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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  November 28, 2014 11:00pm-12:03am EST

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and take their jobs. they're going to undercut them financially and take their jobs. and so there are multiple reasons for them not to be supporting this war effort or the republicans, and in many cases, though not all cases, they don't. anything else? okay. thank you. you're watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook on c-span history. abraham lincoln won reelection over mcclel lan in 1864 with 74% of the soldier book. some say lincoln's strong support from soldiers indicate the troops agree with lincoln's
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emancipation. next, jonathan white oargues tht is not necessarily the case. changes in the military command structure helped engender overwhelming numbers in favor of lincoln. this is part after symposium on the 1864 symposium hosted on the lincoln group of d.c. well, you're in for a treat. jonathan white, assistant professor of american studies at christopher newport university has written several books and several articles, and i've heard him talk on the treason in the civil war about merriman. in fact, last night i watched him on c-span going over with his class this topic. it was really fun. it was neat to see how he interacted with the students and brought out in them a different
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opinion of what they had when they first came in, how they learned something from the discussion. and it was fun. and in particular, one of the questions one of the girls asked, with all the interests in merriman's rights, what about the gross treason of the whole situation? it seems like we're looking at a little tiny speck, and the whole civil war was treason. so how he dealt with that was pretty good. and he has another book out -- that's this book. and he has another book out, the one he's going to be talking about today, and i'm looking forward to hearing about it. i haven't read it yet. the first book is "treason, abraham lincoln and treason in the civil war." it's about the merriman trial, and about what he did. the one thing i saw different in that than a lot of the books i've read, it really approached it from two sides. it approached it from a social side and a legal side. and it's easy to just get kind
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of hung up on one or the other. so we have both these books out front if anybody -- thank you. >> you know, i remember doing that class on c-span, and i remember that question, and the question essentially was, is secession really unconstitutional, is it treason? i was nervous being on c-span for the first time, i always get a little nervous going on c-span. i thought, there is no way i'm going to tackle this question on national television. i managed some sort of answer to get myself out of having to answer it, but i went up to my student maddie afterwards and said, good question, but sorry i couldn't answer it on tv. i'm really happy to be here. thank you to karen for inviting me.
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thank you to the lincoln -- yes, please give her a round of applause. i've hosted events like this before and i know how exhausting it is. before i got to seeing you, i had a full head of hair, then i hosted three conferences, and you can see the effect of it on me. thank you also to the lincoln group of d.c. for having me. i'm actually thrilled to be in this very courtroom. i used to work for the federal courts before i got a job as a professor, and i was researching a man named william merrick about 10 years ago, and that was the last time i was in this court. merrick was a federal judge in d.c., and william seward, the secretary of state, had merrick placed on house arrest in 1961 because merrick was issuing writs of habeas corpus to get certain soldiers out of the army and it was hurting the war effort. if you look up there, you see the oval portrait? that's judge merrick. so spent a lot of time thinking about that guy over the years, and now i get to stand in his shadow.
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by the time of 1864, the republicans had actually -- you know, federal judges get life tenure. the only way to get rid of a federal judge is for them to pass away or impeach them, or if you abolish the court they sit on. so the republicans in congress thought, we want to get rid of this guy but he hasn't done anything impeachable. they abolished the court he sat on, they created a brand-new court. lincoln signed it into law and they appointed four new judges. that court was known as the supreme court of d.c., but that court is the forebearer of the u.s. district court for the district of columbia in whose ceremonial courtroom we're sitting today. thank you, judge merrick, anyway. i want to talk about the election of 1864, and i think the election of 1864 is really the most important election in american history for two reasons. one is it sealed the doom of the confederacy, and the other is that it set the stage for the ultimate destruction of slavery.
