Reelecting Lincolnby John Waugh
Here, from the author of the acclaimed book The Class of 1846, is the dramatic story of what may have been the most critical election campaign in American history. Taking place in the midst of the Civil War, the election of 1864 would determine the very future of the nation. Would the country be unified or permanently divided? Would slavery continue? Weaving/i>… See more details below
Here, from the author of the acclaimed book The Class of 1846, is the dramatic story of what may have been the most critical election campaign in American history. Taking place in the midst of the Civil War, the election of 1864 would determine the very future of the nation. Would the country be unified or permanently divided? Would slavery continue? Weaving rich anecdotal material into a fast-paced narrative, John C. Waugh places this pivotal election in its historical context while evoking its human drama. The men and women who figured in this epic campaignmost notably Lincoln himselfemerge with all their strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. "It's an inherently dramatic story, and one that has been told before. But never quite so well as by John C. Waugh, [who] brings to his task the keen eye for detail and scene-setting that one would expect from a career reporter," said the Wall Street Journal. Drawing on an extensive array of sources, including published and unpublished reminiscences, memoirs, autobiographies, letters, newspapers, and periodicals, Waugh re-creates that fateful year with all the immediacy of a political reporter covering a national presidential election today.
Read an Excerpt
THAT SUBJECT OF THE PRESIDENCY
THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE WAS ON THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE WAR Department building at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventeenth Street. Even on the most miserable of days, when the wind whistled through Washington's dirt streets, filling the city with driving dust and obscuring the avenue from end to end, the dim outline of the distant war could still be seen from the telegraph office, and its echoes heard.
It had often been an unhappy echo that reached Lincoln there. The poet-editor James Russell Lowell wrote of the "insidious treachery ... of the telegraph, sending hourly its electric thrill of panic along the remotest nerves of the community."
Two of the most powerful men in the North were often there in the telegraph office, waiting, listening for, dreading that electric thrill. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rarely left. He looked upon the telegraph service as his "right arm." It was so much his right arm that the office it occupied adjoined his own, separated only by a door, nearly always left ajar. Lincoln spent more of his waking hours there than at any other place except the White House. He called this room his "office."
The president had spent endless hours of suspense, exultation, and sorrow there. He had written the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in the telegraph office on pieces of foolscap between disastrous messages from the Peninsula in the bleak summer of 1862. That summer had been particularly forlorn. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's big Army of the Potomac had been driven back to the banks of the James River after seven days of punishing attacks from Robert E. Lee's smaller Confederate army. It had been a summer of smashed hopes, resonating for weeks over the telegraph wires.
Sometimes Lincoln came alone to the telegraph office, without escort. More often, as fears for his life deepened with the war, he was attended by a small guard of soldiers. Sometimes he stayed the night--on those nights when his armies were fighting and bleeding on some battlefield and the issue was in doubt. But routinely, on quieter nights, he returned to the White House, attended often after dark by the head of the telegraph office, Maj. Thomas T. Eckert.
Lincoln was in good hands with Major Eckert, who had a penchant for breaking soft iron fireplace pokers over his arm, and presumably could do the same with heads. The first time Eckert broke pokers for Lincoln's entertainment, the president turned to John Potts, chief clerk of the War Department, and said, "Mr. Potts, you will have to buy a better quality of iron in the future if you expect your pokers to stand the test of this young man's arm."
Lincoln stepped into his "office" on this evening in October 1863 and hung his shawl over the top of the door opening into Stanton's room, as was his custom. He was instantly among friends. The cipher operators were his boys. Few men were in closer contact with the president day in and day out than they, except his cabinet officers and his private secretaries.
The room housing the telegraph office was a peculiar setting for such a function and for such men. It was more suggestive of an athenaeum than a throbbing wartime information clearinghouse. It had been the War Department library before the war. About half of its space was given to bookcases set back in alcoves between five tall windows looking out on Washington. On those shelves were stacked volumes dating as far back as 1800. The alcove doors were generally kept locked to keep the collection intact, but the cipher operators had access for reading and study in their leisure moments between messages.
