In Dayton, the seat of Montgomery County, Ohio, Copperheads and Republicans alike looked to partisan newspapers for a statement of their ideals and goals during the Civil War. The Copperhead champion in Dayton was the Daily Empire, an old-line Democratic organ, which represented the anti-abolition and anti-war position and which accused the Lincoln administration of violating the Constitution. The Empire notoriously clashed with Dayton’s Republican paper, the Daily Journal, with which it would engage in a fierce war of words that at times triggered violent outbreaks in the community.
The Dayton Daily Empire is said to have been founded in 1844 and was published by Daniel C. Fitch and George W. Clason. In addition to appearing as a daily edition, it was also issued as the Evening Empire, Weekly Empire, and the Tri-Weekly Empire. In 1847, the Empire passed into the hands of Clement Laird Vallandingham, a famous Copperhead congressman and a leader of the Democratic Party. Vallandingham edited the paper until 1849 when he disposed of his interest. A rapid succession of men followed in his footsteps through the 1850s, all echoing Southern demands for protection of slavery in the states and territories. In April of 1860, ownership of the Empire passed to the I. R. Kelly & Company and John Frederick Bollmeyer, who had left his position in the Treasury Department to become its editor, apparently as an agent of President James Buchanan.
Bollmeyer would remain editor for slightly over two years before he was shot and killed by Henry M. Brown, a local Republican, on November 1, 1862. William T. Logan, who served as Bollmeyer’s assistant editor, took over and believed that Bollmeyer was a victim of a political vendetta. Logan asserted that Republican editors in Dayton had “advised” the assassination of Bollmeyer and charged that Brown himself had “performed” the deed.
Logan remained editor of the Empire until May 1863 when Vallandingham was arrested for violating General Order Number 38 which prohibited expressions of support for the enemy in the Ohio Military District. Vallandingham’s enraged supporters rallied and rioted which quickly led to the burning of the Journal offices along with half a block of buildings in Dayton before martial law was finally declared. Accused of deliberately promoting the riot, Logan was arrested, and publication of the Empire was suppressed. The suspension was soon lifted, and the Empire renewed publication on August 19, 1863. Logan, now released from jail without any charges pressed against him, again served as its editor. Logan ran the paper until December 21, 1863, at which time several others followed as editor. The Daily Empire continued until July 8, 1867, when it was absorbed by the Daily Ledger.