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Election of 1864
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
Election of 1864
The Civil War was the overriding issue of the 1864. While Abraham Lincoln seemed to successfully display a unified front, the Democrats were again divided - War Democrats and Peace Democrats. Even Lincoln realized that the party was deeply divided and lacked a national leader since the death of Stephen Douglas in 1861. The Democrats success in the polls in 1862 had pretty much been offset by Republican gains in gubernatorial elections in 1863, especially the defeat of a prominent "peace at any price" Democrat in Ohio.
At the Chicago convention, August Belmont began by accusing the Lincoln administration of "learning nothing since Charleston," a reference to the battle of Fort Sumter and not the failed Democratic Convention there in 1860. Western Democrats tended towards the pro-peace wing and were more formidable than the War Democrats thought. Although Samuel Tilden could have defeated the Westerner's peace plank in committee or on the floor of the convention, he let it be added to the platform to ensure the Peace Democrats would vote for McClellan. The move gave McClellan 174 votes on the first ballot, well above the 151 needed to win. The Democrats chose George B. McClellan as their candidate for president, a War Democrat and George H Pendleton, a Peace Democrat for vice-president, although the platform contained a call for peace.
In accepting the nomination McClellan left no doubt as to where he stood, rejecting the peace plank outright and made reunion with the South a precondition for any armistice. Unlike Lincoln, who required not only reunion but abolition of slavery, McClellan would only require reunion.
Regardless of McClellan's stand, Republican tactics centered on Peace Democrats and their disloyalty, and associating McClellan with their side of the party. So successful was this association that McClellan was viewed as a peace candidate throughout the South and is still viewed that way in some modern texts.
McClellan proved to be a poor candidate, only appearing twice at party functions. Party regulars like Samuel Tilden, Samuel Cox, and others spoke against Lincoln's "tyranny" and his "black Republican" party. They initially counted on the John C. Fremont, running for the new Radical Democracy party, to draw votes away from Lincoln, but Fremont withdrew from the race in late September. Lincoln publically ignored the campaign, concentrating on the war effort, an extremely effective strategy.
When the vote was counted only three states were in McClellan's column - his home state of New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware. Lincoln had won a strong popular vote showing winning 55.0% to 45.0% but a landslide electoral vote, 212 to 21. Lincoln's unexpected support came from the Union Army. From Sherman's Army in Georgia, results were 86% for Lincoln while McClellan's old Army of the Potomac, now under Ulysses S. Grant and George Meade went 78% for Lincoln. The Commander-in-Chief had won over the commander. These were the truly humbling figures for McClellan to accept.
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Election of 1864 was last changed on - November 8, 2006
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