Setting the Lincoln record straight

To the editor:

Regarding former state Sen. Burt Cohen’s March 13 screed against President Lincoln (“There’s another way to look at Lincoln,” March 13-26 NHBR), let me correct a few factual errors.

• Clement “Valiant Val” Vallandigham was NOT “… kidnapped for extraordinary rendition outside of the U.S. … .” As the well-known Copperhead and a leader of the pro-Confederacy “Peace Democrats,” he was convicted of aiding the Confederacy in 1863 while campaigning for governor in Ohio.

After spending a short time in jail, President Lincoln banished him to the Confederacy, and Union troops in Tennessee delivered him safely across Union lines to the Confederate Army on May 25, 1863. Jefferson Davis, having no use for him, turned him over to North Carolina troops to be guarded as an “alien enemy.” The Confederacy subsequently further banished him to Canada.

After a year, he returned to the United States, and despite being recognized, was left alone and was appointed as national commander of the Sons of Liberty, an organization at that time formed to plot the release of 20,000 Confederate POWs by force of arms. He continued to live in the U.S. until 1871, when, while rehearsing his final arguments on behalf of an alleged murderer — claiming that the victim had accidentally shot himself — while practicing a “demonstration” for the courtroom, Vallandigham accidentally shot himself in the stomach and died.

President Lincoln did not suspend habeas corpus in the entire Union, only in the border states, which were a no-man’s land of spies and Southern sympathizers.

Had Lincoln chosen to let the Southern states secede, I wonder if the two nations – the Union and the Confederacy – would have been strong enough, and had the combined will and resources to have defeated Hitler and Japan in World War II, rebuild Europe and caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. But perhaps in Senator Cohen’s view of what history should have been, none of these outcomes was for the good.

Robert H. Fryer
Williamsburg, Va. (Formerly of Weare, N.H.)

Categories: Cook on Concord