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but i think that the election has been largely misunderstood. on november 8, 1864, americans throughout the north and border states, soldiers and civilians, cast ballots for abraham lincoln and he won by a landslide. he carried 212 electoral votes to mcclellan's 21. he won 55% of the popular vote and he carried 78% of the soldier vote in that election, and that statistic, the 78%, is the one i'm going to focus most of my attention on today. now, historians usually interpret this number, 78% of the soldier vote for lincoln, as evidence that the soldiers had become lincoln-supporting, emancipation-supporting republicans. in his book for causing comrades, james mcpherson said this. when lincoln ran for re-election on the platform of constitutional amendment to abolish slavery, he received almost 80% of the soldier vote, a pretty fair indication of army sentiment on slavery at that time. and more locally, georgetown university professor shander
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manning, like mcpherson, points to the statistic. she said when union soldiers voted in 1864, nearly 80% of them cast their ballots for lincoln. for her this demonstrates that they, quote, believe that lincoln shared their vision of the war's cause and purpose. now, these various esteemed scholars believed union soldiers were consistent in their support for lincoln throughout the campaign. writes mcpherson, quote, having won the military victory that turned the war around, these citizens in uniform prepared to give old abe as they affectionately called their commander in chief a thumping endorsement at the polls. and mcpherson's wonderful student, jennifer weber, in an essay she published in honor of her mentor, she says this. when union soldiers' support for lincoln and the republicans never wavered, even in the dark days of 1864. she writes when lincoln's
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political fortune stood at their lowest point, his supporters in the ranks were a crucial support of political sustenance. i think this is a nice sounding story that everyone turned against lincoln, but the soldiers were there supporting him. but i think it needs to be complicated a little bit. and in order to do that, i need to take us back to the very beginning of the civil war and look at how lincoln and the republican party dealt with the issues of emancipation and the troops. now, many scholars believe that many soldiers came to support emancipation as a result of their interaction with slaves. they went south, they saw slaves for the first time and that influenced the way they thought about southern slaves. and scholars would adhere to a theory called the self-emancipation thesis believed that the slaves taught the union soldiers that they needed to free the slaves and that eventually this lesson worked its way up the chain of command until eventually the soldiers taught their officers who taught congress who taught lincoln that he needed to free
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the slaves. according to people like manning, shander manning, the soldiers learned this lesson in 1861 and it's a long time until lincoln figures it out. i think there is some truth to the view that union soldiers came to oppose slavery as a result of interacting with slaves. i've certainly seen evidence for that in my research. but i think it's only part of the truth. and if, indeed, soldiers did come to support emancipation, i think it happened in a much more complicated way. in fact, my contention today is that there was a concerted effort from the top down by republicans in congress, in the lincoln administration, and in the war department in particular to teach the union soldiers that they needed to fight in a war for emancipation. emancipation, in other words, was much more of a top down
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process in my view than a bottom up one. to sort of set the stage, i want to start with what is a fairly famous incident. in october 1861, there was a battle not far from here near leesburg, virginia that is now a state park. if you're looking for a nice day to go for a hike, go to balls bluff. in the midst of the battle, a famous officer, general d. baker, was killed. this was a very important casualty. not only was baker a general but he was also a u.s. senator, and he was also a personal friend of abraham lincoln's. so union authorities wanted to look for a scapegoat for this defeat, and the scapegoat that they chose was charles p. stone who you see pictured on the top right of this slide. now, stone was a pro-slavery
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democrat. he was also a union general. during the time of this battle, stone returned two fugitive slaves to their master. for this action stone was chosen as the scapegoat. on the floor of the u.s. senate, he chastised stone for not freeing the slaves. some referred to his actions as vile and unconstitutional, outrage, indignity, abuse and an act unworthy of our national flag. now, stone replied in good 19th century fashion by challenging sumner to a duel. the duel never took place, but instead republicans and congress decided that they would use their powerful political influence to go after stone's personal reputation and military career. stone was hauled before the congressional committee on the conduct of the war, but neither he nor his lawyers were told why he had been brought in. and on the committee's recommendation, he was arrested by secretary of war edmond stanton's order and sent to fort lafayette in hamilton and new york harbor where he was imprisoned for six months. a newspaper howled with glee.
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one newspaper reported, his punishment must be prompt. whether that punishment is military disgrace or a death that a traitor should have. think about that for a moment. here is a guy in uniform fighting against traitors in arms, but simply because he's not anti-slavery, the republican newspaper will say he should be executed for what he had done, which was perfectly legal, by the way, in october 1861. now, this incident took place in 1861, more than a year before lincoln issued his emancipation proclamation. but it set a stage for -- it was an early precedent for how anti-emancipation officers would be dealt with for the duration of the civil war, in particular
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after lincoln issued his famous emancipation proclamation. now, following the issue of the emancipation proclamation, on january 1st, 1863, the union high command mounted a concerted effort to find and remove anti-emancipation officers from the army. in february 1863, general ulysses s. grant established a board of examiners to remove these loyal officers from the army. and the president of the board is the man i have highlighted here in red, thomas bennett of the volunteers. bennett wrote a letter to the general of his state to describe the work his board is doing. it's a very colorful letter, i'll give you a little bit of it. he said, we are having a good time. we will give the army a good purge and a healthy puke of copperheads. they're to be kicked out. he underlined purge and puke. once this, quote, of weeding out
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the internal scoundrels will the army be purified. work like that done by bennett's board was actually accomplished in the union armies throughout the nation. dozens of army officers were dismissed by saying bad things about lincoln or the emancipation or about soldiers. i'll give you a few examples. here are charles j. whiting and major howler. whiting was in the 7th calvary, and he was dismissed for saying that lincoln's emancipation policy was dividing the north and uniting the south. he also says lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was unconstitutional and was dismissed. howler went a little bit further. they were having a party at some point, and howler proposed a toast. he said, here's to separate union and confederate countries while lincoln is president. and for that he was dismissed. but he was really saying, once the republicans are out of power, then we'll reunite.
