tv The Civil War CSPAN November 28, 2014 9:00pm-10:03pm EST
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to join the conversation, like us on facebook @c-span history. next on american history tv, we continue our look at the 1864 presidential election between abraham lincoln and general george mcclellan, lincoln's former commander the battle of potomac. elizabeth varon examines the point of view from the confederates. this is hosted by the lincoln group of d.c. >> my name is katherine lincoln. i'm a loyal member of the lincoln group of d.c. and it's my pleasure and privilege to introduce professor elizabeth varon from the university of virginia who will speak on the election of 1864 in confederate eyes. i think this is a really important topic to address early on in this symposium so that we don't forget that there is a whole other conversation going on in other parts of the
country. professor varon has got her bachelor's degree from swathmore college and then went on to teach at wellsly yan temple before coming to the university of virginia where she is a professor of american history. her first two books were from a woman's point of view about women's opinions and activities in the south and in anti-bellum virginia and then a biography of a yankee spy in richmond, both of which were extremely well received. and the biography won many awards. then her next book was on this union which was about the whole debate about the discussion and strategizing about possible breakup of the union dating from
1789 onwards. and most recently, her book is -- a book on victory and defeat and freedom at the end of the civil war. that has already won a number of prizes, including the library of virginia award. professor varon also has been speaking widely, including the lincoln by centennial in springfield and the gettysburg civil war institute and also on c-span on book tv. now it's my great pleasure to introduce elizabeth varon. she will speak on catastrophe or set back, the election of 1864 in confederate eyes. >> thank you very kindly. [ applause ]. >> thank you.
good morning, everyone, and thanks so much for attending the event. it's a pleasure to speak in such a beautiful venue. this morning i'll address the theme of confederate interpretation of election of 1846 but also southern unionist. so i'm going to take the south as a whole into my frame. i'll first sketch out confederate debates around turn to southern unionism and particularly the role of the preeminent southern unionist, andrew johnson lincoln's running mate in this 186 campaign and conclude by considering the fraught question of whether the election was a turning point for the confederate war effort. any treatment of this topic must begin with two often repeated assertions that have persisted as standard fair in civil war scholarship. the first is that confederate leaders believed that mcclellan's election would ensure the success of their cause. they were rooted for the
democrat. the second assertion is that for all confederates the unequivocal re-election of lincoln was a crushing blow. now, neither of these assertions fully captures the complexity of confederate politics during the campaign seasons of 1864. it's true that confederates followed this northern election very, very carefully, very anxiously. but they didn't uniformly assume that mcclellan had a fighting chance in the campaign, nor did they assume that his election would be good for the south. as the election campaign geared up in the spring of 1864, confederates were arrayed in two sberptive camps, they were divided. a peace camp led by the confederate vice president alexander stevenss and represented most vehemently in the press by a georgia newspaper was one of the two and the second was a hard liner camp that's what i'll call it for lack of a better term. this side believed at victory by any cost and represented by
newspapers such as the charleston mercury. the first camp the peace camp, stevens' camp expressed profound hope copperheads in the north, those critics of lincoln's who seemed to sympathize with the south. the historian larry e. nelson dubbed stevens and his like the confederate copperheads because of this infinity they had with the northern peace democrats. the steven's camp hoped for negotiated peace and that hope was based on an interlocking set of premises. one was that the north was deeply divided. the second was that the peace elements in the northern democrat party, these copperheads were on the assent politically and might be primed to call to recognize confederate. the davis administration in imposing policies within the confederacy had lost sight of the core principle of the southern revolution namely save
sovereignty and the final premise was that neither side north or south had the will to keep battering each other indefinitely. this camp, this peace camp, drew encourage in the spring of 1864 from some intemperate congressional speeches by northern peace democrats alexander long of ohio and benjamin harris of maryland. they accused lincoln of tyranny, they called to an end of the war and seemed to akwee es. they felt they could find another barometer of the northern public opinion. so working on these premises, stevens and his allies argued that the confederate administration should build up and strengthen the northern
copperheads and do so by making frequent peace proposals to the north. those proposals would expose to the war weary northern public, lincoln's unwillingness to treat the south, he would reject such proposals out of hand and would show that he was unwilling to negotiate and thus strengthen the hand of the northern democrats who presumably were willing to negotiate a peace. as a core lair, the peace faction among the confederates argued that the confederacy should adopt a defensive military posture and refrain from offensive fighting less a renewed fear of invasion prompted northerners to close ranks. these confederate copperheads those rooting for a northern democratic victory in the war and working for it had a brief moment of indication in august of 1864 when the democrats chicago convention, their nominating convention for the
party, called for an immediate sus sags of hostility. alexander stevens was widely quoted this democratic platform was the first real ray of light he had seen since the war began. that's how hopeful he was. his calculation was that once the shooting stopped in some punitive negotiation or convention no one would have the heart to start shooting again. as for the prospect of negotiation, what exactly did confederate copperheads think they might negotiate for at this stage? what might transpire if the state's met in the convention to consider peace? such a convention stevens reckoned would be a way to bypass lincoln and jefferson davis, each of whom was a hard liner on the subject of peace, unwilling to negotiate. stevens hoped that perhaps a convention might turn back the clock, reaffirm state sovereignty, announce coercion and perhaps disavow emancipation