Without question the most useful volume in the collection was a copy of Roget's Thesaurus, fast becoming dog-eared, with which the puzzled operators attempted to deal with Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana's esoteric vocabulary. Dana laced his messages with such obscurities as "truculent" and "hibernating," words these young cipher operators had never heard before and had no idea what they meant. They looked to the thesaurus to enlighten them.
Lincoln could have told them what those words meant, for he had had firsthand experience in these weary three years of civil war with truculent generals and hibernating armies. Often on troubled evenings he bent over the shoulders of these young operators, peering anxiously at incoming messages even as they were being deciphered.
This evening, as on all evenings, Lincoln strode first to the little drawer in the cipher desk where incoming dispatches were filed as they were received. He read each from the top down until he reached those he had already seen his last time there.
He then said, "Well, boys, I am down to raisins."
One day one of the operators asked him what he meant by that, and Lincoln had told them a story: A little girl had celebrated her birthday by eating freely of many wonderful things, topped by raisins for dessert. During the night she was taken violently ill, and when the doctor arrived she was busy casting up her accounts. The genial doctor, investigating the contents of the upchucking, noticed the small black objects that had just appeared, and assured the anxious parents that the danger was past, the dessert was coming up, the child was "down to raisins. "
Lincoln found a measure of peace and serenity in this telegraphic retreat that he found nowhere else--despite its urgent messages of chaos and upheaval. It was in fact his Bethany, his harbor in the storm, even though the news clattering in over the wires was so often of war and killing. Besides virtually living there when a battle was being fought or when votes were being counted, he often dropped in when nothing was happening, just to escape the swarms of office-hunters and favor-seekers thronging the White House hallways. This library-cumtelegraph office had often been the site of important conferences with the president and members of his cabinet, generals, congressmen, and other insiders. Most of them knew that if they couldn't find Lincoln in his White House office, they could probably find him here, settled in at Eckert's desk after he was down to raisins.
The midterm state elections in October the year before had given Lincoln one of his longest nights in the telegraph office. Those elections in 1862 had been a disaster for him and his party. Five of the key states he had carried in 1860--New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, heavy hitters all--only two years later had sent Democratic majorities to Congress. The Republicans had held onto a bare eighteen-vote edge in the House of Representatives only because of large, steadfast Republican majorities in New England and the border states. A solid swath of Northern states from the Mississippi to the Atlantic that had gone for Lincoln in 1860 had defected to the Democrats in the midterm elections of 1862. The same outcome in 1860 would have beaten Lincoln 127 electoral votes to 86. He would not now have been president.
The most important race in 1862 had been in New York, the biggest state in the Union, where a Democrat for governor, Horatio Seymour, had beaten a Republican, James S. Wadsworth, by nearly eleven thousand votes. The New York Democrats had also elected a majority delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democrats had won only two of the six governorships up for grabs, Seymour in New York and Joel Parker in New Jersey. But the strong anti-administration tide had coursed relentlessly through congressional races nearly everywhere.
William W. Orme, an Illinois Republican, said, "The democracy have carried everything, and I think the country is ruined. The result of these elections will palsy the arm of the President." The New York Times called the election a "vote of want of confidence" in the president.
The reasons for that midterm Republican disaster nationwide in 1862 had been clear enough. The Union army had failed to win the war. From First Bull Run to Antietam, the Army of the Potomac had been humiliated at worst, frustrated at best. So much money and so many lives had been spent, with so little to show for it. This lack of success on the battlefield had undercut the popular confidence in the young Lincoln administration throughout the North.
Another reason for the Democratic victory in 1862 had been Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, announced in the fall following the battle of Antietam, only a few weeks before the election. Emancipation had not sold well with many in the North. Indeed, George William Curtis, the popular New York editor-orator, wrote of "the mad desperation of the reaction" to the proclamation nationwide.
