Waving the Bloody Shirt


 “The Copperhead”
  Cartoonist:  Victor Gillam
  Source:  Judge
  Date:   July 30, 1892, p. 80

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In this cartoon, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson is depicted as a dangerous copperhead snake, the nickname for Northern supporters of the Confederate cause during the Civil War. The image continues the longstanding Republican campaign tactic of “waving the bloody shirt,” which meant associating the Democratic Party with the Confederate rebellion. The Grand Army of the Republic, a large and influential group of Union veterans, was a key voting bloc for the GOP.

Here, Stevenson slithers through a cemetery where tombstones commemorate those who lost their lives for the Union cause, while the ghost of a Union soldier looks sadly at the Democratic reptile. The caption reminds voters that the vice-presidential nominee hired a substitute rather than fight in the war. Other gravestones mark major Union victories—Vicksburg, Richmond, Atlanta, and, most prominently, Gettysburg—along with Andersonville, the infamous Confederate camp in Georgia for Union prisoners of war.

Although Stevenson had not joined the Union armed forces during the Civil War because of family obligations, he had helped organize the 108th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. When he first ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress in 1874, during the Reconstruction Era, his Republican opponent tarred Stevenson with having been a Copperhead. As this cartoon demonstrates, the false charge of disloyalty dogged the Illinois Democrat throughout his political career.













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