Order of American Knights

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The Order of American Knights was also known as the Sons of Liberty. Members of this organization resided primarily in Northern states during the American Civil War and opposed the Union war effort. Many members of the Sons of Liberty were Peace Democrats and called for an immediate end to the Civil War. They also opposed the draft. In February 1864, Clement Vallandigham was elected supreme commander of the organization. Ohio government officials estimated that between eighty thousand and 110,000 Ohioans belonged to these organizations. Many historians discount these numbers as being dramatically higher than the group's actual membership.

Rumors circulated throughout the North during 1864 that Confederate sympathizers intended to free Southern prisoners at several prison camps, including Johnson's Island and Camp Chase, in Ohio. These freed prisoners would form the basis of a new Confederate army that would operate in the heart of the Union. Supposedly, General John Hunt Morgan, who had raided Ohio the previous year, would return to the state and assist this new army. The plot never materialized. General William Rosecrans, assigned to oversee the Department of Missouri, discovered the planned uprising and warned Northern governors to remain cautious. John Brough, Ohio's governor, sent out spies to infiltrate the groups of sympathizers. These men succeeded and stopped the uprising before it could occur. Confederate supporters hoped to capture the Michigan, a gunboat operating on Lake Erie near Sandusky. They would then use the gunboat to free Confederate prisoners at Johnson Island. Union authorities arrested the plot's ringleader, Charles Cole.

Rosecrans' and Brough's decisive actions in 1864 helped subdue opposition to the war. Northern battlefield victories in 1864 also convinced many Ohioans that the war would end shortly in a Northern victory.

See Also


  1. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  2. Judge Advocate General's Department, United States Army. Report of the Judge Advocate General on the "Order of American Knights," or "Sons of Liberty". Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1864.
  3. Klement, Frank L. The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham & the Civil War. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1998.
  4. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  5. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  6. Vallandigham, Clement Laird. Speeches, Arguments, Addresses, and Letters of Clement L. Vallandigham. New York, NY: J. Walter, 1864. 
  7. Vallandigham, Clement Laird. The Record of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham on Abolition, the Union, and the Civil War. Columbus, OH: J. Walter & Co. 1863.  
  8. Vallandigham, James L. A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham, by his Brother, Rev. James L. Vallandigham. Baltimore, MD: Turnbull Brothers, 1872.