Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XLVI
THE MILLIGAN CASE

THE, childlike pleasure found by so many Americans in secret signs, fantastic pass words, and strange grips was never more manifest than during the middle years of our Civil War. The autumn after Meade had stemmed the tide at Gettysburg, perhaps 175,000 Democrats of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana had organized themselves into the "Knights of the Golden Circle," choosing later as their name the "Order of American Knights." That they were not favoring the Northern cause was sufficiently attesteby their pass word: "Nu-oh-lac," which was nothing but Calx-.om spelled backward! It was a counter movement to the Union Leagues," the Republicans had organized.1

Between the mutterings of their mysterious oaths and the chanting of their recondite ritual,, the "Knights" were fumbling, albeit a little timidly, with dark dreams of a Northwestern Confederacy wherewith they hoped to end the war. Union generals commanding the districts harboring these rather weak-kneed traitors were enormously disturbed.2 Holt fairly reveled in the reports of his detectives, and discoursed quite eloquently to Stanton, of Judas, Catiline, and other historical characters.3 But even during the summer of 1864, when McClellan was giving him enough to think about, Lincoln refused to be disturbed by the mummeries of these middle-western "Knights." His attitude towards them, wrote Hay, was one of "good-natured contempt."4

There was, however, one member of this brotherhood whose fate concerns this story. He was a citizen of Indiana and his name was Lamdin P. Milligan. He was probably a worthless scamp, yet his name is associated with a principle of liberty. His case is a landmark in our constitutional jurisprudence.

On October 5th, 1864, Major-Gcneral Hovey, the military com--

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