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which, as we've heard earlier, was wishful thinking. alexander montgomery, a quarter master in pittsburgh, pennsylvania was summarily dismissed from the army in 1863 for saying, quote, president lincoln ought to have his heart cut out for issuing the proclamation of emancipation. in one instance i saw a postal error that led to a dismissal. there was an officer in the 42nd new york infantry named john garland. garland had a friend who was an anglican missionary in china. he wanted to send a letter to his friend. puts 36 cents on the letter. it turned out it took 90 cents to get a letter to shanghai in 1863. the postal employees opened up this letter to see -- there is no return address label on the front, they want to see who do we send this letter back to. they opened the letter and it
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was full of disloyal and anti-emancipation content. so instead of returning the letter to garland, they promptly arrested him. i'll give you a sense of what he said. he blasted the lincoln emancipation proclamation as unconstitutional and unjust. and he proclaimed -- and i'm going to censor the n word here, and i'm going to do that throughout the talk actually -- that the administration have at last shown their hand and that their principles and their hearts are blacker than the negro they're fighting for. garland was promptly sent out of the army and out of military lines. so far the cases i've given you have all been sudden dismissals of officers, but some of these guys were court-martialed, so i'll give you some examples of these. there was the ordinance sergeant right here in washington, d.c.
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who was court-martialed and dishonorably dismissed from the army saying, quote, that he would no longer fight for a black republican and negro war, and that lincoln and this administration in this rotten hole, meaning washington -- people have always looked badly on washington -- this rotten hole ought to be blowed to hell. in a similar vein, lieutenant f.m. hiatt was dishonorably dismissed for saying he wished washington could drive abe and the damn abolitionists out. lieutenant aaron wagner of the 5th indiana cavalry was court-martialed, cashiers and barred from ever holding a federal office ever again for saying, quote, this is nothing but an abolition war, we are fighting to free the negros. military authorities really had no patience when officers said this sort of thing in front of their soldiers. this is my favorite, and i did run this by c-span.
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they gave me the go-ahead to give this quote. well, i didn't today, i did it once before. i thought i was going to get in trouble for this. captain john gibson of the 114th illinois, was court martialed and dismissed in 1863 for saying he would rather sink to hell than fight to free the god damn negros and abe lincoln is a god in hindsight, you pick a title for a book and you realize you picked a bad title. if i had used that as the title for my book, old abe lincoln is a god damn old shit, i think i would have had a best seller. just a few more. an illinois surgeon was court martialed in 1863 for saying lincoln was, quote, attempting to raise a degraded race on inequality with the superior race. and sergeant howard fitzsimons of the 3rd missouri cavalry was court martialed for saying, quote, the army of the united states was engaged only to free the negros, and rather than do that for my part, the union
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might go to hell. this guy was found guilty by court martial, he was sentenced to be reduced to the ranks. and in front of all of his regiment they would cut off his stripes, so this is a very publicly humiliating action. they would do this at press parade and they would read his sentence in front of a thousand men at his regiment to make sure no one else acted alike. one more of these cases. private phillip curlin of the 11th iowa volunteers was court-martialed in february of 1863, a month after the emancipation proclamation for saying in front of his company that, quote, the president of the united states is an abolition son of a bitch and i would like to shoot him. curlin, in his trial, is right over the national archives, and it's kind of funny to read because he pleads not guilty, and he says, i don't think i said that.
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i don't have any recollection of saying anything like that. you would think you would remember if you did. but the court found him guilty and here is his sentence. curlin was sentenced to, quote, walk the beat with the sentinel at the regimental guard house every alternate two hours for 30 days with 25 pounds in weight strapped on his back, and a placard on his breast with the words, in letters three inches long, quote, violation of the fifth article of war. and to forfeit all pay and allowances for the next six months. surely curlin got the punishment he deserved, you can't threaten to shoot the president. but he sensed that the sentiment against emancipation will not be tolerated and others must think carefully before they speak in a similar manner. the public nature of these punishments had their desired effects. another soldier from iowa in a
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completely different regimen wrote in his diary, he said, quote, one man in the 11th iowa was court martialed for cussing the name of the president of the united states, calling him a -- son of a bitch and a black abolitionist. he now has to carry a 20-pound ball two hours a day. that other soldier actually got the punishment wrong. it was actually 25 pounds, and i'm sure that makes a difference, and it wasn't two hours a day, it was two hours on, two hours off, two hours on, two hours off, from revelry to retreat. but the point is everyone in the brigade knew exactly what curlin had said and they could comprehend the severity of his punishment. they saw him walking around, like the guy you see in this slide here, and the punishment was meant to send a message to other soldiers who might be considering speaking out against emancipation as well. it became important to union military leaders that these punishments be not only punitive
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but also preventive. now, the point of these examples, and i have a lot more in my book, is to show that during the winter and spring and summer of 1863, lincoln and his commanders sought to teach the union soldiers that they needed to fight in a war for emancipation and that this was a top down process. one other thing i'll say about 1863 before turning to the reason for this symposium, 1864, is to say many democrats in the army resigned their offices, and soldiers deserted rather than than fight a war of emancipation. in a very real way, these men voted with their feet before the presidential election of 1864. now, back to this 78% statistic. we have to first realize that with the material this presented, the composition of
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the army changes a bit from 1863 to 1864. there are fewer democrats in the army by the time of the election of 1864. now, let me transition to the candidates and what goes on during the election, and i hope what i've said so far can serve as a backdrop to the election of 1864. we've already heard about the candidates, so i'm going to recap a couple of things about the democrats. the democrats had been planning to have their convention in 1864. what better day to have it than the fourth of july. but the war was going badly for another union in the summer of 1864. so they thought, maybe we should wait and see if things get much worse, then we'll have our nominating convention. so they delayed and postponed until the end of august 1864. as we already heard, they nominated george mcclellan for president and george h. pendleton for vice president. mcclellan had been very popular among the soldiers at the beginning of the war.
