Lecture Forty The Northern Home Front

Scope: This lecture begins our consideration of the northern home front by looking at political developments during the first three years of the war and the presidential election of 1864. Although the war did not bring the type of dislocation to the North that was characteristic of the Confederate experience, it did produce great political change. The Republicans moved to solidify their position as the majority party after several decades of Democratic dominance. The Democratic Party split into factions for and against the war and suffered because of a common perception that many of its members harbored pro-Confederate, treasonous sentiments. Republicans faced crises in the autumn of 1862 and the spring of 1863 because of Union failures on the battlefield and the unpopularity of emancipation, the draft, and other Republican policies. The most radically antiwar faction of the Democrats, known as Copperheads and associated with Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, achieved their greatest prominence just before the northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Lincoln and his party faced another crisis in the summer of 1864 because of the failure of Union armies to capture Richmond and Atlanta, the enormous lists of casualties that poured out of Virginia, and the success of a small Confederate army under Jubal A. Early in reaching the outskirts of Washington. Sherman's capture of Atlanta and Philip H. Sheridan's decisive victories over Early in the Shenandoah Valley in September and October revitalized the Republicans just in time for them to reelect Lincoln and win huge majorities in both houses of Congress. One of the most important elections in American history, the contest in 1864, guaranteed that the North would continue to press the war to a conclusion that restored the Union and eliminated slavery.

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