York County and the Head Copperhead
During the Civil War “Peace Democrats” were also known as “Copperheads.” There are a couple of explanations for the term applied to those Northern Democrats who opposed the Civil War and wanted to see the country reunited, even if it meant that slavery would continue. Some sources compare them to a deadly copperhead snake ready to strike the union. It also may have referred to a copper penny with a liberty head that they are said to have used as a symbol.
Were there Copperheads in York County, Pa.? There seems to have been a lot of them, perhaps not surprisingly, as York County has a long border with Maryland, and York Countians had many family and business ties across the Mason-Dixon line. Click here to read fellow blogger Scott Mingus’s post about the 1863 York Copperhead Convention.
But there is another York County tie to the Copperheads. The leading Peace Democrat was Clement L. Vallandigham, Congressman from Ohio from 1858 to 1863.
The York County connection?
Vallandigham’s middle name was Laird–his mother’s maiden name. His mother was Rebecca Laird, daughter of James Laird and Margaret Jane Sproat. Rebecca was born in York County, Pa. 20 April 1789, probably in the Brogue area of Chanceford Township. Rebecca’s father James is said to have served in the Militia during the Revolutionary War. That branch of the Lairds seem to have moved west, and Rebecca was married to Clement L.’s father, also named Clement in Washington Co., Pa. in 1807. They settled in Ohio, where Clement L. was born.
Click here for a more detailed biography of Clement Laird Vallandigham.