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he was the commander of the army in 1862 and the soldiers loved him. he was pro slavery, but he was also pro war. and so the democrats saw him as sort of a moderate pro war candidate. and they wanted to balance their ticket, so they picked george pendleton for vice president. and pendleton, as we've heard, was a copperhead from ohio, he was stridently anti-war. what the democrats thought they were doing was balancing their ticket. we're going to have a pro-war candidate for president, we're going to have a pro anti-war vice president, we're going to have a balance, a broad appeal. then as we also heard, they made one very fateful error in their platform. they called the war a failure. and this decidedly anti-war term would come back to haunt them, because as we've also heard already, the very next day after they adjourned, sherman captured atlanta, and this very military event sent a thrill through the north.
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from that time forward, i think most observers in the north realized that lincoln was going to win the election. in the meantime during 1862, '63 and '64, 19 northern states passed laws that enfranchised their soldiers to vote away from home. and this was a pretty remarkable feat in american political history. if you'll allow me to just take a personal note here, i actually began this part of my research when i was an undergrad at penn state. it was the fall of 2000, and the election bush versus gore was going on, and i say it was going on because it lasted quite a while. during that time i was taking a course with mark nealy, who is one of the most important civil war historians alive. they called the war a failure. and this decidedly anti-war term would come back to haunt them, because as we've also heard already, the very next day after they adjourned, sherman captured atlanta, and this very military event sent a thrill through the north. from that time forward, i think most observers in the north realized that lincoln was going to win the election. in the meantime during 1862, '63 and '64, 19 northern states
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passed laws that enfranchised their soldiers to vote away from home. and this was a pretty remarkable feat in american political history. if you'll allow me to just take a personal note here, i actually began this part of my research when i was an undergrad at penn state. it was the fall of 2000, and the election bush versus gore was going on, and i say it was going on because it lasted quite a while. during that time i was taking a course with mark nealy, who is one of the most important civil war historians alive. i wanted to do an independent study with mark, and he said, sure, but we had to come up with a viable topic. i proposed a topic to him, and he said, no, that's not a good topic. the next week he had three topics written down. one was the soldier vote of 1864. this was something that was ripe for historical inquiry. so i started this project the spring semester of my senior year at penn state. i didn't know at the time that mark was planning to write his own material on the election of 1864, but he instead very graciously gave the subject to me, and now 14 years later, i finally finished the book, and i was thrilled to be able to dedicate it to him. that's the dedication that's pulled out of the front of the book. well, at any rate, i mentioned at the beginning of my talk 78% of the soldiers voted for lincoln. and historians have generally believed that this statistic is evidence of the soldiers' support for emancipation, and i
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read some quotes earlier. on the surface it seems kind of obvious. if almost 80% of the soldiers voted for something, you would think it was pretty clear he was voting for lincoln and emancipation. but they were missing very important parts of the election. i can only briefly summarize my findings here, but the main thrust of my book was to show democrats of the army were intimidated and coerced into silence throughout much of the war, beginning with the post emancipation proclamation era and continuing through the election campaign of 1864, and this was the lincoln administration trying to teach the soldiers that they needed to support emancipation, and then by 1864, also vote for lincoln, or at least not campaign against him. now, assistant secretary of war charles dana remembered years after the election that, quote,
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all the power and influence of the war department was employed to secure the re-election of mr. lincoln. and dana's recollection can be pretty well substantiated by evidence from the election time itself. secretary of war edmond m. stanton made very little effort to hide the partisanship behind the decisions that he made, and so, for instance, when he learned that one of his quarter master clerks was betting against oliver morton, the gubernatorial incumbent, he said, i boosted him to captain you write a book and find a great quote when it is out. i published that in my book and wanted to bring it out today. democrats saw these sorts of actions, and they believed stanton was doing these sorts of things to try to influence the army vote. and influence is a word i've seen from several accordance. and many democrat officers
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learned they needed to keep quiet during the election rather than speak out publicly what their positions were. mr. colonel durbin ward here, he wrote a letter marked confidential where he claimed to be, quote, driven to be cautious because publicly speaking my opinions might cost me my commission. now, ward's concerns were not that far-fetched. stanton dismissed dozens of officers in the union army in the months leading up to the presidential election, with at least two of these dismissals targeting multiple democrats at once. when senator edmond d. morgan of new york informed stanton there were a number of quarter master clerks he wanted for president, he dismissed 20 of them. then one complained to the secretary of war and said, i wanty job back and stanton replied, when a young man receives his pay from the administration and spends his evenings denouncing it in
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offensive terms, he cannot be surprised if the administration prefers a friend on the job. we do have to keep in mind this is pre civil service. after i published my book, i actually discovered in another book another mass dismissal at the brooklyn navy yard. a massachusetts artilleryist related similarly to durbin ward. he wrote home and said, if i voice my political opinions, quote, i might be called a copperhead and perhaps a poor cuss like me might get shot. other forms of intimidation took place as well. there were a number of soldiers who were stationed up at west point, and they went to a pro-mcclellan rally around september of 1864. when they got back, they were promptly arrested and thrown into the guard house, and the very next day, they were made to
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dig the drainage ditch for the superintendent's water closet. that was their punishment for going to a campaign rally whereas lincoln soldiers received no such punishment. and a number of soldiers were court-martialed for using unsavory anti-lincoln or anti-emancipation speech during the election campaign. i'll give you a few examples of some of these. edwin b. austin, of the 54th new york engineers, was court martialed and dismissed from the army in september 1864 for saying, he would, quote, stamp lincoln finer than hell, and if by giving my vote for abe lincoln i could save the government, i would be damned if i would give it. and a missouri artillery man of alabama was court-martialed for saying lincoln is a son of a bitch. that was the day right after the election. there was an officer from indiana, as you can see here, lieutenant edwin maffy of the 81st indiana volunteers and he was court-martialed for saying during the campaign, quote, the emancipation proclamation is in direct violation of the constitution.