as a war aim of the union. confederate copperheads fantasized that such a convention might bring victory, either recognition of the confederacy which is their first choice or as a fallback position reunion on the south's terms. now, we're going to switch to our second camp here, this either/or formulation was completely unaccept to believe the second camp in this debate, the hard liners represented by jefferson davis. for davis and his ilk, peace without independence was failure and the offering of peace proposals to the north was a sign of weakness that would only serve to stoke northern aggression. these hard liners agreed that the confederacy should work to weaken the north from within by encouraging the peace elements there but only clandestinely through the machinations as its turned out of an unofficial diplomatic mission based in canada, this diplomatic mission would aid and abet those
northern peace elements again on the down low. it would provide secret societies in the north with money and propaganda and organizational council. agents hatched such plots a as buying and hoarding gold to spark a financial panic and raiding prison of war camps in the north. it's easy to dismiss these plots which came to not as harebrain schemed based on delusional thinking as the historian william c. davis put it. but they reflected the hope on the part of confederates in both camps that the campaign season in the north might be attended with violence to quote the confederate bureau war chief that social chaos might break out in the north or perhaps even an armed mutiny on the scale of the new york draft riots of 1863. but hard liners rejected the
idea that confederates should openly endorse the northern peace democrats. they feared that such an endorsement would backfire and discredit the democrats in the eyes of the northern electorate. jefferson davis wants mcclellan to win and that wouldn't be good for the mcclellan campaign. indeed, the republican press had a field day when stevens said he thought the democrat platform was a ray of light. this goes back to the coming of the civil war. the argument that the democratic party could not be relied upon to protect southern interests, hard liners invoked this deep-rooted tenant. the lesson of sus session that mercury reminded its readers in the spring of 1864 was that the south could depend upon no party at the north for the protection of their liberties and institutions. noting how many june ongenerals
were old democrats, members of that party and ben butler was the most notorious example here. the editorial concluded that all northern parties are united in the wicked and bloody policy of sub ji gated the south. >> they put stock in the democratic chicago platform as i suggested as an expression of the true will of the democrats, willingness to negotiate, perhaps to recognize southern independence. the hard liners by contrast believed the democrat's choice of mcclellan as their standard bearer was far more revealing than the platform they adopted in their convention. mcclellan hard liners argued was clearly a war democrat, someone who rejected southern independence and who was not to be trusted. they invoked the hard liners did mcclellan's acceptance letter in which he explicitly rejected the idea that there might be peace without reunion without the
south repudiating succession. mcclellan's letter the union must be preserved at all hazards, i could not look in the face of my comrades and tell them that their labors and the sacrifice of so many of our slain brethren had been in vain, we abandoned that union. no peace can be permanent without union mcclellan's position at odds with his party's platform. for hard liners in the confederacy, the meaning of this letter was clear. september 19th richmond dispatch editorial commenting on the letter asked rhetorically, shall we be slaves to the yankees? and answered, general mcclellan says we shall. mcclellan's stance, we will lose the election because it erased any meaningful difference between mcclellan and lincoln both were pro-war as the editorial continued. the mcclellan left the northern masses any ground for hope that his election would stop the
effusion of their blood and money, he might have been elected. but given the choice between two war candidates, the people of the united states can have no reason to change their government. it is the old contest between the outs and the ins so laments this editorial. in short, the two confederate camps differed not only on the question of means but also ends. hard liners had little faith that a democratic president would do the south's bidding. instead they wished for lincoln's defeat because it might signal the erosion of northern moral. and here is the key, point the core principle of the hard liners of jefferson davis and his camp was that only battlefield victories and not political machinations would win southern independence and the primary of these hard liners was not to encourage northern decent, that was the secondary aim, but instead to revive southern enlistment and encourage and stoke the will to fight on the part of
confederates. jefferson davis himself in his speeches and communications during the 1864 campaign spring, summer fall of 1864 played down the importance of the northern election. didn't say much about it. he focussed instead relentlessly on two themes, yankee atrocities and confederate manpower. in speeches he delivered in georgia and south carolina in the fall of 1864, davis invoked the union army's alleged outrages in atlanta asking would you see the fair daughters of the land given over the the brutality of the yankees? his prescription, davis's prescription for confederate victory was simple, everyone able must go to the front. convinced that recent military setbacks transpired because too many southern america shad shirked duty. if half the men now absent without leave will return to duty, we can defeat the enemy. this is his message during the campaign season. he went on, the yankees were dogged as he declared and the only way to make them civil was
to whip them. and you can whip them, he told confederate men in october of 1864. if all the men capable of bearing arms will do their duty. the fate of the confederacy then davis inzigsed was in the hands of the confederates themselves. so what was the end game the position of the stevens faction, this wish for peace and negotiation commanded substantial public support in the spring and summer of 1864, but that support waned in the fall as union military successes improved lincoln's prospects. in confederate eyes and particularly for the virginia press, confederate versus in the shen doe wa valley were every bit as por ten shous as the fall of the atlanta. prompted the richmond dispatch to lament, quote, the enemy will raise a great cry of triumph over this victory.
