues are available in many libraries and from the Ohio Genealogical Society at www.ogs.org . Online copies are available to OGS members.)

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