The Chicago Times Suppression

June 1, 1863 – Major General Ambrose Burnside responded to administration criticism of Clement Vallandigham’s arrest and conviction last month by closing the Chicago Times.

Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Burnside, commanding the Federal Military Department of the Ohio (which included jurisdiction over Illinois), issued a general order: “On account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.”[1]

At 3 a.m. on June 3, Federal cavalry rode up to the Times building, with two infantry companies from Camp Douglas arriving an hour later in support. Troops seized control of the building, stopped the presses, destroyed newspapers already printed, and announced that the Times was out of business.[2]

Burnside’s order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after his controversial arrest of Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Chicago Mayor F.C. Sherman presided over a meeting held by city leaders at noon. Expressing outrage that Burnside had trampled upon the constitutional freedom of the press, the attendees unanimously demanded that President Lincoln revoke the Times’s closure.[3]

That afternoon, the Illinois legislature in Springfield condemned Burnside’s suppression. In the evening, some “20,000 loyal citizens,” including many supporters of Lincoln’s administration, gathered in Chicago’s Court House Square to hear speeches denouncing military suppression of constitutional liberties and cheering the legislature’s condemnation.[4]

The next morning, Federal Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton acted upon President Lincoln’s suggestion and revoked Burnside’s order. Stanton also directed Burnside, through Lincoln, to stop issuing such orders without prior War Department approval. But the Chicago Times closure became yet another rallying point for northerners to criticize Lincoln’s abuse of civil liberties and his conduct of the war.[5]

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[1] Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 360-61

[2] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 634; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Loc 51097-105

[3] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 634; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 360-61

[4] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 634

[5] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 634; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 362

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