Archive for the ‘1864 Campaign’ Category

By Justin Hammond–Reelecting Lincoln, 1864

The 1864 presidential election was distinctive because it took place during the American Civil War (the first presidential election to take place during a war since 1812), and involved one of the most famous figures of American history- the sitting president Abraham Lincoln. An incumbent candidate had not been elected for a second term since 1832. Lincoln’s opponent was George B. McClellan, a U.S. Army officer. McClellan ran on a peace platform of the Democratic party; while the Republicans formed the National Union Party. The National Union Party consisted of Republicans and War Democrats (Democrats who rejected the Peace Democrats’ policies). McClellan, representing the Peace Democrats, advocated putting the Civil War to a quick end, even if he did not necessarily agree with his party’s full platform.

One Democratic broadside (right) sums up the major differences between the two parties. The Democrats (or ‘Peace’ party) wanted a speedy end to the Civil War, and to end the notion of emancipation. The National Union Party (Republicans) wanted to pursue the war until the Confederacy completely surrendered. This election proved to ultimately determine the outcome of the Civil War, and the fate of the union.

This is a popular political cartoon (left) from the 1864 campaign; it is by Currier & Ives and is titled: “The True Issue or ‘That’s What’s the Matter.’” This cartoon portrays George McClellan as the mediator between Abraham Lincoln and the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Lincoln while grasping one side of the map is proclaiming “No peace without Abolition!” and Davis wielding the other side of the map as it tears is proclaiming “No peace without Separation!!” McClellan is portrayed as a go-between over the map of the United States. He holds the two men back and proclaims, “The Union must be preserved at all hazards!” This cartoon represents the Peace Democrats campaign, specifically illustrating the National Union Party’s mindset of wanting the war to continue. This cartoon is implying that if the war continues, it will “tear” the United States apart; McClellan acts as a “peace-maker” in the scenario, stopping the two sides from ripping the country apart.

This is another political cartoon (right) that circulated during the 1864 presidential campaign. This is from Harper’s Weekly, and portrays Abraham Lincoln with a miniature George McClellan with a tiny shovel in the palm of his hand, Lincoln is stating “this reminds me of a little joke.” In November of 1862, Lincoln relieved McClellan of his command after he showed reluctance in pursuing and defeating the Confederates. When the 1864 election rolled around, McClellan was slow to start campaigning following his nomination at the Democratic National Convention; Lincoln joked about this, comparing McClellan’s delays as like his delays in battle; this joke is the meaning behind this political cartoon.

The summer of 1864 was rough for the Union army, as they kept taking overwhelming defeats. The Union armies had a very hard time staggering the Southern forces, with two defeats in Virginia, and one in Georgia and Louisiana. Lincoln wrote a dour memorandum on August 23, 1864, asking his cabinet to accept the grim prospects for his re-election: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such grounds that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.” However, everything turned around for Lincoln and the Union when General William T. Sherman took Atlanta in September 1864. This remarkable military development, along with internal conflict within the Democratic Party, helped strengthen Lincoln’s chance at victory.

Although during the summer of 1864 the chances of Lincoln being re-elected looked very slim, he ended up defeating McClellan by a pretty significant margin. Lincoln won all but three states (Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey); more significantly, Lincoln won 212 electoral votes to McClellan’s 21.

In all, this was an election (and campaign) fully influenced by the American Civil War. This was the first presidential election that took place during a time with this severity of military tension within our country. Just five months after the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, though, the defeat of the Confederacy was accomplished.



1864–Nast Cartoon, Compromise–Randy Persaud

My third piece of campaign rhetoric is probably the most famous of its time. This cartoon, titled “Compromise with the South” was run throughout the entire country and was used as scare tactic to warn citizens of the dangerous consequences the North would face if it came to a compromise with the South during the Civil War. The cartoon was created by famous editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast, whom many regard as the “Father of the American Cartoon.” It is widely regarded as one of his most powerful and effective cartoons (and a personal favorite of his). This cartoon was widely used by Lincoln’s campaign and helped turned the tide in order to get reelected during the 1864 Presidential Election.