this battle will secure the election of lincoln of which indeed there was no doubt before. with the peace democrats losing ground in the wake of northern battlefield victory, stevens, the confederate vice president now publicly accused davis the president of failing to do the right thing, of failing to have fully promoted the northern peace party to give it a fighting chance. stevens speculated in a controversial letter which he wrote on november 5th, 1864 and which was widely reprinted in the confederate press, stevens speculated that jefferson davis actually preferred lincoln's election to mcclellan's. davis considered this a bad charge and denied it. the confederate president and vice president were at war. but many of their country men never took clear and consistent positions, aligning themselves with one sberptive camp or another, instead these confederates careened back and forth between these two poles in
somersaults of reasoning, mental acrobatics. and they became more ewe bik cue us to. as confederates are increasingly in damage control mode. and in damage control mode, they take to arguing that there is indeed no functional difference between lincoln or mcclellan or that the very idea that they ever looked to the yankee election for their salvation was itself a spurious piece of northern propaganda they've never been so diluted or mental acrobatics, some argumented that lincoln's election might indeed be preferable. many began to argue that lincoln's election might indeed be preferable. after all this last argument ran, lincoln was the devil southerners knew. we prefer an ignorant brutal fool as commander in chief as the enemy of any other man the richmond inquirer opined. mcclellan's life by contrast might breathe new life. mcclellan's election might
breathe new life into the northern war efrt and splinter the south if credulous southerners accepted peace on northern taeerms. as steven elliott explained in october of 1864, quote, the election of lincoln is necessary for our deliverance. any other result should be disastrous to us. we need his folly and fanaticism for another term. his mad pursuit of his peculiar ideas. as the election approached, both camps hard liner and peace camps trafficked in images of republican electoral fraud to explain why lincoln would win. confederate newspapers claimed that democratic meetings in the north were being discorrupt rupted. the republican press was trafficking in false reports of confederate atrocities to whip
up war fervor and lincoln would manipulate the soldier's vote to ensure his own victory. he would stuff the ballot boxes and cheat and steal and no one has a doubt editorialized the georgia confederate union. we have no idea that lincoln will permit a fair election and no hope for mcclellan's election it continued. such a view was echoed in a letter -- i do not see that any good can come to us from this yankee election and yet i long to know how it has gone. i do not think there will be a real election. so many have been sent from the army and government to use the means of their corruption at their disposal. now, for the stevens faction, there was in such images of fraud and glimmer a ray of
light. they hoped might bring the long awaited revulsion against lincoln by the northern public. this is what the stevens types were waiting for. but the hard liners, davis' camp saw things differently. in their eyes, the republicans would get away with fraud and intimidation and they would get away with it because lincoln and the radical republicans held the majority of northerners in their sway. in other words, the wide-spread election corruption was a sign in the eyes of davis of lincoln's strength and his power, not his weakness. in the end, lincoln's victory did more to vindicate the hard liners than the confederate copperheads. for lincoln's victory the hard liners insisted would make the scales fall from the eyes of southerners who had naively held out hope that the yankees would treat with their foes.
