Ohio History Journal

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Professor of History, Ohio State University

On the night of March 5, 1863, in the midst of the Civil

War, the capital city of Ohio was the scene of a species of violence

that had more than local significance. The office of Samuel

Medary's Crisis, a weekly newspaper that had won both national

acclaim and condemnation for its opposition to the war, was

wrecked by a crowd of armed men. Some writers have attributed

the act to soldiers, others to soldiers and civilians; nearly all

explain it as the work of a mob. A bit of contemporary evidence

has come to light which reveals clearly who the participants were

and which raises doubts as to the accuracy of the use of the word

"mob" in describing the attack.

To understand the significance of the episode a few salient

facts about Samuel Medary and the Copperhead movement should

be given first.1 For many years editor of the state organ of the

Democratic party, the Ohio Statesman, Medary had acquired a

large following and had aroused bitter enmities, even in his own

party. Abandoning journalism for a time in the 1850's, he was

successively governor of Minnesota Territory, postmaster at Co-

lumbus, and governor of Kansas Territory under President

Buchanan. At the outbreak of the Civil War he returned to Co-

lumbus to establish the Crisis, a party newspaper that was bitterly

critical of the Lincoln administration and presently an open advo-

cate of peace. Blaming abolitionism for the war, he urged that

the Black Republicans be defeated at the polls and that the Union

be restored by peaceful negotiation and compromise. His reputa-

tion and his vigorous style of journalism made him a leader of

the middlewestern Copperheads, Public Enemy Number Two, in

the eyes of all good Unionists, as Clement L. Vallandigham rated

first place.

1 For a summary of Medary's life, see the Dictionary of American Biography,

XII, 490-491.