Many northerners thought it had turned the war into a fight to free the slaves instead of to reunite the Union, and they couldn't buy into that. A year later the New York Herald was still complaining editorially about "the destructive measures and controlling malign influences of the abolition Marplots at Washington," whom many believed had hold of Lincoln and had caused him to pen the detested document.
The Democratic catchphrase of the campaign in 1862--"the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was," with slavery unimpaired--sounded reasonable to many Northern ears. Emancipation did not. Lincoln, who tended to put a light face on anything he could in that sad time, paraphrased that slogan: "the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs."
That had not been particularly humorous to candidates such as H. S. Bundy, running on the Union Party ticket for Congress in Ohio's Eleventh District. Just before the election, Bundy predicted that the proclamation "will defeat me and every other Union candidate for Congress along the border."
Nor were the unwon war and the Emancipation Proclamation the only two things working against Lincoln in the elections in 1862. There had also been some trampling on individual rights by the Executive in the act of waging war against enemies external and internal: arbitrary arrests, imprisonments, and violations of habeas corpus. The Democrats had looked on these as a shameless, cynical, dangerous misuse of administrative power, and had pushed the issue hard in the state canvasses. They had pictured Lincoln as a tyrant, and his administration as a dictatorship.
All of those things together had defeated Lincoln's party at the ballot box in the autumn of 1862. And the defeat had suggested that the president's policies were in serious trouble throughout the country, and that he was on politically unsteady ground. His reelection two years hence looked out of the question. The new year, 1863, had opened on widespread pessimism and gloom in the North, not helped by another bloody Union army disaster at Fredericksburg in mid-December, just before the old year ended.
The popular writer-lawyer Richard Henry Dana put what it had all come down to by March 1863 in a letter to Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln's ambassador to Britain. "As to the politics of Washington, the most striking thing is the absence of personal loyalty to the President," Dana had written. "It does not exist. He has no admirers, no enthusiastic supporters, none to bet on his head. If a Republican convention were to be held to-morrow, he would not get the vote of a State."
But since then the clouds had started to lift. There had been Gettysburg and Vicksburg. And at the ballot box earlier in the year there had also been better news. New Hampshire, in an election in the spring, had given the Republicans a victory. But even that was a victory laced with lingering bad portents. The ongoing bitter hostility of the Democrats to the prosecution of the war was sharply evident in the results. New Hampshire senator Daniel Clark wrote Lincoln that spring that "scarcely a Democrat supported the Administration. Almost every one who had heretofore avowed himself for the Union and the country turned in for peace and party. Yet we have beaten them. They have retired from the field. The two houses in convention will choose a Republican governor...."
Two other springtime elections, in Rhode Island and Connecticut, also went to the Republicans, signaling a hopeful backlash against the peace-at-any-price Democrats, and a move back toward the Union Party side. More recently, elections in California and Maine had gone the same way. This augured well. Lincoln's political fortunes, like the war, might be turning around.
Now, in the autumn of 1863, Lincoln was waiting in the telegraph office again for election news--this time from two "October states," Ohio and Pennsylvania. They would tell the story. How they went would tell Lincoln if there was now a realistic hope for his own nomination and reelection in 1864.
At about ten o'clock in the evening he wired Columbus, Ohio: "Where is John Brough?"
Brough was the candidate for governor of Ohio on the Union Party ticket. And he was in the telegraph office in Columbus when Lincoln's wire arrived. So Lincoln inquired, "Brough, about what is your majority now?"
Brough wired back, "Over 30,000."
Lincoln asked him to remain at the telegraph office through the night, and a little past midnight he wired him again: "Brough, what is your majority this time?"
Brough replied, "Over 50,000."
At about five o'clock in the morning Brough's next answer came back: "Over 100,000." Lincoln wired him, "Glory to God in the highest. Ohio has saved the Nation."
