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“For My Part I Dont Care Who Is Elected President”

“For My Part I Dont Care Who Is Elected President”

The Union Army and the Elections of 1864

Chapter:
(p.104) “For My Part I Dont Care Who Is Elected President”
Source:
This Distracted and Anarchical People
Author(s):
Jonathan W. White
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823245680.003.0007

In recent years it has become commonplace to argue that Union soldiers had become overwhelmingly Republican, or had at least adopted Republican war aims, by the time of the election of 1864. But while the soldier vote was cast overwhelmingly Republican, it is not an entirely reliable index of the army's ideological motivation or political sentiment, in part because historians have failed to account for voter turnout. Who did not vote may, in fact, be as important as who did. I have read through hundreds of collections of soldiers’ letters and have seen many soldiers whose views on slavery were transformed by their experiences during the war. Letters by soldiers who voted for Lincoln overwhelmingly outnumber those who voted for McClellan, but an important untold story that needs to be teased out. Many soldiers who voted for Lincoln did not do so for the reasons commonly ascribed to them by scholars. This essay examines what caused more than twenty percent of the army to vote for a platform that many northerners considered treasonous and that labeled their effort in the field a “failure.”

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, George B. McClellan, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Election of 1864, Suffrage, Union Army, Soldier Vote, Slavery

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