Avoiding the Draft and Opposition to the War

Avoiding the Draft and Opposition to the War

The Copperheads; How to Close the War; I Am Not Sick, I’m Over Forty Five;
Johnny, Fill Up the Bowl; My God! What is this all for? Wanted a Substitute

As the war dragged on, demanding greater and greater sacrifices, the feeling of universal enthusiasm gave way to discouragement. Elements of bitterness, most evident in New York, gave way to a deadly outbreak of draft riots. This feeling manifested itself in ballads, enough to draw the attention of those who were watching the signs of popular feeling. It was felt by those who rejected service as well as by soldiers on the battlefield disillusioned by the physical, psychological and moral effects of war. Hiring a substitute to take one’s place if one was drafted became a common practice for those who could afford $300.

The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats from the North who opposed the war and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling them “copperheads” in reference to a poisonous snake. These democrats accepted the label but for them it meant the likeness of Liberty, which they cut from copper pennies and proudly wore as badges (Thomas, 377). The ballad written here is in opposition to the copperhead cause and shows them to be a burden to the war’s effort to promote freedom. Printed on the back of the ballad is “The Copperheads Catechism of Negro Equality,” which lists reasons why the Democratic Party in the North has been friendly towards blacks, but shows the shift to the opposite direction in the South.

Civil War Ballads Gallery

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