Ohio had been crucial. The governor's race in that state had been the most clear-cut contest yet between the war and peace parties in the country, between conservative, pro-Union war Democrats and Republicans on the one hand and the peace Democrats--called "copperheads"--on the other.
In Ohio the Democratic party had nominated the man known as "the king of the copperheads," Clement Vallandigham, to run against Brough. No line could have been cleaner drawn. Vallandigham was a former congressman, a tireless critic of the Lincoln war policy, an emotional searcher for peace at any price. His seditious public tirades against the administration had landed him in arrest under a military edict against such talk earlier in the year, fueling to white heat the charges of arbitrary arrests. Lincoln would not have sanctioned the arrest had his approval been sought beforehand, but it hadn't been. And now he had to support the general who had done it.
Rather than sending Vallandigham to prison, however, Lincoln, in an act not without humor, sent him instead to the Confederacy, which really didn't want him either. By the summer of 1863, Vallandigham, now a martyr to the antiwar, pro-peace cause, was nominated for governor in Ohio by the Democratic party, and was running in absentia from Canada against John Brough.
Vallandigham's platform was peace now, at any price, slavery and all. Brough's cause was the Union Party's cause: to fight the rebellion to its end and reunite the shattered Union, without slavery. The choice between him and Vallandigham was wholly undiluted, up and down, black and white. The New York Herald, guiltless of sympathy for either alternative such races represented, wrote that it all boiled down to "whether the copperheads or the niggerheads are more obnoxious to the great conservative body of the people."
The great conservative body of the people of Ohio appeared to be finding the copperheads more obnoxious. The race had drawn the largest vote ever in the state, and it was translating into a landslide that was not only sweeping Brough into office, but an emphatically pro-Union state legislature with him. The New York Herald, reporting the result two days later, called it a chastisement that the copperheads could not possibly misunderstand.
Between reports from Brough, Lincoln also anxiously reached out through the cipher for early returns from Pennsylvania. There the issue wasn't so clear-cut. But it was just as important as a harbinger of the larger struggle in 1864.
In Pennsylvania the strong pro-Union Republican governor, Andrew Curtin, was running against a state supreme court judge, Democrat George W. Woodward, who had a strong antiwar reputation. The New York Daily Tribune thought Woodward "the Vallandigham of Pennsylvania," but a far craftier politician with "an excellent talent for silence." Judge Woodward was not as extreme as the Tribune had painted him. Although tilted toward peace, he was hardly a Vallandigham. He was popular in Pennsylvania, strongly supported by the mass of his party.
But Curtin was also popular. His unstinting and practical support of the war had been a sturdy prop for Lincoln from the beginning. He was genial and witty and had a way with a speech. His genuine care and concern for the well-being of the Pennsylvania troops in the field had won him a reputation as the "Soldier's Friend," and made him a hard man to beat. Everybody knew it would be a close race.
By early morning, Lincoln was liking all he heard clacking in over the wires from both states. By five o'clock, when Brough reported his 100,000-vote landslide, the president knew Curtin had won, too. The margin was far narrower in Pennsylvania than in Ohio, but the trend showed Curtin riding toward a 15,000-vote win. Lincoln's war policy was being impressively sustained in the two big states where it counted the most. He was being vindicated. He and his party were bouncing back from the dark October of 1862.
When Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles dropped in at the White House the next morning to congratulate Lincoln, it was a far happier president than he had found there the day before. Lincoln confessed to Welles that he had been more anxious about the outcome of that election than he had been for his own in 1860.
If Lincoln had watched and worried, he had also pulled levers and played politics. He had authorized a fifteen-day leave for all government clerks from Ohio and Pennsylvania to go home and vote. He arranged for the railroads to give them passes and saw that they were assessed a fraction of their pay for the support of the party. Commanders in the field were authorized to furlough troops home to vote in Pennsylvania, since they couldn't vote yet in the field. There were so many soldiers absent from the armies, the Democrats charged, that Lincoln had put Meade's army in jeopardy between the Rapidan and the Potomac. On election day, workers in the Philadelphia arsenal were driven to the polls en masse-"like cattle to the slaughter," somebody suggested.
