A fresh look at the 1864 Soldiers' vote

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#1
I found this interview and discussion about voting patterns of Union soldiers in the 1864 election to be very interesting, and a few facts jumped out at me that contradict the notion that the vast majority of the army were solidly behind Lincoln. There was apparently more dissent than is commonly stated, and plenty of voter suppression.

Historians commonly claim that 80 percent of Union soldiers voted for Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, but Jonathan W. White, a professor of American Studies at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University, has delved into archives of soldiers’ letters and court-martial case files and found more nuanced support for the president. In his new book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln he presents evidence of widespread intimidation in favor of Lincoln as well as suppression of Democratic voters—though not enough to have swayed election results. Nonetheless, White notes that enfranchising soldiers in the field—granted by 19 Northern states during the war—marked a milestone in voter rights and helped expand the franchise in the United States.

What is new about your research?

Scholars often point out that 78 percent of the Army vote went for Lincoln, and they use that number to support claims that the soldiers had become Republicans by 1864. But the “78 percent” statistic is deceiving. Yes, of the soldiers who voted in the field, 78 percent voted for Lincoln. But that doesn’t take into account soldiers who chose not to vote, nor soldiers who had been intimidated into voting for Lincoln.

What did you find?

I estimate that at least 20 percent of the soldiers chose not to vote for either candidate in the presidential election of 1864—a conservative estimate. What is even more remarkable, though, is that historians have never systematically looked at how soldiers voted in the state and congressional elections in September and October 1864. Soldiers could vote in those elections, but very few chose to do so.

What makes that fact significant?

I think it reveals that soldiers in the field were not as tied to their political parties as the voters at home were. Democratic soldiers had come to doubt their party’s loyalty. The Democratic platform, after all, called the war a “failure.” Still, some Democratic soldiers were willing to vote for George McClellan because they believed he would restore the Union. But many chose not to vote in the various elections that fall.


Read the rest at http://www.historynet.com/fresh-look-1864-soldiers-vote-interview-jonathan-w-white.htm
 

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#2
You have also revised reenlistment rates for Union soldiers, right?

Scholars have widely varied in their estimates of the percentage of soldiers who chose to reenlist in November 1863–November 1864 when given the opportunity. Joseph Glatthaar wrote years ago that 6½ percent of the soldiers chose to reenlist. James McPherson says 50 percent chose to. I did a number of calculations, and I think it was actually about 15 percent of the soldiers. I think that’s significant; it says that 85 percent of the soldiers chose not to reenlist, and certainly some of those men would have chosen not to reenlist because of the changing nature of the war. Some men saw themselves as having enlisted to fight for the Union, and then having to fight for Emancipation. And not all were willing to do that.

Where did Stanton and Lincoln stand on this?

My sense is that Stanton was the prime mover in this push for intimidation leading up to the presidential election. I think Lincoln wanted a fair vote, but Stanton was more willing to wield the strong arm of the Executive Branch to bring people into line. For him this was perfectly logical: This is patronage politics. We’re going to get rid of people who don’t toe the party line.

Why is the soldier vote of 1864 important?

By the end of the war, 200,000 black men had fought in the Union Army, and they could make the claim that they deserved the right to vote in the same way that white solders had the right to vote during the war. That claim was acted upon in the 14th Amendment, which attempted to give black men the right to vote, and the 15th Amendment, which explicitly said you can’t deny the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. The soldier vote during the war set that precedent and led to a very important expansion of the franchise. This was also the first widespread instance of absentee voting in American history.
 

