Sunday, December 02, 2007
Lincoln Faces Re-Election
Despite the fact that the Nation was at war, Lincoln faced re-election in the autumn of 1864. Lincoln, of course, was a Republican or Union, as the Republican party called itself in 1864. His opponent, General McClellan, the erstwhile commander-in-chief of the Union army, who had stood on the sidelines since his departure as commander-in-chief in late 1862.
Allen Pinkerton, President Lincoln and Maj. Gen. John A. McClelland
There were a number of issues that marked the campaign, the concerns over prisoners of war and how best to achieve peace with the South. Lincoln felt that peace could only be achieved through victory, while the Democrats sought peace through negotiation.
A major factor in the public's war weariness was the presence of many thousands of Northern soldiers in Southern prison camps, where living conditions were atrocious and the death rate was alarmingly high. In the initial years of the war the opposing governments had operated on a system of prisoner exchanges, by which prisoners would be periodically repatriated on a man-for-man basis. But by 1864 the system had broken down, and when Grant took control, he had no intention to put it in repair. With pitiless logic, Grant argued that to resume exchanges would simply reinforce the Confederate army. Union soldiers in Southern prison camps would have to stay there, and if they died like flies, that was regrettable but unavoidable.
The Presidential campaign of 1864 was, all in all, about the most crucial political contest in American history. It was a campaign in which what men said made very little difference. Speeches were of small account. It ultimately came down to what the men in uniform did that mattered most. If the war was alleged to be a failure on election day, then the Republicans, or Union Party would go down in defeat. If however, if on election day the war were clearly being won, the Democratic campaign would come to nothing. Everything depended on the fighting men. If they were winning, then Lincoln would win. He would not win otherwise.
Although General McClelland, the former commander-in-chief of the Union army was running against Lincoln, the troops in the field voted four to one for Lincoln. This was a higher percentage than Lincoln enjoyed among civilians. Lincoln carried all the states voting with the exception of Kentucky, Delaware and New Jersey.
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