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so he's still bitter a year and a half later. now, these guys and others like them were court martialed, i believe, to teach other soldiers around them not to speak out in the same way. now, some of the most egregious political favoritism during the election campaign had to do with furloughs. i just realized -- one second. my page is stuck together. had to do with furloughs. not all states had permitted soldiers to vote. only 19 of the northern states had passed legislation permitting them to vote, so some northern states approached the lincoln administration about getting soldiers to be sent home to vote. governor morton of indiana sent letters to both lincoln and secretary of war edmond stanton on october 12, 1864, asking for extended furloughs for any soldiers who had been wounded. remember, they might be ready to go back to the army, but morton
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said can we keep them in indiana a little bit longer so they can vote. the governor of delaware was even more forthright. he sent stanton a telegram saying, if we don't allow the soldiers to come back to delaware, the republicans are going to lose this election. and doctors in the army were even known to recommend extending furloughs for soldiers for this very reason. i found a physician from indiana who wrote about one particular wounded soldier, and he said, quote, his vote will be of as much or more value in the presidential election in it state than the service he might otherwise render the government. in other words, his ballots are much more important than his bullets. now, officers throughout the union armies granted these furloughs for republican soldiers to go home to vote while democrats were kept in the field, and i found evidence of this sort of thing in many states throughout the north. a pennsylvania election commissioner, for example, reported that, quote, the democrats were threatened to be sent to the front if they voted. while an illinois soldier noted that his regimen was polled, quote, to see how many would vote for lincoln if they got a
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chance to go home. now, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of these soldiers. a furlough was a huge inducement. some of these soldiers hadn't seen their wives and children for years. some of these soldiers had children who they never met because they were delivered after they left for the army. and so being able to go home and vote was a tremendous gift. and some soldiers were willing to sacrifice their political principles in order to get a furlough home to vote. i found a new hampshire sharpshooter who wrote to his brother. he said, i shall be as black as the darkie to get a furlough home to vote. that's an illusion referring to the republican ticket as the black republican party. but not all soldiers could be bought off. new jersey, for example, did not enfranchise their soldiers, and i found a new jersey soldier who wrote to a friend. he was angry, and he said, i
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suppose i might have gotten home if i had said i would vote for old abe, but never. i would sooner stay here another year than come home and vote for him. now, for those soldiers who did vote in the field, democratic soldiers often claim that it was very difficult to vote the democratic ticket. and many complained that they got no democratic newspapers or campaign literature or that it was difficult to find ballots. in fact, one democratic officer from ohio was court martialed for distributing democratic newspapers in his camp. and, in fact, just last month, i found a letter -- you find these things after you publish a book -- i found a letter of an ohio politician. he said, i sent a whole bundle of campaign literature to the ohio regiments, but they were sent back still sealed and the officers of the regiment, he said, had written insulting things on the package, and i wish i knew what those insulting things were, but that's lost to history. now, this sort of testimony is corroborated by evidence from the soldiers themselves. when private rufus miller of the
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75th ohio infantry was on election day looking for a democratic ballot, he couldn't find any in his camp. and he got angry and he exclaimed, i would rather vote for jeff davis than lincoln. them is my sentiments, by god. just for that angry exclamation, he was sentenced -- or he was court martialed. a new york soldier similarly groused, quote, such mean contemptible favoritism or partisanship is shown for lincoln that hundreds of soldiers have been literally prescribed from voting because they can't get mcclellan ballots. in other words, stanton's tactic to influence the army vote had been somewhat effective. now, this is a political cartoon, and i know you won't be able to make out the words from where you're sitting, but with all of its racist undertones notwithstanding, it captures the
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way many democrats viewed the election of 1864. to them this was an election about elevating an inferior race above a superior race, and you can see here a noble democratic soldier who lost a leg in battle being deprived of his right to vote by a slavenly caricature soldier. this, from the democrat's point of view, was the republicans control the army and operations of the government. and so they saw themselves as being disenfranchised during this election. historians often point out that lincoln won 78% of the soldier vote. but i don't think they've offered a satisfactory explanation of what that statistic means. certainly, many soldiers supported lincoln and supported emancipation and supported his re-election, there is no doubt about that. but i don't think the support was as universal or as consistent as most scholars think, and for that reason, i