jefferson davis described to them what he took to be the yankees peace terms. we should submit to their yolk, acknowledge that we are criminals and appeal to their mercy for pardon. davis would brook no such peace. emma holmes put it this way with her acidpen, the presidential election took place several days ago and there seems no doubt from the returns already received that lincoln, the vulgar uncouth animal chosen to desecrate the office once filled by george washington. war there must be until we conquer peace. in short, throughout the campaign and its aftermath, confederate opinion was divided with hard liners ascended as the copperheads faltered. take a quick water break here. what about southern unionists? those who rejected the confederacy?
let me say a few brief words about southern unionism before i focus in on the campaign. it's been difficult for scholars to measure the extent of southern unionism. at issue a sometimes tenuous distinction. those who registered protests of one kind or another, sometimes very ardent protests against the way the confederate government was conducting the war, critics of war effort and a second category, we have people who maybe were confederates at heart but mavg masked that in order to coexist for occupying yankee armies. finally, then we have true blue unionists, those who had never supported succession and worked for and welcomed northern victory. the lines between these categories can be tough to sent out. but it is clear that these unconditional true blue unionists, those southerners who never accepted succession, never
renounced the united states lent decisive aid to the union war effort. the slave states furnished 450,000 troops to the union army, 200,000 came from the border south states, kentucky, maryland, delaware, missouri that had not succeeded 150,000 were african-americans, predominantly former slafs and 100,000 were whites from the confederate states. african-american resistance to the confederate was the beating heart of southern unionism. slaves contributed to the union victory, not only as soldiers but as nurses, spies, scouts, teacher and day labors. for them, the union's success at arms was synonymous with freedom. small minority but symbolically
important were so varied as to defie generalization, some of these white southern unionists had family ties. many advocated the economic development of south. remake the south in the image of the north, promoting industrialization but many were democrats. many were anti-slave holder rather than anti-slavery. some actively supported abolition. there were strong pockets of unionism to be found in the mountainous up country regions of the south where plantation slavery hadn't taken firm root. but there are undergrounds, cells if you were in strongholds like atlanta and richmond. why such a focus on southern unionism if they are a small minority of white southerners? it was at the heart of the 1864
presidential campaign as the most prominent of all southern unionists. there's been much debate among scholars about how active a role lincoln played in this choice of johnson and of what have motivated the choice. unless we be tempted to think that this was a low-sfaks decision, we should remind ourselves that twice in the previous generation presidents had died in office and been replaced by their vice presidents. william henry and zachary taylor by fillmore in 1850. in both instances they departed dramatically from the policies of they predecessors and revealed fault line. these precedents, not so distant from the vantage point of 1864 were very much on the minds of loyal americans. as a campaign broadside for lincoln and johnson put it, quote, past experience shows that the choice of vice
president of the united states is almost as important as that of president. in the case of latter dies or becomes unable to perform the duties they deinvolve upon the former. we should vote for no man of vice president whom we would not be willing to elect president. the most persuasive explanation for the choice of johnson, johnson displaces hamlin on the ticket, the most persuasive explanation for this choice, this switch out has been offered by the historian matt who argues that lincoln picked johnson in order to give legit masy to his policy of wartime, reconstruction and the union occupied south. lincoln was eager for these states to be welcomed back into the union under loyal leadership, according to the dictates of his so-called 10% plan which he promulgated in dets of 1863.
this 10% plan laid out the steps for the readmission of these confederate states into the union. stipulating that those confederates who took an oath of allegiance to the union would receive a full pardon. and when in a given state undergoing this process seeking entry back into the union, when in a given state 10% of those who had voted in 1860 took that oath of loyalty, that vanguard could then elect delegates to a new constitutional convention and send representatives to congress and rejoin the union. lincoln's aim with the 10% plan was to offer generous terms as a bait to waiverers to give up the rebellion, lure white southern men back into the union. the 10% plan proved controversial, rad rale republicans argued that it set the bar for admission to the union too low and insisted that 50% of the electorate must take
that oath of loyalty. so lincoln is embattled on this issue and hopes that the selection of andy johnson will help to neutralize this critique of this program. give congress an incentive to admit tennessee to the union, johnson's home state to count the electoral votes in the final tally. johnson's choice would represent the fusion of war, democrats with republicans into a newly-dubbed union party. that's what lincoln's party was called in 1864 and help to hasten the restoration of self government by proven loyalists in the south. reward those southern unionists and use them as a vanguard for the reunion of the country. now, johnson himself was a hero in the north at this point. his remarkable life story was well known to americans. and made him a hero in the north and a villain to confederates.