jgoodguy

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#3
Fellow was saying the same thing back in 2014 How Lincoln Won the Soldier Vote
One of the most notable aspects of the election was the participation of Union soldiers. Nineteen Northern states enacted legislation permitting soldiers to vote away from home. Unfortunately, taking the ballot to the battlefield opened up the door to fraud, intimidation and coercion. Several Democratic operatives in Baltimore, for example, were caught stuffing Democratic ballots into New York soldiers’ absentee voting envelopes.
The Republicans were no less intent on manipulating the soldier vote, and were far more successful in using their control of the government to ensure Lincoln’s victory. Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana remembered years later that “all the power and influence of the War Department … was employed to secure the re-election of Mr. Lincoln.” This was no overstatement. Dana’s recollections align with historical evidence from the campaign itself. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton used immense power to bring military voters into line, making sure that they voted for Lincoln — or kept their Democratic opinions to themselves. Stanton dismissed dozens of officers from the Union army in the months leading up to the election, with at least one dismissal targeting multiple Democrats at once: When Republican Senator Edwin D. Morgan of New York informed Stanton that a number of quartermaster clerks had endorsed Gen. George B. McClellan for president, Stanton dismissed 20 of them. When one of the clerks protested his dismissal, an unsympathetic Stanton replied, “When a young man receives his pay from an administration and spends his evenings denouncing it in offensive terms, he cannot be surprised if the administration prefers a friend on the job.
Other forms of intimidation took place as well. Soldiers who attended a Democratic meeting near West Point, for example, were “confined in the guard house on their return” and were subsequently made to dig the drain for the superintendent’s “water closet.” Soldiers who attended pro-Lincoln meetings, however, received no such punishment. In a few instances, soldiers were even court-martialed for expressing anti-Lincoln or anti-emancipation sentiments during the campaign.
 

jgoodguy

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How Lincoln Won the Soldier Vote
Historians often point out that Lincoln won 78 percent of the soldier vote in 1864, but they rarely scratch beneath the surface of that statistic. Clearly, some soldiers were intimidated or coerced into voting for Lincoln. Other Democrats in the army most likely crossed party lines because they believed Lincoln was the best candidate to restore the Union — but they did not necessarily endorse his positions on other political issues, like emancipation. And many others, like those in George Buck’s regiment, simply did not vote. Indeed, many Democratic soldiers abstained from voting in 1864 because they saw Lincoln as an “abolitionist,” while they viewed their own party as “disloyal” for calling the war a “failure” in its national platform
 

unionblue

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#5
I found this interview and discussion about voting patterns of Union soldiers in the 1864 election to be very interesting, and a few facts jumped out at me that contradict the notion that the vast majority of the army were solidly behind Lincoln. There was apparently more dissent than is commonly stated, and plenty of voter suppression.

Historians commonly claim that 80 percent of Union soldiers voted for Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election, but Jonathan W. White, a professor of American Studies at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University, has delved into archives of soldiers’ letters and court-martial case files and found more nuanced support for the president. In his new book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln he presents evidence of widespread intimidation in favor of Lincoln as well as suppression of Democratic voters—though not enough to have swayed election results. Nonetheless, White notes that enfranchising soldiers in the field—granted by 19 Northern states during the war—marked a milestone in voter rights and helped expand the franchise in the United States.

What is new about your research?

Scholars often point out that 78 percent of the Army vote went for Lincoln, and they use that number to support claims that the soldiers had become Republicans by 1864. But the “78 percent” statistic is deceiving. Yes, of the soldiers who voted in the field, 78 percent voted for Lincoln. But that doesn’t take into account soldiers who chose not to vote, nor soldiers who had been intimidated into voting for Lincoln.

What did you find?

I estimate that at least 20 percent of the soldiers chose not to vote for either candidate in the presidential election of 1864—a conservative estimate. What is even more remarkable, though, is that historians have never systematically looked at how soldiers voted in the state and congressional elections in September and October 1864. Soldiers could vote in those elections, but very few chose to do so.

What makes that fact significant?

I think it reveals that soldiers in the field were not as tied to their political parties as the voters at home were. Democratic soldiers had come to doubt their party’s loyalty. The Democratic platform, after all, called the war a “failure.” Still, some Democratic soldiers were willing to vote for George McClellan because they believed he would restore the Union. But many chose not to vote in the various elections that fall.


Read the rest at http://www.historynet.com/fresh-look-1864-soldiers-vote-interview-jonathan-w-white.htm
Andersonh1,

Thanks for this interesting bit of history.

