Monday, November 28, 2011

The 1864 Presidential Election in Adams County, Pennsylvania

I analyzed the 1860 presidential election in Adams County by reviewing past copies of The Adams Sentinel (pro-Lincoln) and The Compiler (anti-Lincoln). This comparison is between those two newspapers once again but, this time in reference to the presidential election of 1864.

This election involved only two candidates. Abraham Lincoln represented the National Union Party and General George B. McClellan represented the Democratic Party. In 1860, thirty-three states voted in the national election but in 1864 twenty-five states voted. These twenty-five were the loyal Union states that didn't secede.

As expected The Compiler pilloried Lincoln and promoted the election of George B. McClellan, the "peace candidate". The paper published stories that told of several Republican newspapers switching their allegiance to McClellan and a myriad of stories of serving soldiers that professed their support for their former commander. The editor contended that if Lincoln was re-elected there would be four more years of war, the freeing of slaves which would result in the dissolution of the Union and there would be an increase in taxes.

The Sentinel countered with reminding the public who in fact started the war in the first place by laying out each rebellious move chronologically. The editor published reports of soldiers and sailors that supported Lincoln's re-election including quotes from Thaddeus Stevens and General Joseph Hooker. He also published reports of the dangers of the Copperhead movement's plot to take over the government of Indiana. He spoke of alarms on the northern border in Ogdensburg and Buffalo, New York, concerning pro-confederates massing near the border, poised to strike at the United States, all in the wake of the confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont.

The national election occurred on November 8 and resulted in Lincoln's majority being over a half a million voters. Much of this was due to the fact many soldiers were allowed to leave the field and vote back home and some states even instituted absentee balloting for those who could not get leave. Lincoln took the electoral college vote by 212 to 21. He won all the states allowed to vote except for New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware.
In Pennsylvania, as he did in 1860, Lincoln received a majority of votes which gave him all of the twenty-six electoral votes. Once again, the vote in Adams County was not representative of the statewide results.

In 1860, with the war clouds looming, Lincoln's majority in Adams County was 0.01 per cent of the total popular vote in the county. In 1864, with Grant in a stalemate at Petersburg and Sherman about to mount his march to the sea from captured Atlanta, McClellan captured the majority vote in Adams County by 10 per cent!

It was quite apparent that the people of Adams County, after four long years of war, destruction and sacrifice, wanted peace. Peace is what they got, but not by the pathway General McClellan chose, but by the manner in which Lincoln and Grant provided.

On April 9,1865, in the McLean House parlor, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Robert E. Lee officially surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U. S. forces lead by Ulysses S. Grant. This act for all intents and purposes, ended the American Civil War.

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