like lincoln, johnson had risen to promise from the humblist of the roots. born into poverty in north carolina. he lost his father as a young age and put to work as a tailer's apprentice. he settled in greenville, tennessee, working his way up the political ladder and in his career, he forged a reputation as a champion of the common man, the non-slave holding farmer and he did so in the mold of his political idol, andrew jackson. andy johnson was in his first term as a united states senator from tennessee, representing the democratic party when the civil war began and he took a courageous and all-together singular stance against succession, singular for senators. he declared succession to be, an odious hell-born and hell-bound doctrine. andrew johnson paid a high price for this, his family was driven into exile and his property
confiscated and he was hung and cursed in his home state. johnson's unionism was rooted in the class resentment farmers against elite planters. the wealthy planters looked down on men like him. and-rooted to in the cultural differences between the mounts you up country regions of the south such as johnson's own east tennessee and low plantation districts. it was rooted in a constitutional argument, the founders intended the union to be perpetual. it was synonymous with lawlessness. a government without the power to enforce its laws he declared in 1861 is no government at all. johnson put this principle into action, his military governor of tennessee. lincoln put him in charge there. after battlefield victories had secured there. johnson has war-time governor ruled with a heavy hand.
he had conspicuous critics of lincoln administration arrested and imprisoned. he impuzed punitive taxes on planters. johnson was determined that only unconditional consistently loyal union men like himself rather than these ladder day unionists would shape tennessee's political future. he required that anyone who sought to vote in state elections would have not only to swear allegiance to the union but also to vouchsafe that they rejoiced in the victories in the federal army. although we owned a handful of slaves and had supported the democratics party pro slavery agenda before the war, he supported emancipation as a means to punish the confederate elite and rob it of resources. fearing that emancipation by federal edict would alienate
slave holding yun onists in tennessee, they exempt tennessee from the emancipation proclamation so johnson could work it from the inside. he freed his own slaves setting example for his fellow tnens. he delivered a series of speeches he called slavery a cancer on the body politic and appealed to tennesseens to pass an amendment abolishing the institution which they would do. now, back to our campaign. lincoln monitored these events carefully. watched what johnson was up to in tennessee. he rewarded his assertiveness. lincoln made it known behind the scenes discreetly his preference territory tennesseen in this 1864 campaign on his ticket. and at the national convention in baltimore union slash republican party's convention in 1864, lincoln turned to tennessee's convention delegates, william brown low to
publicly make the case for johnson. this they did with stirring speeches on the convention floor that praised johnson for having stood loyal while in the very furnace of the rebellion. some radical republicans had their doubts about the tennesseen. he said of johnson's nomination, he should have been able to find a running mate without going down to one of those damned rebels. others rallied in the hopes that johnson with his pension for tough talk against the successioners might push lincoln to a more stringent reconstruction program. lincoln's backer in the north delighted in his loyalty to the uni union. pend pendleton was the personification of the treacherous copperhead democrat and the lincoln campaign trotted
out pendleton's voting record in congress, all the many instances in which pendleton voted against resolutions and to raise revenue for the war effort and these votes were proof so the campaign arguments went that pendleton was openly disloyal. now, what about the larger group of southern unionists? they were deeply divided as it turns out, a few of them, a few of these southern unionists positioned themselves in a pro lincoln vanguard and actively pushed for the president's re-election. among his most prominent border state were montgomery blare of maryland, former postmaster general and a nemesis of the radical republicans in his state, robert j. breckenridge who led that kentucky delegation to the convention where lincoln and johnson were nominated and jeremiah clemens of the alabama who urged the unionists to push. clemens warned confederates, who he was trying to convert to the
union cause, not to fall into the trap of believing that mcclellan's election might save them. no an october 1864 pamg flet, clemens try to disabuse of what he called their disillusions. put no faith in the divisions among the people of the north. upon the one great question that of restoring the union there is unanimity. the election of mcclellan if that were possible he said would only prolong the war. mcclellan might suspend military operations for a time and negotiate for a peace, but the only terms jefferson davis will ever offer him will be such as he dare not accept. now, andrew johnson's presence on the ticket was endorsed by men such as these, but it by no means guaranteed lincoln the support of loyalists across the border south. indeed during the 1864 campaign, lincoln came under withering critique from the right and left