The main purpose of this carton is to critique the Peace Democrats, a faction of the Democratic Party in 1864 who believed that the South should compromise with the North in order to end the war and be readmitted into the country. This cartoon depicts the harsh realities of the North if they did compromise with the South. It displays a proposed ceasefire between the North and South and conveys the message that if the North does indeed give in to the Peace Democrats and negotiates, the war will have been for nothing and African Americans would go back to slavery. The cartoon exhibits a defeated Union soldier, whom appears to be hiding his face in shame as he extends his weak and fragile hand to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis is pictured as smiling and disrespectfully putting one of his feet on the grave of a fallen Union solider, whose headstone reads “In memory of the Union Heroes in a Useless War.” The female kneeling on the ground in front of the grave is Columbia, a common personification of America during the time. She mourns in sorrow as she hides her face in shame as well. The background of the picture is divided in two. On the left, labeled “North” there is complete destruction, as bodies lie dead on the floor with fire in the background. Above all of this is the powerful image of the American Flag pictured upside down, signaling stress and turmoil. On the right, labeled “South” the Confederate flag stands upright (in contrast to the American on the right) with slaves kneeling on the floor in chains, demonstrating slaves being returned to slavery.

This cartoon was very significant at the time; many people in the North had lost patience with the Civil War. The north was running out of resources and inflation continued to cripple the North’s economy. Many Northerners stared to become open with the idea of having a truce with the South. Nast’s cartoon depicts the reality of what might result if they do compromise with the South. Not only would all the Union soldier’s death be in vain, but slavery would continue, therefore returning the country to the same condition it was before the war started- just with 600,000 less men due to the deaths in the war. In fact, the cartoon looks less like a compromise and more like a Union surrender.  It made people in the North realize that the Union soldiers were fighting long and hard for a great cause and to suddenly compromise with the South would be a injustice not only to them, but to the principles of America.

The cartoon was released on September 3, 1864 and coincided with major Union victories. Once released, Lincoln’s campaign managers began immediately producing posters of the cartoon. It became extremely instrumental in helping citizens realize that compromise with the South would be an injustice and seem like surrender. Support for Lincoln and continuation of the war significantly increased and the cartoon helped turned tide and led Lincoln to a landslide victory in 1864. 


1864–“Planks” Cartoon–Randy Persaud

The 1864 Presidential was a pivotal point in American history. In the midst of a civil war, the United States of America was far from united. Slavery had literally torn the nation apart and many knew that the civil war would become a defining test of the principles that America was founded upon. Many people wondered what would become of the nation.

During the election year, many people realized that whichever political party won would be able to control the outcome of war. In the North, the National Union Party, led by incumbent president Abraham Lincoln opposed Democratic nominee, George B. McClellan. As the Nation continued the fight, Lincoln and McClellan fought to prove to the Nation that they and their respective parties would lead the nation out of war.

Frank Leslie’s Budget of Fun released a cartoon on December 1, 1864 that illustrates the competition that Lincoln with the National Union Party faced against McClellan of the Democratic south. The cartoon, titled “The Two Platforms: Columbia Makes Her Choice” exhibits the two distinct paths that America would take based on which party got elected to office. The cartoon displays a woman named Columbia, a common personification of America during the time, heeding Lincoln’s warning to cross with him over the “Abyss of War.” The cartoon also has McClellan trying to persuade Columbia to cross the Democratic plank over the “Abyss of War.”

The cartoon portrays the Democratic plank as an unattractive option. The plank, placed over the “Abyss of War” is divided in two; half labeled “War Democracy” and the other labeled “Peace Democracy.” The Democratic plank is split into two in order to symbolize the Democratic Party at the time. Just as the plank was split, so was the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party was split into two factions: the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats. The War Democrats were Democrats those who felt that the South should continue fighting the North in the Civil War until they were victorious. The Peace Democrats were Democrats who felt that the South, whom were running out of resources to fight should negotiate peace with the North.  In the cartoon, the two planks are tied together with rope in order to form the Democrat’s board. This is in contrast to the National Union Party’s plank which appears strong, sturdy and firm. The cartoon makes the persuasive pitch to not only Columbia but all Americans, that the correct plank to cross over the “Abyss of War” is clearly Lincoln’s National Union Party. In Columbia’s hands are the scrolled documents of the “Rights of Man”, “Constitution”, and “Laws”, while the American Eagle shadows over her. Here the cartoon is trying to send a message to the audience that the only way America’s sacred documents and values can cross the “Abyss of War” without being dropped in is through the guidance of Lincoln and the National Union Party.

The cartoonist does an excellent job of portraying all the characters and what they represent. Lincoln is portrayed as he often is: tall and strong in stature. McClellan on the other hand is very short in the cartoon and was known for being under the average male height; his nickname was “little Mac”. McClellan’s caption as he talks to Columbia is “This way COLUMBIA. There’s never danger where I LEAD.” Although it’s quite obvious that the caption is meant to be sarcastic and that there is actually clear and apparent danger with the divided Democrats, but note the capitalization of “lead.” Ironically enough, McClellan used to be a major general in for the North and briefly general in chief before he was removed from command- by Lincoln. He was removed from command due to his lack of leadership in battle (notably the Battle of Antietam). One of Lincoln’s famous quotes that evaluated McClellan’s performance as a leader was “If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.” In the cartoon, the word “lead” is capitalized to make fun of McClellan’s leadership abilities. Perhaps the intent of the cartoonist is to make the reader ponder if he couldn’t lead in battle, how could he lead the entire nation?