Big-name Republican politicians had converged on the contested states. The Republican governors of Illinois and Indiana had stumped for the ticket in Ohio. Secretary of the Treasury Chase, for the first time since the war began, also went home to Ohio to stump and vote for Brough and deliver "previously deliberated addresses" from railroad platforms. His audiences had called him "Old Greenbacks," and he had called the victory "the battle day of the republic." He said that the people of the great states, asked whether they would sustain their armies in the field, their credit at home, and their honor abroad, had "decided them for the country ... decided them for all time." Chase was particularly pleased with the size of the victory in Ohio, telling an audience in Columbus on October 15 that a 10,000-vote majority for Brough would not have sufficed, but the grand old 100,000 had done the job.
The Chicago Tribune had called these 1863 elections "the hot canvass." And Zachariah Chandler, the radical, pro-Union, rebel-hating senator from Michigan, wanted Lincoln to keep the heat on. Chandler wrote that Lincoln must, in his upcoming message to Congress in December, "stand firm" against the timid Republican conservatives. "Conservatives and traitors," Chandler wrote Lincoln with his accustomed lack of delicacy, "are buried together." For God's sake, he urged the president, "don't exhume their remains in Your Message. They will smell worse than Lazarus did after he had been buried three days."
Lincoln wrote back, "I am very glad the elections this autumn have gone favorably, and that I have not, by native depravity, or under evil influences, done anything bad enough to prevent the good result. I hope to `stand firm' enough not to go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country's cause." That probably didn't satisfy Chandler, but it would have to do.
As Lincoln had once told Maine's radical Republican senator, Lot M. Morrill, "I don't know but that God has created some one man great enough to comprehend the whole of this stupendous crisis and transaction from end to end, and endowed him with sufficient wisdom to manage and direct it. I confess that I do not fully understand and foresee it all. But I am placed here where I am obliged, to the best of my poor ability, to deal with it. And that being the case, I can only go just as fast as I can see how to go."
Did he really want to deal with it for another four years? Illinois congressman Elihu Washburne had written him only the day before the October elections, demanding to know. "Notwithstanding the troubles that surround us," Washburne wrote, "the time has come when we must confront the question of our next presidential candidate. I think you ought to let some of your confidential friends know your wishes." On October 26, Lincoln wrote Washburne only a qualified commitment: "A second term would be a great honor and a great labor, which together, perhaps I would not decline, if tendered."
Lincoln's reporter friend, Noah Brooks, believed the president liked to look on himself not as the people's ruler, but as their attorney. He told Brooks privately that "if the people think that I have managed their case for them well enough to trust me to carry up to the next term, I am sure that I shall be glad to take it."
From the beginning Lincoln had had a love-hate relationship with the presidency. Even as he was leaving Springfield to come to Washington to take the job in February 1861, he told his law partner, William H. Herndon, that "I am sick of office-holding already, and I shudder when I think of the tasks that are still ahead." Later, in New York, en route to Washington, he had said, "I think when the clouds look as dark as they do now, one term might satisfy any man."
Early in the year ahead he would tell representatives from the Philadelphia Union League visiting the White House that he would shrink from nothing that might be required to save the country. "I shall not shrink," he told them, "from another man's nomination for the Presidency with any greater hesitation than I would from my own. If it shall be made to appear in any way that the elements upon which the salvation of the country is to depend can be better combined by dismissing me, the country can have no difficulty in getting rid of me." But he also would not shrink from being used further if that appeared to be the best way to save the country.
Second terms were rather out of style just then. No president had been reelected since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Running again had become the thing not to do. To run again, Lincoln would have to buck thirty years of tradition. And there was plenty of doubt in plenty of minds in late 1863 whether he should even try it.
There was, however, no doubt about it in the minds of Lincoln's two young personal secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay.
