The Union Divided: Party Conflict in the Civil War North

Overview

In 1863, Union soldiers from Illinois threatened to march from the battlefield to their state capital. Springfield had not been seized by the Rebels—but the state government was in danger of being captured by the Democrats.

In The Union Divided, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark E. Neely, Jr., vividly recounts the surprising story of political conflict in the North during the Civil War. Examining party conflict as viewed through the lens of the developing war, the excesses ...

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The Union Divided: party conflict in the Civil War North

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Overview

In 1863, Union soldiers from Illinois threatened to march from the battlefield to their state capital. Springfield had not been seized by the Rebels—but the state government was in danger of being captured by the Democrats.

In The Union Divided, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark E. Neely, Jr., vividly recounts the surprising story of political conflict in the North during the Civil War. Examining party conflict as viewed through the lens of the developing war, the excesses of party patronage, the impact of wartime elections, the highly partisan press, and the role of the loyal opposition, Neely deftly dismantles the argument long established in Civil War scholarship that the survival of the party system in the North contributed to its victory.

The many positive effects attributed to the party system were in fact the result of the fundamental operation of the Constitution, in particular a four-year president who was commander in chief. In several ways, the party system actually undermined the Northern war effort; Americans uneasy about normal party operations in the abnormal circumstances of civil war saw near-treason in the loyal opposition.

Engagingly written and brilliantly argued, The Union Divided is an insightful and original contribution to Civil War studies and American political history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
How did the Constitution shape the Union's conduct in the Civil War, and how did electoral competition (and shifting public sentiment) in the northern states affect the rhetorical strategies and military calculations of both Union and Confederate leaders? Pulitzer Prize-winning Penn State historian Neely (The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties), asserting that the political history of the war years has been "sadly neglected" by scholars, addresses these questions and others in this engaging volume. Challenging the generally accepted view that the two-party system was "an unalloyed advantage the North held over the South," Neely clearly and deftly demonstrates that the system and all that came with it the waste associated with party patronage and the diatribes of the partisan press, for example did little to help the Union's cause and much to delay victory. He shows how election-year cycles affected Lincoln's military planning: maneuvering to avoid large numbers of casualties before crucial public votes, he did not always deploy his armies to best advantage. Neely also explores the way in which the concept of a "loyal opposition" was essentially abandoned during the war years, with Republicans routinely branding their Democratic opponents as (at best) unwitting Confederate fifth-columnists and (at worst) outright traitors. Though his book is designed to be "tentative and suggestive" in other words, to replace the accepted wisdom with thoughtful queries and to provoke debate Neely provides a bold and informed reappraisal of Northern party and factional discord and its impact on the conduct and outcome of the Civil War. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Historians of the American Civil War have long argued that the two-party political system functioning in the North during the war provided it with a powerful, if not decisive, advantage over the South, where such a system, serving to moderate opposition and direct it through acceptable channels, was absent. In the present work, Neely, McCabe-Greer Professor of the Civil War at Pennsylvania State University and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, questions this long-held assumption and argues that the system often stirred up rather than controlled conflict. This thought-provoking volume is structured chronologically, tracing the functioning of the system throughout the war and examining topics from the war-time elections to the political functions of newspapers of the day. Utilizing many primary sources, he also provides excellent historiographical context for the topic. Concise, well reasoned, and well written, it will excite much discussion and future scholarship and is recommended for all academic and public libraries. Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674007420
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark E. Neely, Jr., is McCabe-Greer Professor of the History of the Civil War Era, Pennsylvania State University, and the author of a number of books, including his Pulitzer prize-winning The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 "No party now but all for our country": Political Parties and the Public Safety 7
2 "Blustering treason in every assembly": The Revolt against Politics in 1863 35
3 "He must be entrenching": Political Parties and the Death of Strategy 62
4 "Odious to honourable men": The Press and Its Freedom in the Civil War 89
5 "Times of corruption and demoralization": The Futility of a Loyal Opposition 118
6 "Paroxysms of rage and fear": The Republican Party at War 141
7 The Civil War and the Two-Party System: A Reconsideration 173
Notes 203
Index 245
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