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In the United States Presidential election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as president. Lincoln ran under the National Union banner against his former top Civil War general, the Democratic candidate, George B. McClellan. McClellan was the "peace candidate" but did not personally believe in his party's platform.

The 1864 election occurred during the Civil War; none of the states controlled by governments loyal to the Confederate States of America participated.

Republicans loyal to Lincoln, in opposition to a group of Republican dissidents who nominated John C. Frémont, joined with a number of War Democrats to form the National Union Party. The new political party was formed to accommodate the War Democrats.

On November 8, Lincoln won by over 400,000 popular votes and easily clinched an electoral majority. Several states allowed their citizens serving as soldiers in the field to cast ballots, a first in United States history. Soldiers in the Army gave Lincoln more than 70% of their vote.


Republican Party nomination

Republican candidate:

Candidates gallery

Image:JCFrémont.jpg|Former Senator John C. Frémont of Californiamarker

Frémont/Cochrane campaign poster
As the Civil War progressed, opinions within the Republican Party began to diverge. Senators Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson wanted the Republican Party to advocate constitutional amendments to prohibit slavery and to guarantee racial equality before the law. These bills were not yet supported by all northern Republicans.

Democratic leaders hoped that the radical Republicans would put forth a ticket in the election. The New York World was particularly interested in undermining the National Union Party and ran a series of articles setting forth John C. Frémont’s qualifications. The New York World hoped that the National Union Convention would be held off until late in 1864 to allow Frémont time to collect delegates to win the nomination. Frémont supporters in New York City established a newspaper called the New Nation which declared in one of its initial issues that the National Union Convention would be a “nonentity.”

The Republican National Convention assembled in Clevelandmarker. The delegates began to arrive on May 29, 1864, and the New York Times reported that the hall which the convention organizers had planned to use had been double booked by an opera troupe. Almost all delegates were instructed to support Frémont, with a major exception being the New York delegation, which was composed of War Democrats who supported Ulysses S. Grant. Various estimates of the number of delegates were reported in the press; the New York Times reported 156 delegates, but the number generally reported elsewhere was 350 delegates. The delegates came from 15 states and the District of Columbia

A supporter of Grant was appointed chairman. The platform was passed with little discussion, and a series of resolutions to mar down the convention were voted down decisively. The convention nominated Frémont for President. Frémont accepted the nomination on June 4, 1864. In his letter, he stated that he would step aside if the National Union Convention would nominate someone other than Lincoln. John Cochrane was nominated for Vice President.

National Union Party nomination

National Union candidate:

Candidates gallery

Image:Abraham Lincoln head on shoulders photo portrait.jpg|President Abraham Lincoln of Illinoismarker

Lincoln/Johnson campaign poster
Before the election, the War Democrats joined the Republicans to form the National Union Party. With the outcome of the Civil War still in doubt, some political leaders, including Salmon Chase, Benjamin Wade, and Horace Greeley, opposed Lincoln's renomination on the ground that he could not win. But Lincoln was still popular with his supporters and the National Union Party nominated Lincoln for a second term as president.

Lincoln, dissatisfied with Republican Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, had the convention nominate Military-Governor Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a War Democrat, as his running mate. Johnson was ideally suited to run as a vice presidential candidate with Lincoln in 1864. He had strongly supported the Union, he was a Southerner, and he was a leading member of the War Democrats. Andrew Johnson was nominated over three other War Democrats - former New York Senator Daniel S. Dickinson, Buchanan cabinet member Joseph Holt, and General Ben Butler.

Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st Before Shifts 1st After Shifts
Abraham Lincoln 494 516
Ulysses S. Grant 22 0
Not Voting 3 3

Source: US President - R Convention. Our Campaigns. (April 2, 2009).

Vice Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd
Andrew Johnson 200 492
Hannibal Hamlin 150 9
Daniel Dickinson 108 17
Benjamin Butler 28 0
Lovell Rousseau 21 0
Schuyler Colfax 6 0
Ambrose Burnside 2 0
Joseph Holt 2 0
Preston King 1 0
David Tod 1 1
Source: US Vice President - R Convention. Our Campaigns. (April 2, 2009).

Democratic Party nomination

Democratic candidates:

Candidates gallery

Image:GeorgeMcClellan.png|General George B. McClellan of New JerseymarkerImage:ThomasSeymour.png|Former Congressman Thomas H. Seymour of ConnecticutmarkerImage:Horatio Seymour - Brady-Handysmall.png|Governor Horatio Seymour of New Yorkmarker

McClellan/Pendleton campaign poster
The Democratic Party was bitterly split between the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats. Also making matters complicated were the factions that existed among the Peace Democrats. Moderate Peace Democrats who supported the war against the Confederacy, such as Horatio Seymour, were preaching the wisdom of a negotiated peace. After Gettysburg, when it was clear the South could no longer win the war, moderate Peace Democrats proposed a negotiated peace that would secure Union victory. They believed this was the best course of action because an armistice could finish the war without finishing the South. Radical Peace Democrats known as Copperheads, such as Thomas H. Seymour, declared the war to be a failure and favored an immediate end to hostilities without securing Union victory.