It is much appreciated.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

jgoodguy

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#6
Mr. Lincoln and New York
Apparently ignoring Governor Seymour, Secretary of State Depew enlisted other assistance. New York political boss Thurlow Weed wrote Secretary of State William H. Seward in mid September: “Our Secretary of State is alarmed about the Soldiers Vote. The Law is loosely drawn, and he says that they can, with Democratic Inspectors here, work in any number of Fraudulent Votes. This must be looked to, and yet it may be irremediable.”15 Secretary of War Stanton wasn’t completely cooperative in these efforts, according to Depew
:
Of course, the first thing was to find out where the New York troops were, and for that purpose I went to Washington, remaining there for several months before the War Department would give me the information. The secretary of war was Edwin M. Stanton. It was perhaps fortunate that the secretary of war should not only possess extraordinary executive ability, but be also practically devoid of human weakness; that he should be a rigid disciplinarian and administer justice without mercy.
It was thought at the time that these qualities were necessary to counteract, as far as possible, the tender heartedness of President Lincoln. If the boy condemned to be shot, or his mother or father, could reach the president in time, he was never executed. The military authorities thought that this was a mistaken charity and weakened discipline. I was at a dinner after the war with a number of generals who had been in command of armies. The question was asked one of the most famous of these generals: “How did you carry out the sentences of your courts martial and escape Lincoln’s pardons?” The grim old warrior answered: “I shot them first.”
 

jgoodguy

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Mr. Lincoln and New York
I took my weary way every day to the War Department, but could get no results. The interviews were brief and disagreeable and the secretary of war very brusque. The time was getting short. I said to the secretary: “If the ballots are to be distributed in time I must have information at once.” He very angrily refused and said: “New York troops are in every army, all over the enemy’s territory. To state their location would be to give invaluable information to the enemy. How do I know if that information would be so safeguarded as not to get out?”
As I was walking down the long corridor, which was full of hurrying officers and soldiers returning from the field or departing for it, I met Elihu B. Washburne, who was a congressman from Illinois and an intimate friend of the president. He stopped me and said:
“Hello, Mr. Secretary, you seem very much troubled. Can I help you?” I told him my story.
“What are you going to do?” he asked. I answered: “To protect myself I must report to the people of New York that the provision for the soldiers’ voting cannot be carried out because the administration refuses to give information where the New York soldiers are located.”
“Why,” said Mr. Washburne, “that would beat Mr. Lincoln. You don’t know him. While he is a great statesman, he is also the keenest of politicians alive. If it could be done in no other way, the president would take a carpet bag and go around and collect those votes himself. You remain here until you hear from me. I will go at once and see the president.”
In about an hour a staff officer stepped up to me and asked: “Are you the secretary of state of New York?” I answered “Yes.” “The secretary of war wishes to see you at once,” he said. I found the secretary most cordial and charming.
“Mr. Secretary, what do you desire?” he asked. I stated the case as I had many times before, and he gave a peremptory order to one of his staff that I should receive the documents in time for me to leave Washington on the midnight train.
The magical transformation was the result of a personal visit of President Lincoln to the secretary of war.
Mr. Lincoln carried the State of New York by a majority of only 6,749, and it was a soldiers’ vote that gave him the Empire State.
 

jgoodguy

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#9
Historian James McPherson wrote: “In none of the states with separately tabulated soldier ballots did this vote change the outcome of the presidential contest — Lincoln would have carried all of them except Kentucky in any case. But in two close states where soldier votes were lumped with the rest, New York and Connecticut, these votes may have provided the margin of Lincoln’s victory.”31 According to historian William C. Davis, “Certainly soldiers’ votes may have decided some vital and otherwise close state contests, especially New York, Indiana, and Illinois, for the kinds of Lincoln majorities in the regiments that soldiers from those states recorded in their diaries revealed that they were voting overwhelmingly for Lincoln. Nevertheless, the loss even of such powerful states could not have dented Lincoln’s sure electoral victory, but only reduced his majority and his mandate.”32 Historian William Frank Zornow wrote:
“In determining the outcome of the presidential election, the soldier vote was not a decisive factor. Of the total vote cast in the field, Lincoln received 119,754 to McClellan’s 34,291. In such states where soldiers had to return home to vote, definite results are more difficult to obtain. In Connecticut, where Lincoln won by a scant 2,406 votes, the fighting men cast 2,898 for him, thus assuring him victory in that state.
Governor Cannon of Delaware insisted that it was the failure to get troops to vote which cost the Union party a victory in his state. The close results of the October elections convinced Lincoln and his managers that they might not carry Pennsylvania.
McClure estimated that he might win by a scant 6,000, but suggested that to play safe 30,000 troops should be sent home from Grant’s and Sheridan’s armies. Lincoln was hesitant to make such a request from the hard-pressed Grant, but at length troops were obtained from [George] Meade and [Philip H.] Sheridan. They could have been better employed at the front, for Lincoln carried the state by 5,712 home votes, but the boys in blue contributed an additional 14,363 to make the victory more conclusive.
New York had adopted a law permitting voting in the field. Depew went to the capital to see Stanton to learn the whereabouts of certain regiments from his state so that ballots could be distributed. The Secretary would not impart this information. When he heard of this, Washburne exclaimed: ‘Why that would beat Mr. Lincoln. You don’t know him. While he is a great statesman, he is also the keenest of politicians alive. If it could be done in no other way, the president would take a carpet bag and go around and collect those votes himself.’
Lincoln paid a personal visit to Stanton after being informed of the incident, and Depew returned to New York with his precious information. ‘It was the soldiers’ vote,’ said Depew that gave him the Empire State.’
Only in Connecticut and New York did the soldiers’ vote affect the outcome of the election, but even then Lincoln would have carried the popular and electoral vote of the North. Several congressmen owed their seats to the army voters, but even had they not been chosen, the Union party would still have controlled the Thirty-ninth Congress.”33
 

