Clement L. Vallandigham

Photo of Claire Laird Vallandigham
Claire Laird Vallandigham
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Quick Facts

Significance:
Congressman
Place of Birth:
New Lisbon, OH
Date of Birth
July 29, 1820
Place of Death:
Lebanon, OH
Date of Death
June 17, 1871
Place of Burial:
Dayton, OH
Cemetery Name
Woodland Cemetery

An Ohio Congressman, Clement Laird Vallandigham served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1858 until 1862. While in Congress Vallandigham became a leader of the Copperhead faction of anti-war Democrats. Vallandigham was a vigorous proponent of states' right, including the right to secede. He believed that the Union had no constitutional right to regulate slavery or to militarily attack the Confederacy. As such, Vallandigham opposed every military bill before Congress, giving ammunition to his critics who charged him with favoring the Confederacy during the war.

Following the issuance by General Ambrose E. Burnside of General Order Number 38, which warned of the consequences of "declaring sympathies for the enemy," Vallandigham denounced the "wicked and cruel" war by which "King Lincoln" was "crushing out liberty and erecting a despotism." He was arrested on May 5, 1863, denied a writ of habeas corpus, convicted by a military tribunal and sentenced to two years in prison. Not wishing to create a martyr, Lincoln sent Vallandigham through the lines to the Confederacy, from where he travelled by ship to Canada. There Vallandigham won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Ohio in absentia, but lost the general election in a landslide.

After the war, Vallandigham returned to Ohio and attempted to resurrect his political career, running on an anti-Reconstruction platform. He lost elections to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. While practicing law in 1871, Vallandigham accidentally shot himself and subsequently died from his wounds.