Neither Nicolay nor Hay was yet thirty years old, and Count Gurowski, in his diary, called them the White House's "political little ones." They called Lincoln "the Ancient," "the Tycoon," and "the Premier." They were young enough to have unqualified opinions about nearly everything, and after seeing Lincoln up close now for three years, they had an unqualified opinion about him: they were swollen with admiration. At those times when their idolization was bursting all bounds, they called him "the American."
Hay had written Nicolay in August that "I am growing more and more firmly convinced that the good of the country absolutely demands that he should be kept where he is till this thing is over. There is no man in the country, so wise, so gentle and so firm. I believe the hand of God placed him where he is.... I believe the people know what they want and unless politics have gained in power & lost in principle they will have it."
In September, Hay had written in his diary, "I do not know whether the nation is worthy of him for another term. I know the people want him. There is no mistaking that fact. But politicians are strong yet & he is not their `kind of a cat.' I hope God won't see fit to scourge us for our sins by any one of the two or three most prominent candidates on the ground." No matter what happened, Hay believed "next winter will be the most exciting and laborious of all our lives. It will be worth any other ten."
What was going to make it so exciting and laborious and worth any other ten was the fact that Lincoln's own party was so schism-rent. Its moderate, conservative wing, which Lincoln led, was for pushing the war to final victory, followed by a lenient, liberal reknitting of the shattered nation. But the party had another wing, a powerful, vindictive, and unhappy radical contingent. These Republican radicals agreed with the president about pushing the war to final victory. But they were not at all inclined to be either lenient or liberal. They wanted to control the reconstruction of the South, and they wanted no part of being lenient about it. They were abolitionists for the most part, who deplored the kindhearted president's approach. They wanted vengeance, a stern and relentless punishment of the rebellious South and its slaveholding leaders, and a reknitting of the Union in their image.
By this autumn in 1863, the Republican radicals had a decision to make. James Gordon Bennett at the New York Herald put it this way: "It is no joke that President Lincoln is a candidate for another term of four years in the White House. We think the time has arrived when the radical wing of the republican party must decide whether they are to take `Honest Old Abe' for another trial or run a scrub ticket against him."
The only thing that gave Lincoln hope in the face of this opposition within his own party was the even deeper split in the Democratic party. Most Democrats bitterly opposed the Emancipation Proclamation that had gone into effect in January. They considered it abolitionist, unconstitutional, and unnecessary to winning the war. They deplored the high-handed tactics of the Lincoln administration in prosecuting the war, the roughshod manhandling of habeas corpus, and other offenses. The Democratic party was called "the united democracy" by its members (because, as the ever-sardonic New York Herald explained, "it was hardly ever before so fragmentary and disunited").
Like the Republicans, the Democrats had two warring wings. One of these, the war Democrats, agreed with Lincoln about the need to first crush the rebellion. That done, they would then shape a peace that restored the Union as it had been. But the party's other wing, the peace Democrats--called copperheads--wanted an immediate end to the war and peace at any price, even if it meant letting the South go its own way and leaving the nation forever divided.
The Democrats' problem had been relentlessly compounded by wholesale defections to the new National Union Party, that temporary fusion of Union-minded Democrats and Republicans under a single banner. Like many things national, this fusion started as a local movement. It was the brainchild of the politically ever-present Blair family of Maryland and Missouri.
There had been a Blair at the highest levels of American politics since the days of Andrew Jackson. The patriarch of this politically powerful, pro-Union family, Francis P. Blair Sr., had been one of Jackson's closest friends and advisers--a member of his "kitchen cabinet." He enjoyed access on the presidential level still, for Lincoln liked the old man and listened to him. Lincoln also had two of Blair's sons to listen to. One of them, Montgomery, was in his cabinet, his postmaster general. The other, Francis Junior--called Frank--was a major general in the Union army, and also a congressman from Missouri. It was, in fact, Frank who first changed a local Republican party into a Union Party and set the whole movement in motion.
