1864: “Lincoln Is Reelected”

VICTORIA! Te Deum laudamus. Te Dominum confitemur.

November 9.

Laus Deo! The crisis has been past, and the most momentous popular election ever held since ballots were invented has decided against treason and disunion. My contempt for democracy and extended suffrage is mitigated. The American people can be trusted to take care of the national honor. Lincoln is reelected by an overwhelming vote. The only states that seem to have McClellanized are Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey. New York, about which we have been uneasy all day, is reported safe at the Club tonight.

The Copperheads are routed…. Poor “little Mac” will never be heard of any more, I think. No man of his moderate caliber ever had such an opportunity of becoming illustrious and threw it away so rapidly. Notwithstanding a lukewarmness in the national cause, his instincts and impulses were, on the whole, right and loyal. Had he acted on them honestly and manfully, he would have been elected. But his friends insisted on his being politic, and he had not the strength to resist them. He allowed Belmont and Barlow to strike out of his letter of acceptance a vigorous sentence declaring an armistice with armed rebels out of the question, and to append to its unmeaning finale (which imposed on no man) stating that he assumed the views he had expressed to be what the Chicago Convention really meant to say in its treasonous resolutions…. Five years hence people will wonder how such a fuss ever came to be made about him….

George Templeton Strong, private journal

(Source: The Civil War: The Final Year Told by Those Who Lived It; Brooks D. Simpson, Editor, 2013, pages 458-459)

Abraham Lincoln

1864 Election Results

It was the 20th Presidential election in United States history. Former General George McClellan with the Democratic party ran against incumbent President Abraham Lincoln who ran as a Republican, but within a war-formed National Union Party. Military victories and soldiers’ votes helped Lincoln secure the election victory, especially since McClellan had been associated with a peace element in politics.

After the voting on Tuesday, November 8, 1864, the results showed that from the votes cast in the 25 states able to participate came a 55% popular vote for Lincoln and 221 electoral votes.

General George McClellan

McClellan – What He Did Next?

So…George McClellan. What happened to him after the 1864 election? McClellan stayed in the United States through the end of the Civil War, but retired from the political scene. When the armed conflict finished, he took his family to Europe.

As the 1868 election approached, Democrats seemed interested to nominate McClellan again, but when Ulysses S. Grant agreed to run on the Republican platform McClellan pulled away from politics again. However, he took an active role in other public efforts, including engineering projects in New York City and later serving as president of a railroad company. Next, he became governor of New Jersey and held that office from 1878 through 1881. He wrote his memoirs of the Civil War, but the book was published after his death. George McClellan died at age 58 on October 29, 1885, passing at a young age from a heart attack.

Historical Musings

It’s rather clear how George Templeton Strong felt about politics and that he voted for Lincoln. However, his predictions about George McClellan weren’t quite true. McClellan went on to some regional and business successes during his lifetime.

As far as memory and historiography, certain Lincoln far outshines “Little Mac” but McClellan hardly ranks as forgotten in Civil War and political history. He is still studied, wondered about, debated, and learned from (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively). And perhaps that is a hallmark of American republicanism and democratic thinking. Losing an election simply means returning to citizen life and decided what to do next.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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