Birthday: July 29, 1820
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Clement Laird Vallandigham
Born in: New Lisbon, Ohio
Famous as: Politician
Spouse/Ex-: Louisa Anna (McMahon) Vallandigham
mother: Rebecca Laird Vallandigham
children: Charles Vallandigham
Died on: June 17, 1871
place of death: Lebanon, Ohio
U.S. State: Ohio
Clement Vallandigham was a 19th century American politician and lawyer. As the leader of a faction called ‘Copperhead,’ which constituted anti-war democrats, Vallandigham played an important role in the ‘American Civil War’ (1861-1865). After serving a couple of terms in the ‘U.S. House of Representatives,’ he ran for governor while staying in Canada, as he had been exiled from his country. Apart from opposing the ‘Civil War,’ Vallandigham also voted against the revoking of ‘Black Laws.’ For his stand against the ‘American Civil War,’ he was arrested by the Government of the United States on May 5, 1863. He was then expelled from American, and forced to move to Canada. It was from Canada that he contested for the position of the governor of Ohio. Spending his life in an age when many things were fast evolving, Vallandigham’s life was completely dramatic, and his death was even more dramatic. Vallandigham shot himself accidentally while trying to prove his point in a murder case, which involved his defendant Thomas McGehan. Vallandigham's deportation had inspired author Edward Everett Hale to write a short story titled ‘The Man without a Country.’ Vallandigham was also mentioned in a couple of other novels as well.
Childhood & Early Life
Clement Vallandigham was born on July 29, 1820, in Lisbon, Ohio, United States of America. He was raised by his parents, Rebecca, and Clement Laird Vallandigham. He was homeschooled by his father, a Presbyterian minister.
Clement went to ‘Jefferson College’ in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. However, he did not receive his degree as he was dismissed after a dispute with the president of the college. Edwin M. Stanton, who was Clement’s friend back then, lent him $500. Clement used the money to pay up for a law course and also started practicing law.
Though both Clement and Edwin were democrats, they had contradicting views on slavery. While practicing law, Clement entered politics and was subsequently elected as a member of ‘The Democratic Party.’ He also started working as an editor for a weekly publication called ‘Dayton Empire.’
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Vallandigham voted against the revoking of ‘Black Laws,’ which promised equality and suffrage to African-Americans. In 1851, he expressed his desire to serve Ohio's lieutenant governor, but his party members were against his nomination.
In 1856, Vallandigham was defeated when he ran for the Congress. However, he was re-elected in 1858, after his appeal to the ‘Committee of Elections.’ He once again won in 1860, but was defeated comprehensively in 1862, when he contested for a third term. His loss did not hamper his reputation as many thought him as a strong contestant for the position of the President.
Vallandigham emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Abraham Lincoln. He also opposed ‘Civil War’ and became the leader of a faction called ‘Copperhead.’ He then went on delivering speeches, in which he condemned Lincoln and aspects of ‘Civil War’ that benefited the government despite the obvious loss.
Even after the issuance of ‘General Order Number 38,’ which made it illegal to criticize the war within the ‘Department of the Ohio,’ Vallandigham delivered many speeches criticizing the war and its effects. For violating ‘General Order Number 38,’ Vallandigham was arrested on May 5, 1863.
He was confined to a military prison at Fort Warren in Massachusetts, which sparked off widespread agitation and protests. On June 2, 1863, the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis sent Vallandigham to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was put under guard.
Vallandigham managed to leave the Confederacy and reached Canada, from where he started campaigning for the upcoming governorship race. Though he was defeated in the elections, he continued with his protests against the war.
On June 15, 1864, he returned to the United States and appeared publicly at a convention. He promoted peace at the convention and stated that the war was a failure. Even after the war was over, Vallandigham continued his protest against the laws that promised suffrage and equality to African-Americans.
Vallandigham returned to Ohio in 1867. After losing his campaigns against Allen G. Thurman and Robert C. Schenck, he resumed practicing law. He then started focusing on his career as a lawyer and started taking up cases.
Vallandigham was working in Lebanon, Ohio, where he was defending a man named Thomas McGehan, who was arrested on charges of murdering a man named Tom Myers. Since Vallandigham was defending Thomas McGehan, he had conducted a series of tests of his own and had concluded that Tom Myers might have shot himself accidentally while drawing out his own pistol.
If proved, his theory would not only place him in the winning team, but would also save the life of an innocent man. After examining Myers’ unloaded pistol, Vallandigham placed it next to his own pistol, which had three live rounds. Just as when he was writing his theory down, he had a few visitors, whom he decided to show how Tom Myers might have shot himself to death.
As he was explaining his theory, an excited Vallandigham picked up the pistol, placed it in his pocket and started drawing it out. He then explained to his visitors that Myers might have pulled the trigger accidentally while drawing out his pistol. Pointing the pistol towards his abdomen, Vallandigham pulled the trigger.
It was too late when he realized that he had picked up the wrong gun, as he was already lying in a pool of blood. He was immediately rushed to the nearby hospital, where the surgeons could not locate the bullet, which was lodged in his bladder. Vallandigham passed away the next day on June 17, 1871 at the age of 50. He was buried in ‘Woodland Cemetery’ in Dayton.
Vallandigham’s deportation had inspired author Edward Everett Haleto write a short story titled ‘The Man without a Country.’ The story was published in ‘The Atlantic’ magazine as part of its monthly edition.
Vallandigham was also mentioned in a couple of other novels. In Ward Moore’s novel ‘Bring the Jubilee,’ Vallandigham goes on to become the President of the United States. Vallandigham was also mentioned in Harry Turtledove’s novel ‘The Guns of the South.’
Clement Vallandigham was married to Louisa Anna, with whom he had a son named Charles Vallandigham. He was a strong believer of ‘doctrine of predestination.’ Even on his deathbed, Vallandigham had stated that everything had happened for a reason and that his act of shooting himself while explaining how another man might have shot himself to death was predestined.