There’s so much Civil War in this guy it makes me want to cry. “Old Jube” (as Robert E. Lee would later come to call him) and his brawny beard fought early and often in the war between the states, but for reasons you wouldn’t suspect from an eventual Southern fire-breather. But before all that silly war stuff, Early graduated from West Point in 1837 ranked eighteenth (like his Union counterpart Rufus Saxton) in his class of fifty. After a brief stint in an artillery regiment, Early took up law for a while before returning to the military for the Mexican War.
But when the war drums started beating in his home state of Virginia, Early was an unlikely opponent of secession; that is until Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to fight the South—that pissed him off mightily. Soon Brigadier General Early was on a greatest hits tour of all the key battles: Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg. He even spearheaded a Lee-ordered run on Washington D.C., which was eventually swatted back by General Grant’s reinforcements. The rest of the war was downhill for Early: defeated by Sheridan, he fled to Mexico and then to Canada, where he wrote his “Lost Cause” tinged memoirs about the “war of independence.”
Lucky for Early, upon his arrival back in the States the Southern-sympathizing President Johnson issued him a pardon, which allowed him to resume his law career.
Up next on CCWN, the glory-bound GOUVERNEUR KEMBLE WARREN.
This guy had ambition. Studying law by 21 and in the North Carolina House of Commons by 24, Vance made friends and won elections with his oratorical skills and soon entered Congress as the youngest legislator and one of the few Southern supporters of the Union. This is 1860, mind you, and Vance’s fire-breathing neighbors to the south are calling for secession. Yet once his home state voted in favor of it, he resigned his seat and returned and raised a company of soldiers dubbed the “Rough and Ready Guards.” He fought his way up to colonel and by 1862 was on the gubernatorial ballot as the “soldier’s candidate.” It’s tough beating a popular soldier during wartime, so he won handily and left his regiment just before it was decimated at Gettysburg.
His time as governor was noteworthy for a few reasons: he pissed off the Richmond crew because of his insistence on local self-governance, meaning he didn’t always play along with the rest of the Confederacy. North Carolina was the only rebel state to keep its civilian courts open and observe habeas corpus, and Vance refused to let blockade runners pass through until Carolinians had their share. That was all well and good until the war ended and Vance was arrested and imprisoned for a time (that whole rebellion thing usually backfires). No worries though – he was paroled eventually and went back to governating to much popular acclaim.
Up next in CCWN, the scandalous Samuel Clarke Pomeroy.
Opinions abound about this guy, but I think the nickname Lincoln gave him describes him best: the Wily Agitator. An Ohio-born lawyer and Congressman with Southern ancestry, Vallandigham took it upon himself to lead a crusade against the anti-slavery Republican Party before and during the war and assumed leadership of the Copperheads, a coalition of pro-Confederate Northern Democrats who wanted to settle with the CSA and generally make Lincoln’s life miserable.
It’s one thing to lead the opposition; it’s quite another to be a dick about it. Vallandigham vocally hoped for Northern defeat and threw all kinds of hyperbolic vitriol at Lincoln and the North. He eventually pissed one too many people off and got himself arrested and jailed for sedition. But Lincoln of all people commuted his sentence to banishment to behind Confederate lines. Yet instead of staying below the Mason-Dixon, Vallandigham took to Canada, where he declared himself a candidate for Ohio governor. He might have won if not for Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in mid-1863. He kept up his opprobrium against Lincoln, but ol’ Abe decided not to arrest him again and instead let him shoot himself in the foot. It worked because the 1864 Democratic platform, which Vall helped write, failed spectacular in the election when Lincoln was decidedly reelected.
The strangest part of his story, though, was its end. Vallandigham ACTUALLY SHOT HIMSELF in 1871 during a trial while trying to prove his client’s innocence. The client walked free, but Clement did not. Karma’s a bitch.
Up next in CWWN, the law-breaking LAMBDIN P MILLIGAN.