jgoodguy

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#10
I read the book when it came out. The shocker to me was not that 20% of soldiers did not vote. Why is that held out as evidence of voter suppression? The shock was that Democrats opposed allowing soldiers to vote at all.
Lots of fraud on both sides IMHO.
That 20% may be Democrats imitated implicitly or explicitly. However it could also be cases of soldiers not wanting to vote for a defeatist McCellan or a Emancipatist Lincoln.
 

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#11
Lots of fraud on both sides IMHO.
That 20% may be Democrats imitated implicitly or explicitly. However it could also be cases of soldiers not wanting to vote for a defeatist McCellan or a Emancipatist Lincoln.
Or men simply not participating or being eligible. 25% of soldiers were immigrants and some of them may not have been eligible to vote or may not have understood voting in English.
 

Bruce Vail

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#12
The returns for the Maryland soldiers were highly suspiscious.

Lincoln lost the civilian vote, but the strong army vote for Lincoln put old Abe over the top.

Voting fraud was rampant in Maryland back in those days so the 1864 results aren't very reliable in any event.

ADD: Maybe I am misremembering the voting numbers for Maryland. I'll try to check....
 
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jgoodguy

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#15
The returns for the Maryland soldiers were highly suspiscious.

Lincoln lost the civilian vote, but the strong army vote for Lincoln put old Abe over the top.

Voting fraud was rampant in Maryland back in those days so the 1864 results aren't very reliable in any event.
Even in the 1960s, I heard stories of dueling ballot boxes showing up in Montgomery and ballot boxes at the bottom of the nearby Alabama river.
 

Pat Young

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The argument Democrats used for not allowing soldiers to vote is that the President is the commander in chief and it would not be possible for soldiers to vote as ordinary citizens since they could be ordered to vote for Lincoln.

Prior to the Civil War, apparently, soldiers had not voted. So the tradition was that someone subject to military discipline should not be allowed to vote. What do folks think of this. Today it seems crazy since service members have been voting for 150 years, but there is a certain logic to it.
 

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#17
More posts from CWT on this subject.
Credit to the Manassas Battlefield facebook page. I wanted to bring this conversation over here.

https://www.facebook.com/manassasbattlefield?hc_location=timeline

2mi2stz.jpg


150 years ago today, November 12, 1864, this Thomas Nast illustration appeared in Harper's Weekly. Only 4 days after Lincoln's re-election, the composition told the story of alleged voter fraud that occurred in the ranks of the Union army:

"We give . . . a sketch showing the manner in which the Copperheads . . . signed soldiers' names to votes, filling out the blanks with other names in regular order, all forged ; altered Union votes, so that soldiers giving their suffrages to Mr. Lincoln were made to vote for General McClellan, and affixed to Democratic ballots the names of sick and wounded, and even of dead soldiers. The conspirators admitted that a number of agents were employed in a similar manner, and that soldiers' votes were in this way manufactured by the dry-goods' box full. These statements are sworn to in court by two of those engaged in the fraud, and the exhibition of the documents, consisting of a number of the forged votes, and a large amount of correspondence, leaves no room for doubt as to the nature and extent of the crime which has been committed against our citizens at home, and against our brave soldiers in the field."

Despite these allegations of fraudulent votes for McClellan, the Union army's votes went overwhelmingly to Lincoln.

