It’s hard to believe, but Abraham Lincoln almost lost his re-election in 1864. How could this happen? Nine presidents in a row had served just one-term after Andrew Jackson’s second term in 1832. Also, many Northern voters didn’t like his embrace of emancipation.
Despite the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg the previous year, Southern armies came back fighting and in the three months of the summer of 1864, over 65,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. Union leader General Ulysses G. Grant was being called the Butcher.
Lincoln’s administration had so many opponents in Congress. Underground Confederate activities brought rebellion to parts of Maryland. Lincoln’s suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney - an order Lincoln refused to obey. But worst of all, the war was not going well.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party split, with major opposition from Peace Democrats, who wanted a negotiated peace at any cost. They chose as their nominee George B. McClellan, Lincoln's former commander of the Army of the Potomac.
The South was aware of Union discontent. They felt if Southern armies could hold out until the election, negotiations for Northern recognition of Confederate independence might begin. When General Sherman seized Atlanta, everything changed. The war effort turned decidedly in the North’s favor and even McClellan now sought military victory.
Two months later, Lincoln won the popular vote that eluded him in his first election. He won the Electoral College by 212 to 21 and Republicans had won the three-fourths of Congress.
Source: The Election of 1864
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