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Popular opposition to the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, was widespread. Although there had been many attempts at compromise prior to the outbreak of war, there were those who felt it could still be ended peacefully or did not believe it should have occurred in the first place. Opposition took the form of both those in the North who believed the South had the right to be independent and those in the South who wanted neither war nor a Union advance into the newly declared Confederate States of America.

Northern opposition[]

The main opposition came from Copperheads, who were Southern sympathizers in the Midwest. Irish Catholics after 1862 opposed the war, and rioted in the New York Draft Riots of 1863. The Democratic Party was deeply split. In 1861 most Democrats supported the war, but with the growth of the Copperhead movement, the party increasingly split down the middle. It nominated George McClellan a War Democrat in 1864 but gave him an anti-war platform. In terms of Congress the opposition was nearly powerless--and indeed in most states. In Indiana and Illinois pro-war governors circumvented anti-war legislatures elected in 1862. For 30 years after the war the Democrats carried the burden of having opposed the martyred Lincoln, the salvation of the Union and the destruction of slavery.

Southern opposition[]

Considerable opposition existed in the South. In the border states a bloody partisan war raged in Kentucky, Missouri, and Indian Territory. Many Confederate governors feuded with the Confederate government in Richmond, thus weakening the South militarily and economically.


Appalachia, a mountainous region, was a theatre of bloody feuds and brutal, partisan (guerrilla) warfare, especially in eastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, and West Virginia. As Fisher (2001) explains:

"A constant in Civil War Appalachia was the prevalence of partisan violence. Throughout this region, loyalists, secessionists, deserters, and men with little loyalty to either side formed organized bands, fought each other as well as occupying troops, terrorized the population, and spread fear, chaos, and destruction. Military forces stationed in the Appalachian regions, whether regular troops or home guards, frequently resorted to extreme methods, including executing partisans summarily, destroying the homes of suspected bushwhackers, and torturing families to gain information. This epidemic of violence created a widespread sense of insecurity, forced hundreds of residents to flee, and contributed to the region's economic distress, demoralization, and division."

See also[]

  • Gangs of New York, a 2002 film dramatization of the New York Draft Riots of 1863
  • Red Strings
  • Maggie Flynn, a 1968 Broadway Musical that also touches upon the 1863 Draft Riots



  • William Dusinberre. Civil War Issues in Philadelphia, 1856-1865 (1965)
  • Arnold Shankman. The Anti-War Movement in Pennsylvania, 1861-1865 (1980).
  • Barnet Schecter. The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America (2005)
  • G. R. Tredway. Democratic Opposition to the Lincoln Administration in Indiana (1973). hostile to Lincoln
  • Hubert H. Wubben. Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement (1980) finds a fragmented Democratic opposition had few disloyal or outright traitorous elements.


  • Ambrose, Stephen E. "Yeoman Discontent in the Confederacy." Civil War History 8 (1962): 259-268. in JSTOR
  • Auman, William T. "Neighbor against Neighbor: The Inner Civil War in the Randolph County Area of Confederate North Carolina." North Carolina Historical Review 61 (1984): 59-92.
  • Coulter, E. Merton. The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 Louisiana State University Press, 1950.
  • Coulter, E. Merton. William G. Brownlow, Fighting Parson of the Southern Highlands University of North Carolina Press, 1937. Tennessee
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.
  • Noel Fisher, "Feelin' Mighty Southern: Recent Scholarship on Southern Appalachia in the Civil War" in Civil War History. Volume: 47. Issue: 4. 2001. pp 334+. in JSTOR
  • Fleming, Walter L. Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama Columbia University Press, 1905.
  • Hahn, Steven. The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850-1890 Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Kimball, William J. "The Bread Riot in Richmond, 1863." Civil War History 7 (1961): 149-154. in JSTOR
  • Kruman, Marc W. "Dissent in the Confederacy: The North Carolina Experience." Civil War History 27 ( 1981): 293-313.
  • Kruman, Marc W. Parties and Politics in North Carolina, 1836-1865 Louisiana State University Press, 1983
  • Lonn, Ella. Desertion during the Civil War 1928.
  • McKitrick, Eric L. "Party Politics and the Union and Confederate War Efforts." In The American Party Systems . Edited by William Nisbet Chambers and Walter Dean Burnham . Oxford University Press, 1967.
  • McMillan, Malcolm C. The Disintegration of a Confederate State: Three Governors and Alabama's Wartime Home Front, 1861-1865 Mercer University Press, 1986.
  • Owsley, Frank Lawrence. State Rights in the Confederacy University of Chicago Press, 1925.
  • Rable, George C. The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  • Ramsdell, Charles W. Behind the Lines in the Southern Confederacy Louisiana State University Press, 1944.
  • Anne S. Rubin. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868 (2005)
  • Shanks, Henry T. "Disloyalty to the Confederacy in Southwestern Virginia, 1861-1865." North Carolina Historical Review 21 (1944): 118-135.
  • Tatum, Georgia L. Disloyalty in the Confederacy University of North Carolina Press, 1934; reprint 2000
  • Jon L. Wakelyn. Confederates Against the Confederacy: Essays on Leadership and Loyalty (2002)
  • Yearns, Wilfred Buck, ed. The Confederate Governors, University of Georgia Press, 1985.