As civil war approached, Missouri was on the border both geographically and emotionally. Pro-Southern sentiment was in the minority in Missouri. However, the state had a governor and a legislature that were pro-Confederate and ready to take it out of the Union the minute the break came. What emphatically wasn't pro-Confederate in the state was Frank Blair. And he wasn't going to put up with any such apostasy as a Confederate Missouri. Unshakably pro-Union, as all of his family was, Blair by January 1861 was preparing to keep Missouri from seceding, by force if necessary--and it would probably be necessary.
Blair was convinced that a civil war was surely coming. He was also convinced that the word "Republican" was an uncomfortable umbrella for pro-Union war Democrats to gather under. So he began recruiting all Union sympathizers, Democrats and Republicans together, into Union Clubs, uncaring and unmindful of what party they belonged to.
Mixing Democrats and Republicans and conditional Unionists (for the Union up to a point) and unconditional Unionists (for the Union, no matter what) in Missouri, was like mixing cats and dogs. It took somebody as resolute and unbending as a Blair to make such an unnatural fit stick. Many Republicans balked when he began shuffling them into pro-Union fighting units alongside Democrats. "I don't believe in breaking up the Republican party just to please these tender-footed Unionists," one unconditional Republican partisan objected. "I believe in sticking to the party."
"Let us have a COUNTRY first," Blair said, "and then we can talk about parties." In two meetings in January 1861 in St. Louis he fused the antisecessionist, antislavery movement into one entity, and formed the first Union Party in the country.
By the elections of 1862, the idea had spread. There were similar informal, often uneasy, pro-Union coalitions in every state. In some cases they were about as unpopular as they had been at first in Missouri. The Ohio Republican senator John Sherman not only didn't like these unnatural alliances, he blamed them in large part for the disaster that year at the polls.
Meet the Author
John C. Waugh, a newspaper journalist turned historical reporter, was long a staff correspondent and bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor. He lives in Texas.
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John Waugh's book is a great insight into Lincoln's re-election bid in 1864. The book is replete with examples of Lincoln's astuteness as a politician. Although, Lincoln was a self-made commander in chief with no real military experience, he was very able. Lincoln envisioned, before his generals, that the war would be protracted. He came to mistrust many of his top generals; they were not aggressive enough for him. The conduct of the war is starting to wear on the morale at home. This causes a split in the fledgling Republican Party. The Abolitionist thought that Lincoln was too soft on eradicating slavery, but they couldn't get a candidate of their liking chosen at convention. The anti-war wing of the party believed that Lincoln was bleeding the country dry; they abhorred the human and economic suffering. Lincoln was able to out maneuver both factions and win re-nomination. He then had to prepare to run against General McClellan, the Democratic Party's nominee, who he had fired for not aggressively prosecuting the war. The Democrats had selected McClellan on an anti war platform. Much to their chagrin McClellan ignores the party platform and runs as a pro-war candidate. This reversal is the first time in presidential political history that a candidate runs counter to the party platform. Despite McClellan's reversal the election is looking dire for Lincoln in August. Although Grant, the new general, is at least pursuing Lee's army, the war isn't moving fast enough. Many people in the North are looking to a decisive field victory to show that the war is at least coming to an end. All the doom and gloom in the White House comes to an end in September when General Sherman burns Atlanta. Lincoln can show the nation that the end is finally in sight. Lincoln very adroitly allows military units, especially from New York to travel home to vote. This shrewd political tactic garners Lincoln 7 out of 10 military votes. He winds up winning the election with 55% of the vote and a large portion of the Electoral College. Waugh who is a journalist by trade writes in a style reminiscent of the great newspaper editors of Lincoln's day. He uses many of the articles as background information for the book. This was a very interesting book, which illuminates Lincoln's adroitness as a politician. Highly recommended.
The author does an excellent job of describing not only the political landscape of the 1864 election, but also the military situation as well. He does a remarkable job of making the political figures of the time come alive. The book is well written and enjoyable also. A must read book for fans and scholars of Lincoln.