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think the 78% statistic can be a little bit deceiving. clearly, as i think i've shown, some soldiers were intimidated or coerced into voting for lincoln. of equal, or maybe even greater importance, though, is understanding soldiers who chose not to vote. i believe that many democratic soldiers in 1864 chose not to vote for either party because they looked at lincoln and they said he was an abolitionist, and they looked at the democrats and they saw them as disloyal. after all, the democrats had called their effort in the field a failure. so voter turnout among the soldiers is something that historians have never really taken seriously, but i think it can reveal a great deal about what the election meant. i found a corporal from michigan. his name was george buck. he was in the 20th michigan of volunteers and he sent mcclellan a letter explaining what had taken place in his particular regiment. he claimed the power of the military had been used, he said, without stint to keep officers
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from voting democratic. while democrats were, quote, reduced to the ranks or a place in the front in every engagement if they chose to vote democratic. we've seen that threat come from stanton's own mouth. buck said he knew of hundreds of soldiers who, quote, voted for lincoln under protest and hundreds more who did not vote at all. he implied that those hundreds more were democrats. as evidence, buck pointed out that in his regiment, there were more than 300 men who were qualified to vote, but only 188 ballots were cast. and based on my research, i think that somewhere just under 60% of the union soldiers who were qualified to vote actually voted for lincoln, which is significantly less than the 78% or 80% statistic that's usually thrown out there. now, the complaint about stanton's actions during the campaign did not only come from democrats. and here is a lincoln-supporting
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soldier who complained about the way democratic officers were treated during the election campaign. and he noted, quote, the petty tyranny and persecution which stanton practiced against subordinate officers. and he said, quote, any soldier who don't agree with the administration must be got rid of, no matter how honorably that soldier had served his country. and he said, you would scarcely credit the number of such cases as this, cases of petty spite rather fitting a bad-tempered child than a great and dignified cabinet member, in that case referring to stanton. now, unlike the experience of democratic soldiers, it was much easier to vote the republican ticket in the field. i found a number of instances of minors who were allowed to vote because they were willing to vote republican. the most interesting one i found, though, involved a group of confederates.
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they had captured four union soldiers. they forced the union soldiers to take off their blue uniforms. they put on the blue uniforms. they took their soldier lincoln's ballots and they proudly marched into a union camp and cast their ballots for lincoln. they were never forced to take an oh an oath before voting, and one said, quote, of course no one could object to us for voting for lincoln. all this suggests, i think, that there was a great amount of pressure, and in some cases, even coercion for soldiers to toe the republican line. i found a soldier in massachusetts who was a democrat who wrote home to his parents and said this. if i was a civilian, i would say what i thought about it, meaning the election. but at present, i think i better keep silent. so what is the meaning of all of this? first, i don't think that the intimidation and coercion is
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what carried the election or the soldier vote for lincoln. this morning i had a piece come out in the "new york times" union blog, and i knew this piece would provoke a lot of comments. i didn't pick the title for this piece, the times did, and they used the title how lincoln won the soldier vote. some said it is misleading. this is not how lincoln won the soldier vote, but i do think it's an important component in understanding how the election of 1864 took place. it was a mostly free vote, but it was not an entirely free vote. and i think that understanding this can broaden our understanding of both politics during the civil war and also questions of civil liberties and war time. these were citizen soldiers and it can help us understand that civil liberties issues don't simply pertain to civilians but they can also pertain to soldiers. second, i don't think the soldiers' support in the lead-up to the election was nearly as universal or thumping as most
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historians have assumed. and this is where i differ with professor weber. and i can only very briefly summarize my arguments here. i lay them out much more fully in the book. but i think the reality is that soldiers wavered in the months leading up to the election. some of them supported lincoln for a time, then turned against him and went back. they were depressed when the war was going badly, and i think just like voters at home, they felt the highs and lows of the national mood. in my research for this book, i read hundreds of collections of soldiers' letters, and i was astounded by how many just said, i'm not going to vote this fall. and that was before the fall of atlanta. they just didn't think it was worth their time. for many of them, even, i found people who had to be persuaded by their family at home. we all know there is lots of accounts of soldiers telling their friends and family at home, you got to vote for lincoln. nobody has ever looked for the reverse but the reverse is there.