Do you think the accusations of fraud were based on fact or on partisan conflict?
A good reference for the 1864 US presidential election soldier vote fraud is William B. Hesseltine’s Lincoln and the War Governors, pp. 380-384.
 

jgoodguy

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#18
The argument Democrats used for not allowing soldiers to vote is that the President is the commander in chief and it would not be possible for soldiers to vote as ordinary citizens since they could be ordered to vote for Lincoln.

Prior to the Civil War, apparently, soldiers had not voted. So the tradition was that someone subject to military discipline should not be allowed to vote. What do folks think of this. Today it seems crazy since service members have been voting for 150 years, but there is a certain logic to it.
The History of Military Voting - Overseas Vote
During the Revolutionary War state militia associations,
which were typically comprised of working class individuals, agitated for the abolition of certain
restrictions on suffrage such as property or landholding requirements. In many states, including
Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, the franchise was
expanded to include many more working class individuals. However, many other states did not
change their laws governing the franchise during the war, even though this created a situation
where many of the men who served in the state’s militia during the war were completely unable
to participate in the political process within their state or benefit politically from the freedoms for
which they were fighting.
The key issue related to voting in the Revolutionary War and its immediate aftermath was
not how individuals voted—the methods or procedures used—but instead was who could vote.
Over the next 80 years, the rights of military voters were a relatively low priority. Between the
Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the United States was engaged in only two major
conflicts—the War of 1812 and the Mexican American War—and many smaller military actions
such as fighting the Barbary pirates.39 Although the War of 1812 occurred during a presidential
election year and the Mexican-American War occurred during a mid-term election, the War of
1812 involved troops fighting relatively close to home, and neither war involved large-scale
mobilizations.
With relatively few troops affected by an interaction between war-fighting and
voting, there was little clamor at this time to make military absentee voting easier.40 This would
change with the Civil War, as the nation would undergo the largest military mobilization in its
history. With more than 10 percent of the population serving in the military, pressures to
improve voting rights for military personnel would come to the forefront.
 

John Hartwell

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#19
You also have to consider that not all soldiers were given the option to vote. It was up to the individual states whether they would provide ballots for their troops.

Massachusetts regiments, for instance, did not vote. When it was debated in the State Legislature, it was decided that since sentiments in Mass. were so overwhelmingly Republican, it would make no difference in the electoral results, so they didn't bother. They weren't thinking of overall "soldier votes," but of the real electoral results. I've read many Mass. regimental histories, and a often regiments held informal, unofficial "elections." The results reported always seem to have run at least 2:1 in Lincoln's favor (in some cases, 10:1).

You would have to determine just what states did and did not provide ballots for their soldiers, and somehow determine the likelihood of the vote, based (I suppose) on local state party allegiances, in order to reach meaningful conclusions. Had they voted, it would have helped increase the Republican majority. With other states, it might have had the reverse effect.

An important question: did the "20 percent of the soldiers [who] chose not to vote for either candidate" include those who were not given the opportunity to vote?
 
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#20
How Shall Soldiers Vote?

Soldiers of the Union Army! You who have been “to the front,” and faced the shot and shell of the rebels arrayed against you! The time has come when you may ratify by your ballots the principles and the heroism which you have manifested by your bullets. You may now decide whether you will sustain the party that sustained you, or the party that labored with all its power to defeat you and drive you home in disgrace from the field of battle. The following extracts from the “platforms” of the “Democracy,” and the speeches of some of its orators, will show how they were "the friends” of the Soldiers.

Starts with:

"The Republican party have carried on the war for two years. They have sent their HELL-HOUNDS AND BULL-DOGS down South, and what have they accomplished? Nothing. And we told them that in the beginning—that they could accomplish nothing; and the reason why is, because they are OUR BRETHREN! And now they come back and propose to kick up a fuss here in the North; and WE ARE READY FOR THEM!"


The broadside ends with:

The time has come for the brave men of the Army and Navy to stand by the men who have stood by them. Let the ballot-box show that the soldiers can vote for those who voted for them, and that the party who refused to let soldiers in the army vote are not worthy of their ballots now.
How shall soldiers vote? ... Published by the New York State Central Committee of the "Boys in Blue." New York Printed at the office of the "Soldiers Friend" [1864].

001dr.jpg


https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.1250240a/
 

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