ends of the spectrum of southern unionism. he was opposed and opposed quite ardently by many southern unionists. border state unionist delegations from kentucky attended the democratic national convention in chicago in late august to proclaim their support for the democratic party and its candidate and they assailed lincoln the democrats, did for his abridgment of civil lib terties, refusal to listen to any terms of peace. these border democrats accused lincoln of prostituting all the powers of the government to the bane purpose of forcefully securing his own re-election. during the campaign, mcclellan received vigorous backing from pro war southern union cysts. men like kentucky's governor. they were pro war. they wanted to see the union prevail. they had grudgingly came to support emancipation but not
favor the enlistment of black troops. they rejected the cease fire language and the war failure language. the argument that the war had been a failure. war democrats. these conservative southern unionists often took direct aim. the meanest most unscrupulous most contemptible of all lincoln's underlings. for southern union cysts no less for confederate electoral fraud and intimidation loomed large. in tennessee, they protested andrew johnson's vote. such an oath required that voters repudiate the democratic platform and rigged the re-election in lincoln's favor. in the end, tennessee's vote did not matter but this issue of
fraud had symbolic value. governor bram let accused federal authorities of using violence and intimidation to suppress the mcclellan vote but he overlooked countervailing evidence that lincoln supporters in the state had come under similar threats from democrats. meanwhile, from the left end of the political spectrum came a different sort of critique. union occupied new orleans, leaders such as john baptiste through the newspaper the new orleans tribune accused lincoln of not being radical enough. they condemned his reconstruction plan as too lenient. and they made the case that congress and not the president should direct the course of reconstruction. similar arguments were advanced by a small but vocal group of white radicals, men such as maryland's henry winter davis who rejected his amnesty policy and worried that lincoln might
accept some sort of compromised peace. lincoln was the lesser of two evils this choice between mcclellan and lincoln was seen in that light. let me conclude by turning to my final question, the election of 1864 is a turning point. who does this mean for the southerners? namely that the election of 1864 was a turning point in the war. one illuminating way to approach this is modelled by the scholar in a provocative essay on the subject. it's a fallacy exercise. he asks whether lincoln's defeat would have led to confederate independence and answers with a resounding no, he would not have led to confederate independence and not have done so because as davis noetds in the event of a democratic victory if mcclellan won, lincoln together with grant and sherman and share dan would have done everything in their power to seize richmond and bring the confederacy to heel before the march inauguration of
mcclellan. they would have tried to finish the job. and even if they failed to extract, surrender, they would still have been able to hand president mcclellan, now president mcclellan, now commander in chief the imminent prospect of complete and total victory on a silver platter. william c. davis asks referring to mcclellan, quote r we really to suppose that he this man of all men given the opportunity to claim the ultimate triumph would have chosen to snatch defeat from the claws of victory and sand jefferson a basket of roses and say you win? of course not. we must conclude that the fate of confederacy did not hinge on this election. i agree with davis' assessment of the strejic and his course of action yet i argue this exercise doesn't invalidate the case that the election of 1864 buzz a turning point for the confederate war effort.
however much confederates tried rhetorically to downgrade lincoln's election from a catastrophe to a setback or even to argue that the republicans victory was peeric, the fact remains that te election swept away a pillar of the confederate creed namely the conviction that if the confederates beat the odds on the battlefield, help would come from the outside. in the form of a revolution in northern public opinion or of foreign recognition. these two hopes were closely related among the rumors that it circulated through confederate discourse during the campaign season was the claim that if the democrats won the ewelcome back around conceded that the confederacy had to be negotiated and treated with, then foreign recognition of the skon confederacy would transpire in short order. without the prospect of help, the confederates had no way to confound the logic of the overwhelming numbers and resources theory of their own demise. that phrase which we associate
with lee's fair well address had long been a part of the confederate lexicon. it was invoked to motivate southern en listment. beating the odds, something the confederates were used to. but as the war ground on the overwhelming numbers formulation took on the the aspect of a grim prophesy and it was ill legitimate and inevitable. the triumph of might over right. the re-election of lincoln did not crush confederate moral. indeed, many confederates had come as i argued to see it inevitable and desirable but the margin of lincoln's victory was sobering. most judicious persons believed he would be re-elected but nearly all while thinking his election would be better for us than the mcclellan's hoped that it would be closely contested. after lincoln's election it was
dramatically more difficult for confederates to imagine what shape victory might take and keep at bay distressing rumors about what lincoln might now do with a mandate a new mandate in hand. i'll close with a revealing example. on november 14, 1864 the prolific rebel war clerk wrote in his diary, lincoln is re-elected and called for a million of men. the following day jones rejected this report as a rumor noting it is now contradicted that lincoln called for a million men. but the rumor as these rumors tended to do taken on a life of its own and circulated through the confederate press accompanied by editorial commentary. the charleston mercury picked up the thread. lincoln we hear calls for a million of men it reported. while his hand was in, he might as well called for two or three million. it is as easy to get one as the other. the richmond dispatch, too,