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one incident in particular that i love is this michigan soldier named mac ewing. this fellow voted for lincoln in 1860, and in the summer of 1864, he writes home to his wife and says, i would be ready to support vandingham at this point. the war is going so badly. and his wife, her letter doesn't survive. she wrote back and said, what's wrong with you? you have to vote for lincoln. and finally a few weeks before the election of 1864, he writes back and says, yes, you're right, i'll vote for lincoln. so my thesis or theory is it's really the fall of atlanta that solidifies the soldier vote for lincoln. it's that that buoys them home and also soldiers in the field. and related to this point -- we cannot underestimate -- maybe i don't have the right slide. let me go one more. i forgot my lincoln slide. we can't underestimate the performance of the democratic
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platform in nominations in understanding soldier behavior in 1864. many soldiers wanted to vote for mcclellan, but they couldn't bring themselves to vote for ticket of a copperhead by. i found some that wrote home saying, i worry that mcclellan might get killed during service. then what happens? george pendleton and his friends will control the white house. so i think the democratic party pushed a lot of soldiers into either not voting or voting for lincoln. and ultimately, those soldiers who voted for lincoln were voting for him not because of his position on emancipation, necessarily, but because they believed that lincoln would restore the union. i don't get into this in my
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book, i wish i had. alan pointed this out in review of my book. it is something i thought about but never got into the research on, but this might help explain why white soldiers' support for reconstruction and black rights is not stronger than we wish it was. and it might be because they just weren't as supportive during the war as most scholar have maybe thought that they were. now, lest you think i'm negative on the lincoln administration or those sorts of things. i love abraham lincoln, by the way. let me mention two positive attributes of the soldier vote. here's the first one. permitting soldiers to vote in 1864 was a tremendous political innovation. never before had so many soldiers -- or so many voters been away from home during a national election. during the revolution, new york permitted some to vote in 1877. during the war of 1812, two states allowed soldiers to vote, pennsylvania and new jersey, but new jersey repealed its law by 1815. so when the civil war began, there was only one state that had a law on the books that permitted soldiers to vote. and the problem that pennsylvania ran into was there was a tremendous amount of
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fraud. in 1861, pennsylvania soldiers were allowed to vote in pennsylvania and virginia. and there was an immense amount of fraud. i found one regiment from philadelphia that cast a 900-vote majority on a candidate from philadelphia even though there were 100 men in the regiment in philadelphia. this law was challenged on a bipartisan basis, both republicans and democrats challenged the law in the legislature and in the state courts. by may of 1862, the supreme court had soldiers voting unconstitutional. but with so many millions of men away from home, many of them being qualified voters, the north began to realize, we've got to allow soldiers to vote. after all, they're fighting for the nation. how can we deprive them of the full rights of citizenship? so by the end of the war, you have 19 northern states that permit soldiers to vote. this is a tremendously important political innovation, and it sets the precedent for absentee
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balloting which becomes normal in the 20th century. and finally, the republican policy of permitting soldiers to vote had wide ranging implications. if voting is based on service to one's country, and 200,000 african-american men are fighting in the union army is, then surely they too deserve the right to vote. and i would submit to you today that the 14th and 15th amendments really become possible in large measure because the precedent was set during the civil war that those serving their country also deserved the right to wield the ballot. so with that, thank you so much. and i'm happy to entertain questions. >> i'm terrified.
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but michael, i'll let you go first. >> john, did you find any evidence that william cham ber lan had a pamphlet about voting in the field? >> yeah. chandler had a plamphlet that laid out state by site, that the government's opposed it even my sense is that chandler was encouraged by the lincoln administration to write the pamphlet. if you look at the history of voting legislation, it was bipartisanly imposed after the elections. if you look at newspapers in the wake of the election and then in the wick of the supreme court of pennsylvania striking down the law, both sides say, we can't allow soldiers to vote.
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they're not going to be free to think for themselves and we, i know, we can't afford to open up the ballot box to fraud. and what ends up happening is the democrats then in and a few states began a proesal allowing states to vote in 1862. mainly in the midwest. then in the election of 1862 comes around. as you know, republicans got trounced in that election. they lost the governorships of new jersey and new york and they lost a none of state legislators and a ton of seats in the house. and there's a letter that lincoln sent to carl shurz, in 1862, and lincoln says our friends are out fighting while the democrats are at home able to vote. and in 1862 enfranchising soldiers became an republican issue. so it is a bit disingenerous because it is partisan pamphlet.
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so you wouldn't expect it to say at first we don't have the right to vote. it is at the midpoint of the war that it becomes a republican issue. >> the states send registrars -- [ inaudible ] >> good question. how did the voting operate? some states do absentee voting wait we do. you fill out a ballot. put it in an envelope and mail it home. the most famous state to do that is new york. democrats, they didn't have their hands clean in the election of 1864. just north of here in baltimore, there were democratic state agents from new york who had been sent to baltimore to collect soldiers ballots and put them in envelopes and send them home. the raggal behind this is the ballots would be cast at home.
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so new york was able to pass the law, even though they didn't allow the voting. they were accused of making up names. it's been ten years since i looked that case but i think they got ten years or life in prison for stuffing the ballot boxes and democrats came to the white house in protest and said they didn't violate it in federal law, they violated the state of new york. and got them move need civil court. agents were picked up in d.c. as well. they ended up being acquitted by the tribunal. you send state agents to distribute ballots and you sn the them home.
