The Peace Democrats, a splinter group of the traditional Democratic Party, were a Civil War era political party that existed mostly in the northern states.
Although “Peace Democrats” sounds like a positive force and they opposed the Civil War, wanting the South to rejoin the Union, Republicans gave them the name by which they are remembered – Copperheads! Yes, just like the poisonous snake.
Harper’s Weekly, 1863
Source: Library of Congress
Copperheads were mostly found in the area north of the Ohio River and that is exactly where my husband’s 3X great grandfather, Andrew Bandy, lived.
Andrew Bandy was clearly and publicly identified as a Copperhead.
The Ironton Register, on 17 November 1864, published a list of those Symmes Township residents who voted in the presidential election AND noted whether they voted Republican or Copperhead.
Voters supported Abraham Lincoln in a ratio of 2 to 1. Andrew Bandy’s family, both sons and relatives by marriage, were split along the same 2:1 ratio.
The Republican voters were Allen Cauley, A.J. Cauley, William Hobble, Allen Wiseman, John Cauley, George Wiseman and George Bandy – brother of Andrew.
Copperhead voters included Norris Yates, Samuel Littlejohn, Jackson Bandy (Andrew’s son) and Andrew Bandy himself.
Why were the Peace Democrats given the name of Copperheads? Apparently, it was felt that they encouraged young men to either avoid conscription into the army or to desert if already serving. It was also felt that they lowered the morale of the people. Therefore, they deserved to be named after a venomous snake.
Although this political party is described as being made up of a faction of northerners opposed to the Civil War, a closer look at census records seems to paint a different picture.
Andrew Bandy was a Virginian, born and bred. The Bandys had been in Virginia for almost a century by the time Andrew was born c1785. I have no idea about Andrew’s beliefs regarding slavery. He did not own any enslaved people in Virginia, but whether that was due to his beliefs or the economic reality of the dollar cost may not ever be known. It is possible that he joined the Copperheads simply to stand up for a solution to save his ancestral home.
The Peace Democrats, aka Copperheads, ended up being but a blip on the history screen. When the Civil War ended, support for the party dissipated and the Copperheads were no more.