reported the rumor. lincoln is calling for a million of men to swell his armies. it continued he does not call spirits from the vast deep. they will come. he will have them. it would have been quite as easy to call for five, ten or 20 million as for one. confederate southerners will once again after rally to drive back the hordes to stave off defeat. but it added, in a fitting confederate epitaph of the election of 1864 it may now be too late. thank you. [ applause ] i would be happy to take questions if people have them. ma'am. >> i understand the value of picking andrew johnson, but why was the decision to leave han ball hamlin? >> again, the goal here to to keep war democrats in the fold
and the perception was that hamlin was perceived by the mainstream and moderate middle of the political spectrum as too anti-slavery, too radical and therefore he wouldn't help in this project of keeping war democrats on board. the radical republicans had nowhere else to go so in a sense it was less important to appeal to them. briefly seem that i had might have somewhere else to go when the campaign was wayside. lincoln hoped to secure this middle ground and this middle ground was a place where they were not only in a lot of voters but a lot of soldiers, governors, it was essential in lincoln's mind to keep those war democrats on board and johnson seemed at that moment to be the perfect answer to his problem, of course, we know that johnson's presidency turned out to be quite disastrous, but at
this point lincoln again has watched johnson closely and feels he's a man who can be trusted. johnson will really stumble out of the gate during the inaugural ceremonies. he is widely reported to have been drunk and makes a real fool of himself but lincoln even then stands by him, i know andy johnson. he messed up but he's going to find his footing and he's a good man. again, it can't be emphasized enough that rhetorically speaking johnson had been known as one of the great stump speakers in america really and he was known for his fiery rhetoric and particularly his absolutely uncompromising of the southern elite. he said he represented the pla bee yans as he liked to put it, the common man. they was thought to be an argument to appeal to democrats in the north as well as the south. >> do we know how the information was communicated to hamlin? whether there was a conversation with lincoln? >> that's a really interesting question. i'm sure we know.
i don't know. there's a lot of debate about this question of lincoln's choice because we don't have the smoking gun in the form of documents in which lincoln talks about the choice, much of this was kind of behind the scenes negotiation of which there is no written record. we are left to speculate. and the problem is that those who consider themselves close to lincoln in the know offer up some conflicting perspectives on this, but, again, about the question of whether really lincoln was deeply involved in the choice of johnson or just exceeded to it without having thought much about it, there's evidence to support both points of view. yes, sir. >> how did mcclellan reconcile his war democrat views with the peace platform of the democratic party of the 1864? >> that's a great question, one i'm sure we'll return to in many different contexts. and the short answer in a sense is that he wasn't able to fully
reconcile them and that this tension or contradiction hung in the air throughout this campaign. in a sense, i think some democrats hoped that it would help it would mean they could appeal both to those who were war democrats and to those who were peace democrats and wouldn't be the first time a party sent mixed messages in the hope of creating a tent. he is ultimately a soldier and what he objected to about the platform was less that it counted the negotiations than declared the war a failure. he had profound things with lincoln, but the idea that the soldiers would be blamed for having failed. a soldier that prided himself on putting the well being of his men above all other considerations. that war failure narrative was
unacceptable. sir, there, first. >> say he declined the nomination of vice president? who would have been second? also, lincoln was even concerned about getting assassinated before he became president. why did he so totally let the convention decide who would be the vehicle. again, there's some question about how involved he was. there is speculation of who else was on the list. we will never know definitively. there was speculation he talked to ben butler about this. he would have had the same problems, disadvantages or more. there was some thought about whether you are going to reach out to that side of the spectrum. who would he turn to? i'm not sure there's a clear answer to that question.
i think that -- i do think, though, that lincoln had decided that appealing to this middle part of the political spectrum was his first priority so, he would have picked someone else who could do that, a moderate. the context for lincoln's thinking here is, both immediate electoral calculations and concerns, but lincoln's long-standing resentment of having been charged with radicalism. the republican party was charged with radicalism and lincoln, more than any other republican had been the one to say we are not radicals or abolitionists. we invision a union that is whole, that becomes whole through a gradual process of evolution, voluntary demise of slavery in line with the wishes of the founders who had wished for slavery's demise.