George B. McClellan and former Connecticut Governor Thomas H. Seymour vied for the presidential nomination. In addition, friends of Horatio Seymour insisted on placing his name before the Convention. But on the day before the organization of that body, Horatio Seymour announced positively that he would not be a candidate.

Since the Democrats were divided by issues of war and peace, they sought a strong candidate who could unify the party. The compromise was to nominate pro-war General George B. McClellan for president and anti-war Representative George H. Pendleton for vice president. McClellan, a War Democrat, was nominated over Thomas H. Seymour, a Copperhead. The convention then adopted a peace platform — a platform McClellan personally rejected. McClellan supported the continuation of the war and restoration of the Union, but the party platform, written by Copperhead Clement Vallandigham, was opposed to this position.

Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st Before Shifts 1st After Shifts
George B. McClellan 174 202.5
Thomas H. Seymour 38 23.5
Horatio Seymour 12 0
Abstaining 1.5 0
Charles O'Conor 0.5 0

Vice Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st Before Shifts 1st After Shifts
George H. Pendleton 55.5 226
James Guthrie 65.5 0
Lazarus W. Powell 32.5 0
George W. Cass 26 0
John D. Caton 16 0
Daniel W. Voorhees 13 0
Augustus C. Dodge 9 0
John S. Phelps 8 0
Abstaining 0.5 0

General election

National Union Party poster for Pennsylvania in 1864
The 1864 election was the first time since 1812 that a presidential election took place during a war.

For much of 1864, Lincoln himself believed he had little chance of being re-elected. Confederate forces had triumphed at the Battle of Mansfield, the Battle of the Cratermarker, and the Battle of Cold Harbormarker. In addition, the war was continuing to take a very high toll. The prospect of a long and bloody war started to make the idea of "peace at all cost" offered by the Copperheads look more desirable. Because of this, McClellan was thought to be a heavy favorite to win the election. Unfortunately for Lincoln, Frémont’s campaign got off to a good start.

However, several political and military events made Lincoln's re-election inevitable. First, the Democrats had to confront the severe internal strains within their party at the Democratic National Convention. The political compromises made at the Democratic National Convention were contradicting and made McClellan's campaign inconsistent and difficult.

Second, the Democratic National Convention influenced Frémont’s campaign. Frémont’s was appalled at the Democratic platform, which he described as “union with Slavery.” After three weeks of discussions with Cochrane and his supporters, Fremont withdrew from the race in September 1864. In his statement, Frémont stated that winning the Civil War was too important and, although he still felt that Lincoln was not going far enough, the defeat of McClellan was of the greatest necessity. General Cochrane, who was a War Democrat, agreed and withdrew. Also, Frémont abandoned his political campaign after he brokered a political deal in which Lincoln removed U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from office. McClellan's chances of victory faded after Frémont withdrew from the presidential race.

Finally, with William Tecumseh Sherman marching inexorably toward Atlantamarker and Ulysses S. Grant pushing Lee into the outer defenses of Richmondmarker, it became increasingly obvious that a Union military victory was inevitable and close at hand. The Lincoln/Johnson ticket ran with the slogan “Don't change horses in the middle of a stream.”


Only 24 states participated, because 11 had declared a secession from the Union and claimed to have formed their own nation: the Confederate States of America (CSA). Three new states participated for the first time: Nevadamarker, West Virginiamarker, and Kansasmarker. The reconstructed portions of Tennesseemarker and Louisianamarker elected presidential Electors, although Congress did not count their votes.

Source (Popular Vote):Source (Electoral Vote):

(a) The states in rebellion did not participate in the election of 1864.

(b) One Elector from Nevada did not vote

Close states

Red font color denotes states won by Republican Abraham Lincoln; blue denotes those won by Democrat George B. McClellan.

States where the margin of victory was under 5% (68 electoral votes)
  1. New York 0.92%
  2. Connecticut 2.76%
  3. Pennsylvania 3.51%
  4. Delaware 3.62%

See also


  • Harold M. Dudley. "The Election of 1864," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Mar., 1932), pp. 500-518 full text in JSTOR
  • David E. Long. Jewel of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln's Re-election and the End of Slavery (1994)
  • Merrill, Louis Taylor. "General Benjamin F. Butler in the Presidential Campaign of 1864." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 33 (March 1947): 537-70 full text in JSTOR
  • Nelson, Larry E. Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864 University of Alabama Press, 1980.
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: The War for the Union vol 8 (1971)
  • Randall, James G. and Richard N. Current. Lincoln the President: Last Full Measure. Vol. 4 of Lincoln the President. 1955.
  • Vorenberg, Michael. "'The Deformed Child': Slavery and the Election of 1864" Civil War History 2001 47(3): 240-257. ISSN 0009-8078 full text in JSTOR
  • Jack Waugh Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency (1998), a popular study
  • White, Jonathan W. "Canvassing the Troops: the Federal Government and the Soldiers' Right to Vote" Civil War History 2004 50(3): 291-317. ISSN 0009-8078


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