|Location:||Northwest corner of Public Square|
|Location Type:||Historical Site|
|Date of Significance:||May 1, 1863|
Ohio Bicentennial Commission
Sons of Union Veterans of Knox County
Ohio Historical Society
Mount Vernon saw its fair share of rabble rousing, especially during the mid- and late-19th century. Clement Laird Vallandigham is perhaps the most notably outspoken Peace Democrat in Ohio's history. He was born approximately 100 miles northeast of Mount Vernon in New Lisbon, Ohio (near the Pennsylvania border, now simply Lisbon), on July 29, 1820. He studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1842, but soon found politics to his liking. He was elected to the Ohio legislature in 1845 as a representative of the Democrat party for Columbiana County. He served only a single term before moving to Dayton, Ohio, where he became the editor to a newspaper with strong ties to the Democrat party. Vallandigham was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1858 to 1863, when he was defeated by Robert Schenck, a Republican and admired military hero, who won by an overwhelming 1,250 votes. His outspoken anti-war views of the Civil War quickly made him the acknowledged leader of the "Copperheads," a group of Democrats who felt that, constitutionally, the Confederacy had a right to secede from the Union, and that the War was in direct violation of this right.
On May 1, 1863, two months prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, he organized a gathering of nearly 10,000 people on the northwest corner of Mount Vernon's Public Square, where he delivered his infamous speech against Lincoln's use of the military to forcefully reunite the Confederacy with the Union. Vallandigham was joined on the Public Square by fellow Copperheads Samuel Cox and George Pendleton, who also delivered speeches decrying the North's involvement in the Civil War. Vallandigham's passionate oration was viewed as highly treasonous, and he was arrested four days later at his home in Dayton, Ohio. He was ultimately tried and exiled to the Confederate States, the sentence to all traitors and those sympathetic to the Confederate cause, only to move to Canada a few weeks later to run for Governor of Ohio. Vallandigham died on June 17, 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio, near Cincinnati. An Ohio Historical Marker is located on the corner of West High Street and the Public Square in commemoration of the historic event.