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State History Journal Re-examines the Civil War Military Trial of Civilian

Alexander Douglas
Alexander Douglas


March 29, 2010

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The March 2010 issue of the Indiana Magazine of History leads with an article by IUPUI archivist Stephen E. Towne on the 1863 military trial of Indiana state Sen. Alexander Douglas.

In a case with interesting parallels to today, Douglas was arrested on charges of treason after speaking at an anti-war rally. He was tried by a military court, not a civilian court, was found not guilty and released.

Douglas was a popular lawyer and politician in Columbia City, Ind., and his arrest and trial provoked strong reaction from his Whitley County neighbors and friends. Towne, an archivist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), has resurrected this nearly forgotten chapter of Civil War history, and the incident provides new insight into the legal challenges faced by the Lincoln administration in light of popular discontent with the war.

The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Department of History of Indiana University Bloomington in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society. The magazine's Web site can be found at For general information on the articles, contact the editorial office at 812-855-4139.