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field so one of the first images i showed was of pennsylvania soldiers voting in the field. the by they do it, the way elections were run at home, they elect people to serve as poll watchers and poll officials to collect the ballot box. or ballots. they often today improvise. they didn't have ballot boxes. so for instance, the 28th pennsylvania volunteers used a cigar box to collect ballots. if you go to the pennsylvania state archives in harrisburg, pennsylvania, they still have a lot of these ballots. and you can tell the way they voted. all they did was she took pieces of paper, for vote mcclel lan or for lincoln and ripped them up into scarce, passed them out to voters. soldiers would walk down the company street to the headquarters and cast their votes in some sort of make-shift ballot box. yeah? >> so wasn't there some states
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where you today go home, this whole ush u issue of granting leave. i thought lincoln was liberal in granting leave -- >> yeah. in delaware and indiana, not all soldiers were committed to vote. with the exception of massachusetts they were democratically run states. if soldiers were to get home, if they were going to vote, they had to be granted a furlough so you had the governors of the states writing to lincoln. in some cases, lincoln also furloughed or i should say stanton furloughed states that did permit soldiers to vote if the field. they are concerned that pennsylvania would be very close. and they didn't want it to appear that the pennsylvania vote went for lincoln based on the soldier vote. and so there were several thousand pennsylvania soldiers who could have voted in the field but stanton furloughed them for appearances sake so their vote would count with voters at home and it would look like the home vote won the election, not the soldier vote.
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yeah? >> how do we know how the soldiers voted. >> for soldiers that voted by absentee ballot like new york soldiers, we don't know. if they were sent home and opened bay friend or family member, there was an official legal document that authorized that person to cast the ballot. and the ballot was cast as part of the home vote of so we don't know. but for soldiers who voted in the field, they kept tallies and sent them to secretaries of state. at lot of records are still in existence at state archives within the records of the secretary of state. so for instance, when i was an undergrad, penn state very generously give me $600 to spend a week at the california state archives. biant through all of the poll books or as many as i could in a week and can you see how the soldiers voted in each company and from each location where they were voting. the other place that the records
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survive, some regiments kept a record. a lot of soldiers wrote home and said it is this many for lincoln. this many for mcclellan. so they survive in correspondents. even in the official records of the war of the rebellion, that big 128-volume set, it lists for some regiments how it voted. >> what about the mind set of republican soldiers? evidence is suggested implicit when that it is not just pressure from on high but they were exerting pressure on each other and not forcing this notion there should be some added incentive to vote republican. so for those republican soldiers who exerted pressure, on behalf of voting, what might have motivated them? why would they feel it was justified to exert that kind of pressure? >> i think a lot of it for soldiers and for republicans,
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there is no doubt there are many republican soldiers who support emancipation and lincoln through the whole election. i don't deny that. for a lot of them, it's for the sake of the war. for the sake of the union. they believe lincoln's the guy to win the war. and that mcclellan wouldn't be able to do it because of what they say wo say is often kpt he kept. there is no doubt, tones of union soldiers who arardant for lincoln throughout and use their influence to write to newspapers. i found one guy who wrote a letter to his aunt. and he said, i'm going to do everything i can for lincoln. and he described a democrat coming in to distribute ballots and campaign literature. he describes in a letter to his aunt everything he did to scare this election commissioner away from the -- he said, we tolerated him as long as we could, then we got rid of him. you find some things where -- again, voter fraud is something
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that is just part of life in the 19th century. i think. and you find instances of republicans bragging that they voted multiple times. as professor weber mentioned earlier, the election of 1863 when in october 1863, vlamingham ran against gruff. i argue that they misunderstood that election. es with a democrat and bruff is a war democrat. so on the tickets, the republicans chose a democrat to run. and in that election, i found soldiers who write home and brag, i voted a number of ballots for bruff. that's not going to explain why they won the 5% of the vote. there wasn't all the soldiers. but i should point out the voter turnout amok soldiers was extraordinarily low. fewer than a third if i recall correctly of the ohio soldiers voted in that election. so again, you might have some
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who sit it out because they don't like the candidates. >> yeah. >> i'm curious, why when they were fighting, a war, would so many not vote by choice. >> i think in the 19th century, you know, today voter turnout is often low and it is become of apathy. or at least that's my view. i think in the 19th century, there was much broader idea of you can exercise your franchise but not voting. and for a lot of these soldiers, one of the phrasers that comes up a lot in the letters is the lesser of two evils. and you find these soldiers saying, do i vote for the abolitionist or for the traitors? i got to vote for the lesser two of evils. but for many, i think that they add serious idea of you exercise your franchise by not voting. so if you really can't bring yourself to vote for either candidate then you just choose not to vote. when you look at the election in the camps, never was it easier to vote.
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i mean, i'm going to make an embarrassing confession on national television here. i live in virginia. if you follow the polls before the election last week, it would look like it's an close election. there is a lot of construction going on on my street. the polling booth in my neighborhood is about 7/10 of a mile away.
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