As true then as it is today, it is not “treason” to question the autocratic actions of a republican form of government, especially through the citizen’s elected representatives. Lincoln and his sectional party wrongly considered any criticism of their policies and actions “treason.” The US Constitution defines treason in Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” It is very clear who levied war against the States, adhered to their enemies, plus gave them aid and comfort.
As he levied war against Virginia, it was Grant (with Lincoln’s approval) who directed Sheridan to lay absolute waste to the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, sufficient to starve any crows flying above and in search of food – likewise for Virginia’s citizens. Below he congratulates his underling for his violent act of treason while referring to Virginians as “the enemy.”
As is well-known, Grant went on to win the presidency only with the help of recently enfranchised freedmen marched to the polls with Republican ballots; he is afterward known as the most corrupt president in the history of the United States.
Grant and Treason
“Now one of the main objects of the expedition began to be accomplished. Sheridan went to work with his command, gathering in all the crops, cattle and everything in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley required by our troops; and especially taking what might be of use to the enemy. What he could not take away he destroyed so that the enemy would not be invited to return. I congratulated Sheridan upon his recent great victory and had a salute of one-hundred guns fired in honor of it, the guns being aimed at the enemy around Petersburg.
I had reason to believe that the Lincoln administration was a little afraid to have a decisive battle fought at that time, for fear it might go against us and have a bad effect on the November elections. The convention which had met and made its nomination of the Democratic candidate for the presidency had declared the war a failure. Treason was talked as boldly in Chicago at that Democratic convention as ever it had been in Charleston. It was a question of whether the government would then have had the power to make arrests and punish those who thus talked treason.”
(Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Vol. II. Charles L. Webster & Company, 1886, pp. 331-332)