lincoln tried to shore up the case that his party is fundamentally conservative in the sense that it's the party that em bodies the wishes of the founders. time and time again, he has tried to reject and discredit claims that he is a radical and so this choice of the union party designation is part of that work. as my college at uva argued in his book called the union war, that designation of the union party is no accident. that's very much a matter of careful calculation, too. it reflects the fact that the vast majority, the war was about the union. it was a means to the end of restoring the union. so many hands. yes, ma'am. yes. >> is there any indication that
the confederate military, either the common soldier or leaders were involved in either of the camps, the davis camp and the stephens camp? >> sure, if we look at the letters and diaries of the confederate soldiers, they followed the election carefully. we see that spectrum and the mental acrobatics. some believe very, very ar dantly that his election would be best. others felt it didn't make sense to put money in a northern party. others, their opinions changed based on battlefield fortunes and their morality at the moment. we do know, just let me give you the example of lee. a question for scholars is why did the confederates think they could begin the war to begin
with? couldn't they crunch the numbers? the north had more of everything armies need. the answer is complex, but on the part of men like lee, the key hope was that a revolution in northern public opinion, divisions in the north asserting themselves, mainstream northerners coming to their senses throwing off the yolk, this sort of thing. this was central to lee's reasoning about how the confederates would win the war. so, for someone like lee, the loss in the election of 1864 was demoralizing. they saw the hope of division in the north recede. it comes to the question of quality of leadership on both sides in the sense that those confederate that is hoped the devisions under estimated
lincoln and his ability to describe to the northern public in a way that was compelling what they were fighting for. he proved better at that than davis did. my quos hinted the fact that in his arsenal they were not fighting fair, were horrible and barbaric, there was no turning back. this is the theme davis relentlessly kept drumming at. it was not this sort of invocation of a positive goals, positive and transcend ent goals. yes. >> hard liners and davis emphasize more manpower for the confederate forces. up in canada, he had operations, secretly to influence thinking in the north.
that seems to play into what a very few authors writing about lincoln's assassination said about booth, that, in the fall of 1864 he, too, was in montreal meeting confederate agents, secretly. >> yeah. >> his plan was not to assassinate, originally, but to kidnap, exchange for con federal prisoners. i wonder if this activity from the south or from the confederacy from the election of 1864 somehow is wrapped up in the assassination story. >> well, there's a connection in the sense that there had always been a group of confederates that felt this sort of would be effective. among scholars, there's an opinion of how enthusiastic davis was about the schemes and how serious they were. i think i agree with william c.
davis, a scholar i quoted several times here. davis was ambivalent about the schemes, he didn't think they were central and secondly, the men involved in the plots, the canadian agents and so on were oftentimes improvising without orders from davis and were quite feckless. delusional may be putting it slightly too strongly. i think that there's a connection in that there's this long fascination with the possibility of infiltration, fwu confederates don't have the means or the men or the will to really do it and they find, again and again, when they do try to foam at discontent in the north that -- that the imagined anti-war, northern tide that
they hoped to conger into. they are forced to conclude that much of this expectation of northern revolt is missing the public opinion. yes. sir. >> let's back up a bit. eight months before the election was the kilpatrick raid and the fuss over that lasted a few months. it wasn't until after that that the confederacy sent the agents to canada. so, would you like to comment on what -- >> the raid is another one of those topics that is shrouded in uncertainty. so, dahlgren, young, union hot head leads a raid or that's how
he'll be perceived on both sides, leads a raid on the confederates. the exact purpose of the raid is not clear, he's killed and the confederates claimed to find papers suggesting his mission was to assassinate davis and infiltrate the confederacy. they, in their anger at this, at this discovery, they mutilate dahlgren's body and give him a dog's burial in an unmarked grave and it becomes a cause. this shows the yankees are not fighting fair and how barbaric to contemplate assassination. now, from the very start, there was dispute about whether those orders found on his person were legitimate or fabricated. i can't help but take the
opportunity to note that this becomes wrapped up in the activity of the unionist underground to talk about southern unionism. unionists in richmond disearned the location of dahlgren's body. they have him disintered and moved to the farm of a unionist in virginia where he's given a proper burial surrounded by family and friends. well wishers and friends, the controversy boils on. dahlgren's father, a union admiral and eminent fellow asked the confederate government if they could return the body of his son to them. he begs. they so no, finally they relent and say we will give his body back. they find his body isn't there. the unionists have moved it.
this is one of many sign that is the confederate government has that there's a unionist underground in richmond that defined them, but they can't seem to catch. it speaks at the fact there's these questions that are at work on both sides. the union espionage are poor and feckless. by the end of the war, the union espionage machine is working well and the confederates are wringing their hands, particularly because of the symbolism of this great resurrection of the this slain union soldier. any other questions? that will be the last one. thank you so much. [ applause ]