Republicans started calling anti-war Democrats Copperheads, likening them to the venomous snake. Those Democrats accepted the label, reinterpreting the copper head as the likeness of Liberty, Democratic supporters of the war, by contrast, were called War Democrats. The Copperheads represented the extreme wing of the Northern Democrats. Notable Copperheads included two Democratic congressmen from Ohio, Clement L. Vallandigham and Alexander Long, Republican prosecutors accused some prominent Copperheads of treason in a series of trials in 1864. Copperheadism, a highly contentious, grass-roots movement, had its strongest base in the area just north of the Ohio River, historians agree that the Copperheads goal of restoring the Union with slavery was naive and impractical, for the Confederates refused to consider giving up their independence. The Copperheads became a target of the Union party in the 1864 presidential election. Copperhead support increased when Union armies did poorly, and decreased when they won great victories, after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, Union military success seemed assured, and Copperheadism collapsed. They wanted President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant destroying American republican values with despotic, some Copperheads tried to persuade Union soldiers to desert. They talked of helping Confederate prisoners of war seize their camps and they sometimes met with Confederate agents and took money. The Confederacy encouraged their activities whenever possible, the Copperheads had numerous important newspapers, but the editors never formed an alliance. In Chicago, Wilbur F. Storey made the Chicago Times into Lincolns most vituperative enemy, the New York Journal of Commerce, originally abolitionist, was sold to owners who became Copperheads, giving them an important voice in the largest city. A typical editor was Edward G. Roddy, owner of the Uniontown and he was an intensely partisan Democrat who saw African Americans as an inferior race and Abraham Lincoln as a despot and dunce. Although he supported the war effort in 1861, he blamed abolitionists for prolonging the war, by 1864, he was calling for peace at any price. John Mullalys Metropolitan Record was the official Catholic newspaper in New York City, reflecting Irish American opinion, it supported the war until 1863 before becoming a Copperhead organ. In the spring and summer of 1863, the paper urged its Irish working-class readers to pursue armed resistance to the draft passed by Congress earlier in the year, on August 19,1864, John Mullaly was arrested for inciting resistance to the draft. Even in an era of extremely partisan journalism, Copperhead newspapers were remarkable for their angry rhetoric, the Copperheads sometimes talked of violent resistance, and in some cases started to organize. They never actually made an attack, however. As war opponents, Copperheads were suspected of disloyalty, and their leaders were sometimes arrested, one famous example was General Ambrose Burnsides 1863 General Order Number 38, issued in Ohio, which made it an offence to criticize the war in any way
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Clement Vallandigham, leader of the Copperheads, coined the slogan: "To maintain the Constitution as it is, and to restore the Union as it was."