The two men in the background behind McClellan is French emperor Napoleon III (with handlebar moustache) and John Bull, a common personification of Britain at the time. Both are trying to convince Columbia to go across with McClellan. Napoleon is captioned saying “Go vid dis leetha man Ma’am, Ve recommend him.” John Bull is captioned “I hope she’ll take Little Mac’s lead. I should like to see her come to grief”. The reason why both are in this cartoon is because the South, led by McClellan tried (although unsuccessful) to have the French and British recognize their independence from the Union.

It was apparent by the Presidential Election in 1864 that in order to gain peace, war had to be fought. The election of 1864 made voters think who and which party would successfully lead the nation out of war. A sign behind Lincoln reads “The only path to UNION city is thorough WAR.” This cartoon does an exceptional job in displaying that in order to get to Union City (the North and South together again) is by War and the man to lead the country is Lincoln.


1864–Lincoln’s Shoes–Randy Persaud

It goes without saying that President Lincoln certainly has his place in American presidential history. Known for freeing the slaves and successfully leading the country out of civil war, Lincoln transcended the American presidency. He is firmly cemented in our nation’s history as one of the most famous and popular presidents in American history. However, during the time of the 1864 election, in the middle the Civil War, Lincoln was not viewed as the majestic figure people have come familiar to viewing him as. During the 1864 presidential election, many people in the North had become tired of the Civil War. Many expected the Civil War to last only a couple of weeks, but 1864 marked the third year of the bloodiest affair America had ever seen. Many people wanted Lincoln out, as they felt he had terribly mishandled the war. The North had a lack of major military victories and the high cost of war lead to inflation. In 1864, Lincoln was facing the fear that he may not even be reelected for a second term. To combat the anti- Lincoln sentiment, the New York Illustrated News ran a political cartoon on March 5, 1864.

The political cartoon, titled “Lincoln’s Shoes” made people ponder the question: If not Lincoln for President then who else? The cartoon demonstrates Lincoln’s larger than life persona, as he appears as a sleeping giant in background of the cartoon. In the foreground, there are people whom appear considerably smaller than Lincoln attempting to measure his shoes, which are much taller than all of them. The majority of these men who are trying to measure Lincoln’s shoes are editors of rival newspapers that are anti- Lincoln. Of note is the man looking down into the boot, Horace Greely whom people consider as one of the most famous editors of his time but also one of Lincoln’s bigger critics. The man holding the measuring stick to the shoe is Charles Sumner, a leading radical republican and a opposer of Lincoln’s Union Party. William Seward, the man who lost the 1860 Republican nomination to Lincoln, is the person on the floor who is trying to calculate Lincoln’s shoe size.

The cartoon is trying to poke fun at people’s attempt to replace Lincoln as President. Despite people opposing him, there is no viable candidate who can step in and fill the big, empty shoes that Lincoln would leave behind had he lost the 1864 election. In addition to Lincoln opposers in the cartoon, there are some of his supporters. On the far left is Thurlow Weed, political boss of New York Republicans and former owner of the Albany Evening Journal. Weed was known as a close advisor of Lincoln and here is putting his thumb to his nose, as he watches as the Lincoln opossers try to measure his shoes to no avail. The man with his hand up on the right is John Forney of the Washington Chronicle, famously known for his counter criticism of the Lincoln administration. He is being depicted as throwing his hands up, as he watches the futile efforts in disgust. Interestingly, there is a woman in the carton as well. Women were not common in political cartoons at the time, unless they symbolized something. The woman in this cartoon is Anna Dickson a radical reformer and popular lecturer. In the cartoon, she is looking at the giant sized Lincoln through a telescope, admiring him.

The cartoon is significant because it expresses the view that Lincoln was the only man capable of leading the country out of civil war. Despite people believing he mishandled the war, there was no clear and apparent alternative to Lincoln. The cartoon is implying here that Lincoln was the only man “big enough” for the job.

Lincoln did in fact get reelected and it speaks to a bigger theme in the American presidency. It speaks to the fact that very few during times of war does an American president change. The incumbent president rarely loses during times of war. One of Lincoln’s slogans that became famous was “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream,” or don’t change Presidents during a time of crisis. 1864 marked the first time in over 30 years (1832 election of Andrew Jackson) that an incumbent president gained reelection. He ended up winning unanimously, proving he was the only man who cold lead the nation through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis.